Thursday, February 24, 2005


The Fulbright program was established in 1946 as an initiative of U.S. Senator J. William Fulbright. He believed the program could play an important role in building a lasting world peace in the aftermath of World War II. In Senator Fulbright's words, "the program aims ... to bring a little more knowledge, a little more reason, and a little more compassion into world affairs and thereby to increase the chance that nations will learn at last to live in peace and friendship". At Fulbright New Zealand, they administer a range of awards for New Zealanders and Americans wanting to study in each other's country.

This addition to my Fellowship was an extremely valuable experience for so many reasons. The Fulbright program provided a general framework for understanding some critical issues regarding New Zealand's history, culture and issues that are current being discussed and debated at multiple levels throughout out the country. Another beneficial aspect to starting with the Fulbright Orientation is it covered issues that I had no idea existed and has allowed me to have a better framework to operate in as I travel through the country meeting with health care, government, business, philanthropy, community and opinion leaders.

That being said--while the one week was very helpful from an education, information and awareness raising stand point, the timing only allowed us to cover a lot of history and details at a high-level. Some of the issues covered in our first week are very complicated, impacting all New Zealanders and are central to the current social debate. It truly had me thinking the more I learned, the more I realized the less I knew or understood. Without debate I thought this was a perfect launch pad to the Eisenhower Fellowship and my one-on-one meetings.

There are a lot of amazing accomplishments regarding New Zealand people, policies and culture. In many ways they are not afraid of leadership, change, action in response to world events despite being in this remote, very remote, island with more sheep than people. For example, in 1893 they were the first country in the world to allow a woman to vote, it seems to be they were much kinder, much earlier to African visitors than America has even yet to consider, they don't ask you if you are married or have a husband or wife but rather they ask you if you have a partner because they don't really care if it is male or female and from a pop culture perspective I am oftened asked--why can Americans be comfortable with the war and at the same time be outraged over Janet Jackson's stunt with the wardrobe malfunction (it makes you wonder, doesn't it?)? They believe the people, all the people, in New Zealand deserve a "fair go", meaning a fair chance in life. Some have said that in the early years the vision was to construct a better Britain, but went from a better Britain to a non-Britain to now New Zealand.

A complicating factor and major issue in New Zealand is the re-indigenizing of the Maori. These are the founding people of Aotearoa (New Zealand). The Maori people in the most recent census made up 15% of the current population. They most currently have recognition, a platform, a voice to be heard to address the injustices that occurred in and since 1840 with the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi. It is undisputed that the Treaty of Waitangi is New Zealand’s founding document. Like all treaties, it is an exchange of promises. The Fulbright program allowed for a concise account of the Treaty of Waitangi itself and the issues surrounding it, which generally are not well understood. The Maori culture use to be a curiosity and even it's language was on the brink on extinction and now it is a true part of a changing culture in New Zealand.


A significant and special part of our indoctrination into the Maori culture was our visit to the Waiwhetu Marae outside of Wellington in the Hutt Valley. If you're already confused as to what's a Marae, pause here and go to Blockbuster and rent Whale Rider.

Welcome back, as you now know, the traditional carved marae, in this case, the Te Ati Awa serves as a special meeting place for the Maori. Our evening included a hui a powhori and an after dinner discussion from the chief, Terry who also serves in Parliament. We all slept overnight at the Marae. Twin mattresses are a generous description of our beds lovingly placed on the Marae floor and lined up side by side for about fifty people. If you are someone with a must need for personal space, let me recommend here, this is not your idea of a Holdiay Inn. Don't get me wrong, I’m not complaining, I don't care all that about my personal space and appreciated this as being a very special experience. Most people started settling into to there ramdomly selected bunk around 11:00 PM. It became really interesting around 3:00 AM when you had the harmonizing of snoring, snorting, breathing, wheezing, whistling, tossing and talking. Lets just say if Snow White were being remade by the emerging New Zealand film industry, they would have had a perfect opportunity to audition an interesting cast of sleeping characters.

I’ve found that some traditions in New Zealand are common across all cultures. For example, eating seems to know no boundaries whether you identify with being Maori, Pakeha, or anything in between. So it was understandable that food would also be and integral part of our visit to the XXXXX including dinner, tea, pausing for five hours of breathing noises to start up again with breakfast followed by tea. It is important to know that “tea time” has less to do with sipping and more to do with indulging and typically in an assortment of goodies, sweeties and delicious desserts. I have somehow lost all willpower during these moments and foods that I would normally never considering having before I know it happily piled onto my plate. I think it’s my hands that are failing me—they seem to know no boundaries during the 30 minutes that are dedicated to teatime twice each day.

I spent the second day visiting the community based Primary Health Organization (PHO). The PHO model is fairly new in New Zealand but already has a particiaption rate of about 95% of the general practitioners. The vision for the PHO is to have a holistic approach to treating people for their well-being and health care needs. This type of model has very strong parralle to how the way the Maori iwis (tribes) have been caring for their people throughout history. The PHO, Te Runanganui O Taranaki Whanui of Waiwhetu in Lower Hutt, is adjacent to the marae, made a decision in 2000 to expand a previously existing part time marae health clinic service. A new medical centre was opened in 2000 and has continued to increase in size since then. The good relationship between the local community and medical centre has created an excellent working environment for medical centre staff, all of whom are employed by the Runanga.
The practice has a large proportion of Maori patients, most from the local Waiwhetu area. As well as this original group of patients, the expansion of the practice has meant that it has become a significant community health centre for patients from Wainuiomata, Waiwhetu and Lower Hutt, now numbering over 5000. The medical centre forms an integral part of the Waiwhetu Marae/Runanga community operations with the meeting house, kohanga reo, Atiawa Toa FM radio station, Tamaiti Whangai centre of learning and gymnasium in close proximity.

The doctors have access to both Tamariki Ora nurses and Maori disease management specialist nurses. They walked us through their various initiatives and also shared with us their tools for data collection and monitoring participation and outcomes.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Kath, You are a Great writer! I readly enjoy reading the Bolgg.It is Great how nice everyone sounds.What a Super trip!!Have a fun weekend!!Love, Thomas

5:06 AM  
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