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Weaving te ao Maori into Wellington Free Ambulance

Yvonne Gemmell will develop and establish the ongoing relationships between WFA and Kaupapa Maori in the Wellington and Wairarapa regions. PHOTO/SUPPLIED

John Lazo-Ron
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Wellington Free Ambulance has got right into the thick of Māori Language Week celebrations by weaving more te ao Māori [the Māori worldview] into their organisational strategy.

Part of that weaving has included opening the door for employee Yvonne Gemmell to take on a new role that will have her develop and establish the ongoing relationships between WFA and Kaupapa Māori in the greater Wellington and Wairarapa regions.

Gemmell started her new role on Monday, which coincided perfectly with the start of te Wiki o te Reo Māori – Māori Language Week.

Although she started working for WFA nine years ago as a call taker and most recently as the Patient Transfer Service Manager, Gemmell has now had two of her passions combined which she said she was most excited about.

Nō Ngāi Tūhoe ōku tīpuna, Kei te noho au ki Te Whanganui-a-Tara [My ancestors are from Ngāi Tūhoe iwi, and I live in Wellington].

“The role brings together two of my passions, and I am extremely excited to get started on this important mahi [work].”

Although based in Wellington, Gemmell said the uniqueness of Wairarapa, both geographically and community-wise, means that she was looking forward to regularly making her way over the hill to enable Wairarapa-led initiatives that weave Wairarapa and WFA together even more.

“I am really excited to be able to connect with our Wairarapa iwi and communities and our staff for this important mahi,” she said.

Gemmell, completing a BA in Māori Studies through Victoria University, when asked how the role came about, said she noticed an opportunity for a great partnership between Māori communities and WFA to bring about more of the culture into the workspace.

She proposed a Māori Health, Well-being and Engagement Strategy for WFA, which was welcomed by leadership, with their support signalling a way forward.

“It became a real priority to me that we as a service paved the way for whakawhanaungatanga [forming relationships], kotahitanga [working together in unity] and manaakitanga [showing kindness and compassion in all that we do],” she said.

“These te ao Māori values, also embedded into our organisational values, support ongoing relationships between the service and Māori communities, and by extension all communities.”

WFA chief executive Dave Robinson said he was excited about Gemmell’s new Kaiwhakatuwhera role.

“Our role at Wellington Free is to ensure positive health outcomes for everyone in our community, and Kaiwhakatuwhera will be crucial in ensuring we produce positive health outcomes for Māori. And to achieve this, we need to make sure we have strong relationships with iwi across the region.”

To kick off her new role, Gemmell said WFA would provide resources to staff, encourage conversations, and share kai [food] throughout the week to celebrate te Wiki o te Reo Māori.

Gemmell spoke of Māori Language Week as a time her wairua [soul] feels refreshed and filled with positivity, adding that as the week goes on, more people feel comfortable weaving te reo Māori into their conversations.

“I use this week to learn new waiata [songs], have important kōrero [conversations] with my colleagues around te ao Māori, and spend time with my whānau in te Taiao [the environment, nature].

Both Robinson and Gemmell acknowledge it’s an exciting opportunity to weave te ao Māori [the Māori worldview] into WFA and plan to keep this kaupapa in place for the future.

“It’s widely understood Māori are over-represented in many health statistics and WFA has, for some time, wanted to work with iwi and hapū within our rohe [area] to see how we can help in turning these statistics around,” Gemmell said.

“Our community is at the heart of everything we do, and forming and improving relationships ensure permanent opportunities exist for Māori communities to work together with Wellington Free.”

Gemmell said future kaupapa [initiatives] at WFA would create opportunities for learning for staff; safe spaces to question and learn about te ao Māori.

“It’s an absolute privilege to have this opportunity, to continue to work for such a well-respected service. And with the guidance of my tīpuna [ancestors], will bring a large part of who I am into the organisation as well.”

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