New initiative to address shortage of Māori and Pasifika midwives

The launch of a new government initiative aims to see New Zealand's five midwifery education providers work together to address the shortage of Māori and Pasifika midwives in the country.

Less than 10 percent of midwives identify as Māori and less than 3 percent as Pasifika. However, figures from the New Zealand College of Midwives showed 25 percent of Aotearoa's birthing population in 2018 identified as Māori, and 10 percent as Pasifika.

The Te Ara ō Hine for Māori and Tapu Ora for Pasifika is to be developed by Māori and Pacific midwifery educators, students, graduates and stakeholders from Auckland University of Technology, Victoria University of Wellington, Otago Polytechnic, Ara Institute of Canterbury and Waikato Institute of Technology.

Auckland University of Technology held the contract with the Ministry of Health and would have a Memorandum Of Understanding with the four other education providers.

The ministry provided $NZ6 million in funding over the next four years for a liaison person at each institution to provide wrap around care, academic support and to recruit Māori and Pasifika.

A first-time mother in Auckland, Angeline Kalolo, said she was excited to hear about the new government initiative.

"There are so many Pacific and Māori mothers who need this type of care and who better to care for them than their own people. Both the mother and the midwife will be able to connect with cultural values, as well as have that familiar, friendly face of someone from a similar background to them," Kalolo said.

"As a Samoan mum, there are certain protocols and beliefs that I have when it comes to caring for my baby and to have a midwife who is Samoan or Pasifika, I feel that midwife would truly understand what I'm going through when I discuss family dynamics or the foods I eat."

She said being pregnant was a big deal and having someone she could relate to would help with the journey of carrying a baby.

AUT Māori liaison and clinical educator midwifery Teresa Krishnan said recruiting Māori and Pasifika students was an important way to address inequities.

"We 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 see those numbers increase.

"This funding enables us to continue our mahi [work] to achieve those outcomes."

Krishnan said a nation-wide recruitment drive for prospective students would run from April to December.

"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."

AUT national Pacific lead Ngatepaeru Marsters said each midwifery education school would develop their own regional strategy.

"Research shows that a workforce which reflects its community results in a positive impact on outcomes.

"It's important to have more Māori and Pasifika in the midwifery workforce who are able to inform their communities on their health, supporting them with their decision making and having an informed workforce that reflects their community is a huge strategy to improve outcomes for those communities.

There will also be a discretionary hardship fund for students in need, and support to attend nation-wide hui and fono for networking.

An additional $NZ370,000, which was contributed in 2019 for Pacific midwifery and nursing undergraduate support, would also go towards Te Ara ō Hine - Tapu Ora.

The Ara ō Hine - Tapu Ora aligned 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 Pacific.