The numbers of Māori and Pasifika midwives are to be increased.
Associate Minister of Health Dr Ayesha Verrall announced the initiative at the Auckland University of Technology campus today.
The initiative is said to address the serious shortage of Māori and Pasifika midwives in New Zealand, to address racial inequities, and to provide cultural understanding and safety for Māori and Pasifika mothers.
Less than 10 per cent of midwives identify as Māori as their first, second, or third ethnicity, and less than 3 per cent as Pasifika. The population of women giving birth is 20 per cent Māori and 10 per cent Pasifika, rising to 27 per cent in South Auckland.
There are five midwifery education providers who will work together to support the success of Māori and Pasifika students who are set to reflect the communities who are under-represented.
The ministry has provided $6 million over the next four years for a liaison person at each institution to provide wraparound care, academic support and to actively recruit Māori and Pasifika.
A discretionary hardship fund for students in need will also be available to assist working mothers who are commonly balancing parenthood responsibilities as well as their studies.
Te Ara ō Hine for Māori and Tapu Ora for Pasifika will be developed by Māori and Pacific midwifery educators, students, new graduates and stakeholders from Auckland University of Technology (AUT), Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington, Otago Polytechnic, Ara Institute of Canterbury (Ara) and Waikato Institute of Technology (Wintec).
An additional $370,000, which was contributed in 2019 for Pacific midwifery and nursing undergraduate support, will also go towards Te Ara ō Hine – Tapu Ora.
Te Ara ō Hine and Tapu Ora is believed to help determine why inequities exist in our institutions and how educators who work collaboratively can change them, as a reflection of their roles as Treaty partners.
AUT fourth-year midwifery student Rose Leauga (Kuki Airani) says she is excited develop a Pasifika-focused health model that specifically resonates with Pasifika people, steering away from the Western lens.
"At the beginning [of the course], there wasn't any course content specific to how we absorbed information. It was very westernised, even the models of health.
"When I did the Māori paper, that felt more comfortable. I think it's because our cultures learn different, through stories, through oral traditions.
"They [Māori and Pasifika] should have their own. It should be very specific to the people that you're working with."
Shannon Paahi, AUT second-year midwifery student, says Māori women who are interested in taking midwifery studies often feel discouraged but says Te Ara ō Hine will change that.
Paahi says birthing experiences for Māori women isn't always ideal due to a shortage of Māori midwives, and lack of resources.
"I'm hoping we'll be able to utilise our traditional practises more. Currently we do a lot with our educators but I feel like we will do more."
National Pacific lead, Ngatepaeru Marsters, says a "workforce which reflects its community results in a positive impact on outcomes".
"We want Māori and Pasifika thinking about a midwifery career, to know they will be supported in their study to graduate and go on to a deeply rewarding career that makes an overwhelming positive difference to whānau, communities and Aotearoa as a whole."
From personal experience, Marsters told the Herald it was her work on the field as a midwife in South Auckland that made her more compassionate and willing to see change in what is taught to midwifery students.
"It's hard not to be touched by our communities," she said.
"You have to have the ability to not be judgmental. These families don't plan to be in rough situations or to have lack of resources."
Marsters says the new initiative is a "win win situation" for all women, not just Māori and Pasifika.
National Māori lead Teresa Krishnan says they are aiming to triple the number of Māori and quadruple the number of Pasifika undergraduate midwifery students year on year for the next five years.
"We will then see them through to a successful graduation. This funding enables us to continue our mahi to achieve those outcomes."
The Ara ō Hine - Tapu Ora aligns with Whakamaua, the Māori Health Action Plan and Ola Manuia, the Pacific Health and Wellbeing 2020 – 2025 Action Plan.
It was also one of the actions agreed to in the Midwifery Workforce Accord in 2019, which was to better support midwives in training, particularly Māori and Pasifika.
AUT holds the contract with the Ministry of Health and will have a memorandum of understanding with the four other education providers.