Plunket and Ngāi Tahu honour shared history with new nursing scholarship

Feb 17, 2020

Plunket and Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu have launched the Mere Harper and Ria Tikini Memorial Scholarship, acknowledging two wāhine toa who were instrumental in starting Plunket and inspiring Plunket’s rebrand, both which are being launched today.

The annual scholarship aims to give financial support of $3,000 to a full-time nursing student, of Ngāi Tahu descent in their final year of study.

Many people know the story of Plunket’s beginnings in Karitāne and the work of Dr Truby King – but what they don’t know is that’s not the full story. If it wasn’t for the work of two Māori midwives and healers, Mere Harper and Ria Tikini, Plunket would not be here today. The work of these wāhine toa has been overlooked by the history books, and in Plunket’s own story telling – so today’s brand launch is also about acknowledging and apologising for this – and raising the story of these women

Plunket Chief Executive and great great granddaughter of Mere, Amanda Malu (Ngāi Tahu) says: “I am proud that Plunket is finally honouring its true whakapapa by celebrating the two Māori women at the very heart of its beginnings. While the scholarship we’re launching today with Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu in Mere and Ria’s memory is another way in which we are honouring their legacy, and our shared history, while helping to equip the next generation of Māori nurses.”

Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu General Manager of Oranga Dr Hana O’Regan says the iwi is excited to be joining with Plunket to help build a new generation of strong Ngāi Tahu nurses at a time when the contributions of the two māreikura wāhine from Puketeraki are being celebrated.

“So often the stories of our wāhine leaders and drivers working in the area of hauora and with whānau and tamariki fall away from the recorded narrative of our histories. It is incredibly important for us to ensure their stories are heard so the value of their legacy can be celebrated for what it is – transformational leadership in areas that mean the most,” she says. “As an iwi we are absolutely committed to supporting the important early years of our babies’ lives and that of the whānau, so we are eager to build on our relationship with Plunket, an organisation that works with our whānau to provide essential support and education. This scholarship is one part of that story that we hope will become stronger and spread further influencing the lives of our tamariki and mokopuna.”

Plunket’s new brand shows three hearts coming together to represent Plunket’s essential caring role within whānau, with the primary focus being on the physical and emotional wellbeing of the child. The tohu inside the brand has been specifically created for Plunket, the first proudly acknowledges Mere and Ria, and the second symbolises the nurturing and integral relationship with whānau.

Plunket sees 85% of all newborn babies across Aotearoa, of which nearly 20% of are Māori. Plunket wants them, and their whānau to have the best possible experience with our service, Ms Malu says.

“We’re doing this because we know we need to do better – and because NZ’s health system needs to do better to meet the needs of Māori. We’ve walked alongside NZ whānau and families for 112 years and we’re acknowledging today that we need to do better for whānau, pēpi and tamariki Māori. Plunket will always be here for all Kiwi babies,” Ms Malu says. “Our current priority is on achieving equitable health outcomes for whānau Māori while continuing to deliver a universal service for all of NZ. Our brand symobolises how we want to work with our whānau – in partnership, acknowledging their whakapapa, and ours – as we all care for and nurture the babies in our whānau.”