When Kathrine decided to return home to Hokianga and start consulting, we were delighted to secure her skills and experience to support our clients in the far north.

Q: Kathrine, tell us about your career pathway?

A:  It really wasn’t planned.  I worked for a Māori community development trust in Kaikohe, mainly with people who were long-term unemployed, helping them set goals in terms of employment.  During that time there was also a shift to look at the health and wellbeing of both the students and the wider community.  So the trust developed a Whare Oranga, supporting healthy lifestyle.  Then I went and worked for Hauora Hokianga as their health promotion manager. That meant looking into issues such as access to safe drinking water across the 36 marae in the community following major flooding across the area, that was the beginning of my involvement in Māori health in a significant way.

Q:  One of your roles was as National Manager of Whakawhetū, Sudden Unexplained Infant Death (SUDI) Prevention for Māori. What drew you to that role?

I was very concerned about the high incidence of Sudden Unexplained Infant Death for Māori. Māori babies die from SUDI at twice the rate of non-Māori. Through my role with Whakawhetū, I was able work alongside people such as Professor David Tipene-Leach to see how this could be addressed.  We identified factors such as the importance of early engagement with midwives as the people best positioned to work along-side mothers and whānau.  We also lobbied for the roll-out of wahakura or pēpi pods which allow parents to safely sleep close to their babies, as part of a comprehensive programme to reduce risks.

Q: What was it like to see the Government announce last June that it would invest an extra $2 million into the programme, making the annual budget $5 million to reduce the high number of unexpected deaths in infancy, including providing wahakura?

That was indicative of a change to SUDI prevention from the Ministry of Health to a whole systems approach. That’s a significant change that should produce results, especially as the investment for Māori had been as little as $1 million for more than a decade.

Q: How did you get involved with CSI?

A: I first met Alison when I was working for Health Care Aotearoa and then again when I was the CEO of Hāpai te Hauroa, which held the regional Māori public health contract for Tāmaki Makaurau for 20 years. Alison knew I had interest in Māori community development and approached me when she heard I was returning to Omapere in the Hokianga. She talked to me about being part of the team working alongside two of Foundation North’s Catalysts for Change grantees, He Korowai Trust and Ākau.  When I heard about how CSI worked with these organisations, I knew I wanted to be involved. 

Q: What role are you playing with He Korowai and Ākau?

A: Overall, the goal of everything CSI does with these organisations is aimed at building their capability and capacity while helping them keep their eyes on their strategic intent. My main focus has been on supporting governance. These are organisations that need to be flexible, responsive and adaptive – and their governance and management need to reflect that. 

Sometimes, I simply provide a sounding board as a trusted advisor with a range of experience that they can draw on. I rock up, have a conversation, talk over issues and ideas, and provide support. It’s the coaching or ‘critical friend’ role.

Some of the work is just practical – helping with how to write a contract around milestones and outputs or manage a risk register.

Q:  As you look ahead, what do you want for our communities? 

A: Mana motuhake. We need to enable Māori communities and in fact all communities to take control of their social, education, health and wellbeing. Communities know what is best for them, so we need to support them in the right way and let them get on with it. Small rural communities are very adaptable; they know what they need; we just have to help them make things happen. Some of that will be about money, but some of it is about capacity and capability.