Raglan Noho Marae Visit Inspiring Health Students: A Cultural Immersion Experience


Earlier in November, the Raglan community and Poihākena Marae welcomed fifteen tertiary health students from around Aotearoa New Zealand, for a Noho Marae as part of Hauora Taiwhenua’s Rural Health Careers Programme.

Noho Marae are a significant aspect of the programme, as a unique opportunity that bridges the gap between tertiary students aspiring for rural health careers and the kaupapa of Māori health.

Through workshops, cultural interactions, and visits to local practices, students are immersed in the rich tapestry of traditional Māori health, gaining insights beyond the textbooks.

Bianca Bisogno, a Social Work student who attended the wānanga, shared her experience in Whaingaroa and her keenness to apply.

Her motivation stemmed from a desire to bridge the gap in healthcare accessibility, particularly for Māori communities. She was recently offered a job where she would be working specifically with Māori, aligning with her commitment to understanding the challenges they face in accessing medical care.

Yet this experience brought much more than this, not only fostering her understanding of Māori healthcare but also providing an opportunity to connect with her taha Māori.

After reflecting on having lost some of her connection to Māori due to the stigmatisation faced by her grandmother, Kaumatua Russell Riki gave Bianca the opportunity to perform a Karanga at Taupiri Maunga.

“For me, it was a very deeply spiritual experience. My partner and my daughter whakapapa to Taupiri so it was very humbling. It was a little bit of that reclamation, and I am very grateful for it because if I had not come here then I would not have had this experience.”

Bianca praised Kaumātua Russell Riki and the mana whenua for making all students feel welcome, regardless of their backgrounds.

“Te Ao Māori is a space where a lot of people can come and bring their own beliefs in and connect them to things that exist in this space. I think the way that the mana whenua invited us to engage in Te Ao Māori by bringing ourselves, what we carry and what is important to us is a really beautiful thing because it’s so inclusive.”

“A lot of our group here aren’t Māori, but at the same time a lot of us will work with Māori people in the health sector. With the way mana whenua brought everyone in makes people feel comfortable and my hope is that we all would feel that comfort and be able to take that with us from this experience.”

As Bianca continues her social work career, and as do those from the range of disciplines that too were welcomed on Poihākena Marae, their commitment to understanding the unique challenges Māori face displays the potential for positive change in the healthcare sector.

Upon reflection, Bianca notes how these experiences will only help build the next generation’s prioritisation of both professional competence and the cultural nuances that are interwoven within.

“It’s not just about knowing your job, the important lessons from this trip go beyond just health stuff. That’s what will have a lasting impact on shaping Aotearoa’s health landscape for the better.”