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Sonya graduated from Ngā Manukura o Āpōpō in November 2011. She has over 20 years’ experience of nursing and has a special interest in rural settings. Over this period, she has had intermittent time off to raise three children.

Sonya currently works for Hawkes Bay DHB as a Nursing Director (Māori Health) and Nurse Advisor. It is a complex role in which she functions as a conduit between executives and nurses, undertakes project management, oversees change management processes, and provides policy advice and nursing support with a Māori lens. She works within an integrated service delivery approach, and liaises with NGOs to help them connect with DHB supports that already exist.

​Sonya is Wairoa born and bred. Her mother is Māori, Ngāti Rākaipaaka Rongomaiwahine and father Pākehā.
Before the Training
At the time of the training, Sonya had recently come out of doing independent contracting work that fitted around raising her three children. With a shortage of nurses at the time, she started work as a casual community nurse, and then moved on to be part of the HBDHB Smoke free team based in Wairoa. She also started the Nurse Advisor role, where she was offered to go on the training.

While Sonya had been an active member of her marae for some time (e.g., trustee) she did not speak te reo fluently. With a high rate of te reo being spoken in Wairoa, she lacked confidence in some work related situations such as hui, policy development, and management spaces.
During the training
A number of things stand out for Sonya when she thinks back to the training. Firstly, she highlights the authenticity of the programme as a whole, how it challenged and set high expectations on participants.

They challenged each and every one of us… recognised us individually, and so opting out was not an option. There’s an authenticity about that, you take more away with you. It’s set in concrete that you do what is expected of you… which is leadership. You can’t be a wall flower. That is challenging because they might find a weakness or sore spot. But then they work with that in a supportive way. It’s not about who you are but what you are faced with. They do that very, very well. They’ve got to be authentic to be able to do that.

Secondly, Sonya recalls two guest speakers who influenced an internal shift for her. Amster Reedy, who talked about how to incorporate wairua in their practice and Mānuka Henare, who conceptualised leadership in relation to Te ao Māori. Sonya also recalls the high calibre of her fellow trainees, and how this motivated her to do more study.

Just the cohort, they had a depth of critical inquiry that I didn’t have at that time. Realised there’s a whole heap of stuff I didn’t know.

For Sonya the opportunity to undertake a project as part of the course was timely. She had just started a new role as a Nurse Advisor, her first experience of leadership within a DHB, and used her project work to frame how she intended to develop Smoke Free in Wairoa, as a Māori and for Māori.
After the training
Ngā Manukura o Āpōpō has contributed to significant positive change at many different levels for Sonya. In the first instance, she felt more confident personally, professionally, and as Māori. This influenced where she is in her career today.

It was a part of own identity that stood up and said I’m Māori and I’m a Māori nurse. This is the lens I come with […] There is no way when I started out on the journey that I thought that I could be a nurse director. And Māori Nurse Director. I don’t believe that I could be doing this job or contemplating doing this position without the training. Probably had the potential but didn’t know that at the time.

Sonya has always been a firm believer that if you understand your community well, you can attract what you need to address any issues that present. She knew what her community needed but she did not know how to articulate that, so that it could be elevated to another level. Through Ngā Manukura o Āpōpō she gained the skills, knowledge and support to progress this further. As a result she successfully applied for $150,000 worth of funding for an innovative Smoke Free project in Wairoa.

The Ngā Manukura o Āpōpō journey supported me in taking big advice and how you bring that down to service a community. A two year project that is having really good outcomes.

Ngā Manukura o Āpōpō also influenced Sonya’s decision to move into postgraduate study, something she had always resisted. She has now started a Masters in Public Health and has completed Māori development and health policy papers. Working in rural Wairoa, Sonya knows what it is like to be isolated as Māori in the work place, and geographically. The Ngā Manukura o Āpōpō graduate network has provided them with a place to stay connected, to progress Māori health. She now chairs a Hawkes Bay arm (Manutahi ki te Tairāwhiti) of that network.

It’s not just a training that starts and ends… there is ongoing commitment from Tania and Grant to build and strengthen networks and relationships… so the training lives on.

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