Akenehi Hei award to Tai Tokerau nurse

March 1, 2021

Tai Tokerau nurse Marie Noa (Ngāti Hine) has received the Te Rūnanga o Tōpūtanga Tapuhi Kaitiaki o Aotearoa (NZNO) Te Akenehi Hei Award. Noa was recognised for her contribution to the health of whānau Māori in Te Tai Tokerau and Aotearoa over several decades.

Marie Noa
Marie Noa

Te rangatira, he kairanga i te tira, i te tira o te hapū, o te iwi, ki ngā haere, ki ngā mahi e pā ana ki te hapū, ki te iwi. He kaiārahi. He kaitīmata, he kaiwhakatutuki i ngā mahi, ka whai ai te iwi i raro.

The chief is a weaver of people, of both hapū and iwi and in their travels and endeavours concerning both the hapū and iwi. She is a leader. She is a starter and finisher of tasks and so the people follow her.

NZNO kaumātua Keelan Ransfield

Noa started out as a hospital aide at Rawene Hospital in the Hokianga, where she worked for 20 years, spanning theatre, radiology, outpatients and outreach. After qualifying as a registered nurse, she took up a nursing position in orthopaedics at Whangārei Hospital for 12 years. She has since worked for Northland iwi provider, Ngāti Hine Health Trust (NHHT), for more than 20 years.

The award ceremony took place in early February at Tāmaki Makaurau, where the previous recipient, Moe Milne, handed the taonga over to Whāea Marie. Both were joined by their whānau as well as members of Te Poari o Te Rūnanga o Toputanga Tapuhi Kaitiaki o Aotearoa.

Noa has told Kai Tiaki Nursing New Zealand previously how much she appreciated working for an iwi organisation after years in the mainstream health system.

“It was great coming back. You feel you know who you are as a Māori wahine and a practitioner, and can really explore your culture,” Noa has said.

As a tamariki ora nurse at NHHT Noa works with tamariki and to connect whānau to other services, such as housing, child care or social support.

Noa said working within a Māori tikanga framework has strengthened her relationship with patients and whānau, as well as strengthened her own practice. Noa said it brought back the connection she lost when working in the mainstream system.

At the ceremony, NZNO kaiwhakahaere Kerri Nuku spoke of Noa’s commitment and contributions to Te Rūnanga over the years, and her role as a tuakana.

“As a rangatira, she has been to every hui for years where she actively participates and shares her knowledge. She is an honorary member of Te Rūnanga o Te Tai Tokerau, an integral part of their tuakana/teina model.”

Nuku also spoke of Noa’s love of creativity, playfulness and colour.

“We were at a hui for Tamariki Ora which we thought would be business as usual. Then Whāea Marie came up on stage and, rather than opening up a PowerPoint, pulled out colourful scarves and began with dance,” Nuku said.

“Her insistence on play and creativity, coupled with her significant experience and dedication to helping whānau understand their health situation in a holistic way, has made a significant impact on people’s health in Te Tai Tokerau, especially for tamariki.”

Awarded every two years, Te Akenehi Hei Award is the highest honour awarded by Te Rūnanga o Aotearoa and allows recipients life membership of Te Rūnanga. Akenehi Hei was one of the first nurses to register under her Māori name.