Māori health leaders focus on ‘rightful place’ of rongoā Māori

Posted 1 June 2022 by Moana Ellis

An iwi health research institute is calling for rongoā Māori to take its “rightful place” in the way Aotearoa cares for people.

Dr Amohia Boulton.

“We are calling forth the mana and the mauri of rongoā to resume its rightful place.” – Dr Amohia Boulton. Photo: Supplied

Leading Māori health specialists will talk at a one-day symposium about the critical role rongoā Māori could play in the country’s health and disability sector.

Whanganui-based Whakauae Research Services says the symposium is a pivotal collaboration between Māoridom and Crown health agencies to improve health equity.

The symposium, called Tū Mai Rongoā Symposium – Calling Forth the Mana of Rongoā, brings the Ngāti Hauiti research institute together with the Ministry of Health, ACC, the interim Māori Health Authority and the rongoā community.

Rongoā are natural remedies, medicine, and traditional treatment based on mātauranga Māori (Māori knowledge).

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Whakauae Research Services director Dr Amohia Boulton said the symposium seeks to dispel the myth that rongoā is simply plant medicine and mirimiri (massage), and acknowledge rongoā as a holistic philosophy which integrates the physical, mental and spiritual elements of wellbeing.

“Rongoā is a taonga tuku iho, a prized and integral part of te ao Māori. We are calling forth the mana and the mauri of rongoā to resume its rightful place,” Boulton said.

Whakauae’s most recent rongoā Māori research will be presented at the symposium by practitioner Donna Kerridge.

“The [research] project explores the full range of benefits that rongoā Māori can bring to all New Zealanders and to the environment we live in,” Boulton said.

“Rongoā philosophy is based on living in harmony with nature and provides a much-needed guide to protect and preserve our whenua in times of global environmental degradation.”

The interim Māori Health Authority will take a lead role at the symposium with chief executive Riana Manuel opening the talks.

“I truly believe that esoteric knowledge contained in rongoā will provide the ara (path) toward wellbeing for our people,” Manuel said.

“I look forward to partnering with all the agencies represented at the symposium to provide not only the services but the opportunity for all of our whānau throughout Aotearoa to access the benefits of rongoā.”

Māori Health Deputy Director-General John Whaanga will also address the virtual event on 29 June on behalf of the Ministry of Health.

He said working alongside rongoā practitioners had been an important part of his role.

“I first became involved closely with rongoā Māori during my time in the Ministry of Health in the 1990s,” Whaanga said. “I worked with Ngā Ringa Whakahāere o Te Iwi Māori and rongoā practitioners to develop the first rongoā standards.

“It is humbling to be part of a kaupapa which has at its heart the revitalisation and uplifting of Te Ao Māori and mātauranga Māori.”

Local Democracy Reporting is Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ on Air