Midwifery education providers on mission to boost Māori, Pasifika numbers

By D'Angelo Martin

A government initiative aims to fix a serious shortage of Māori and Pasifika midwives.

It aims to triple the number of Māori and quadruple the number of Pasifika undergraduate midwifery students year on year for the next five years.

A nationwide recruitment drive for prospective students will 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 whanau, communities and Aotearoa,” National Māori Lead, AUT’s Teresa Krishnan says.

The initiative will help to address a serious shortage of Māori and Pasifika midwives. Less than 10% of midwives identify Māori as their first, second, or third ethnicity and less than 3% as Pasifika. Yet the population of women giving birth is 20% Māori and 10% Pasifika (rising to 27% in South Auckland).

Krishnan, says recruiting Māori and Pasifika midwifery students is an important way to address these inequities.

Wraparound care

“We’re 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 successful graduation. This funding enables us to continue our mahi to achieve those outcomes.”

National Pacific Lead, AUT’s Ngatepaeru Marsters, says research shows a workforce that reflects its community improves outcomes.

Under the initiative, New Zealand's five midwifery education providers will work together to support the success of Māori and Pasifika students and increase the number of midwives in Māori and Pacific communities.

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). AUT holds the contract with the Ministry of Health and will have a memorandum of understanding with the four other education providers.

The ministry has provided $6 million in funding 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.

Best start for pēpī 

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

Each midwifery education school will develop their own regional strategy.

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 Pacific.

Today Associate Health Minister Dr Ayesha Verrall said the government wanted to give pēpī the best start to life, which was why $240 million would be spent over the next four years in the midwifery sector to address its shortage. “

Te Ara ō Hine is devised by Maori and Pasifika, for Maori and Pasifika. We want to ensure that the project is culturally safe and that whānau can receive appropriate care.”