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How a bioengineer and a health advocate are changing the way researchers partner with Māori 

Article source: Nikki Mandow, University of Auckland

He is Dr Jason Turuwhenua (Ngā Tūhoe, Ngāti Porou). Māori. Boffin. Son of schoolteacher parents, crazy about space as a kid, and robots and computers – he was writing programmes while still at primary school.

Studied physics to PhD level, switched to bioengineering because it felt more ‘real world’ and ended up leading a team at the Auckland Bioengineering Institute developing cleverly complex (but easy to administer) eye test technology for young kids, including tamariki Māori.  

She is Misty Edmonds (Ngāti Tūwharetoa, Ngāpuhi). Tapuhi Māori and passionate health advocate. Daughter of a Māori dad and Pākehā mother, abandoned as a baby and raised as white in a Pākehā family. Reconnected with her Māori heritage in her early 20s and began to think about how to use that heritage to bridge health gaps for Māori.

Excelled at nursing school and went on to develop and lead the Bachelor of Nursing Māori programme at Manukau Institute of Technology. “Hated research”.  Hated research, that is, until eight years ago, when she met Jason Turuwhenua. And then, she says, “research became a lot more interesting”. 

As the relationship between Edmonds and Turuwhenua developed, they realised if they put their skills together, they might start to change the way researchers understood Te Tiriti partnership and engaged with Māori.


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