Sign Up

Cathrine Waetford (Ngāti Wai, Ngāti Hine) - Health Science (Māori Health) (2007)


posted by Alastair McLean on 4 April 2012

For Cathrine Waetford, the opportunity to acknowledge the support and encouragement she received from her whānau to complete her academic studies was a moment she treasures.

She cites the photograph taken of her and son Tāmati at the John McLeod Scholarship ceremony as one of her favourites of them together.

‘He was six months old when I started my physiotherapy degree and 16 at the graduation ceremony for the Masters.

‘Before the photo he told me that he was proud of me, so whenever I see that photo I always remember how that made me feel. It still makes tears well up. I also really appreciated the opportunity to have my whānau with me at the ceremony. As a single parent I relied on many people to help me care for him while juggling the demands of study and full-time work. It was great that many of them were there on that day.’

On accepting her scholarship, Cath thanked her son in recognition of the family time that was given up to let her study, and that her achievements in higher education lays a path for others in the whānau to harness their potential and succeed at university.

She took her obligation to her whānau for their investment in her very seriously. However, at the scholarship ceremony she said she also heard the Ministry of Health challenge for her, to ‘step up’ and be a leader in Māori health. To this day, it’s a call to action she continues to strive for.

‘Learning more about Dr John McLeod and the Ngāti Hine connection with my whānau has made the award even more poignant,’ she said.

 ‘It also opened many doors for me. Until then I had worked as a clinician in generic ‘mainstream’ settings. The profiling that came with the award brought new opportunities. It opened up a network of Māori health professionals  – people that I have come to know, work with and learn from in an area of the health sector I had little experience.’

Cath initially trained to be a physiotherapist, going on to specialise in hand physiotherapy.  Then, when she started doing post-graduate Māori health papers, she realised why she was becoming disenchanted with her clinical work. Change was imminent.

‘I seized an opportunity to work with the Māori research team at the Auckland University of Technology and broaden my knowledge of Māori health.’

It was while completing her Master's degree in Health Science (specialising in Māori health and focusing on youth sexual health) that she became involved with Māori workforce development projects at Auckland District Health Board. There, Cath brought clinical and academic experience to her project management responsibilities for key Māori health workforce projects, starting with the Māori student-focused Rangatahi programme.

Cath is currently project manager of Ngā Manukura o Āpōpō – a national Māori nursing and midwifery workforce development programme.

‘In the last few years I’ve met a whole lot of likeminded people, been inspired by many wahine toa and have formed rich friendships within the Māori health network. I’ve found an area where I feel I am making a meaningful contribution, and that’s important to me,’ she said.

‘This experience has helped highlight the importance of working with people I admire and respect, and leading projects that reflect my values. It will also inform my decisions about where and what I work on in the future.

‘Do these people have the same underlying values as me? Are their intentions authentic? How will this mahi contribute to better outcomes for our whānau, hapū and iwi?’

Cath’s future challenges include finding a way to pay the mortgage and complete a PhD.  She said the topic is still being realised, but when she finally settles on it, it will be in Māori development.

‘I can’t see myself anywhere else.’