June 30, 2023

2023 Lowitja Conference

2023 Lowitja Conference

Whakauae researchers, Gill Potaka-Osborne and Donna Kerridge took part in the Lowitja Institute's 3rd International Indigenous Health and Wellbeing Conference in June 2023.

The conference was held in Cairns, Queensland on the traditional lands of the Gimuy-Walubarra Yidinji  and Yirraganydji people. Conference participants came from Australia, Aotearoa New Zealand, the wider Pacific region, Hawaii, Canada and further afield. The theme for the biennial conference was “Truth, Rights, Response”. Under this general theme, there were four sub-themes:

  • Sovereignty and self-determination
    As Indigenous peoples, how do we celebrate and reclaim sovereignty for greater health and wellbeing? We have a right to cultural expression and continuity of our ways of knowing, being and doing. Here we can explore concepts such as agency, truth-telling and control, access to services, Indigenous leadership and nation building.
  • Living a good life
    How do Indigenous peoples define, build knowledge, advocate and undertake actions that contribute to living a good life through identity, cultural practices, art and music? What is the intergenerational investment that is integral to a thriving family, kinship and community?
  • Data and technology
    How do Indigenous peoples lead communication, data governance and technological innovation that maximises data and technology in research and service delivery? How can this enable effective and timely knowledge translation that benefits Indigenous peoples' health and wellbeing?
  • Environment, Country, Belonging
    How do Indigenous peoples' connection and belonging to environment and Country contribute to a stronger cultural and spiritual health and wellbeing? How is this belonging reflected and strengthened through knowledge translation, traditional practices and continuity of culture?
  • Workforce and leadership
    Having a highly skilled and professionally led health workforce is crucial to closing the gap in health and life outcomes and ensuring a safe, efficient and responsive health sector for Indigenous peoples.

There were keynote presentations delivered by local and international speakers who spoke about upholding the rights of Indigenous people in health. It was heartening to see the many young Indigenous researchers coming up through the research ranks, a fact noted by Distinguished Professor Linda Tuhiwai Smith (Aotearoa New Zealand) who also talked about her long research career saying, “there is no retirement plan in this business of research".


Distinguished Professor Linda Smith presenting at the Lowitja Conference
Distinguished Professor Linda Smith presenting at the Lowitja Conference

 Close to 1200 people attended the conference with over 250 people presenting across the social determinants of health spectrum.

On the first day of the conference, Gill presented a session entitled “Ko au te awa, Ko te awa ko au, I am the river, and the river is me”. The session explored how Whakauae Research Services Ltd is integrating Kaupapa Māori and Appreciative Inquiry research methods. The presentation described bringing together the voices of whānau Māori on a cancer journey together with those of primary health care workers on one site to help reshape primary care services, ensuring better health outcomes for Māori. The project He Waka Eke Noa - Co-creating primary care that works for whānau Māori is part of an HRC funded Kia Puawai research programme being led by Whakauae.

Gill also supported a second Whakauae presentation delivered at the conference entitled “Rongoā Māori is not CAM (Complementary and Alternative Medicine)” drawing on the findings of Te Ao Rauropi research project. The presentation explored Rongoā Māori as a health and wellbeing approach based on traditional Māori worldviews, customs, and knowledge. The practice of Rongoā Māori, handed down through generations, is currently experiencing a resurgence. The presentation demonstrated how Rongoā Māori is a legitimate healing practice that can co-exist with Western medicine. Donna Kerridge, a Rongoā healer herself and a Te Ao Rauropi project researcher, was the key speaker. Donna and Gill were supported by Te Oranganui Trust (Whanganui) colleagues, in particular Ngahina Gardiner who opened the presentation with karakia. This was particularly fitting as Ngahina also designed the logo for Te Ao Rauropi in the early phases of research implementation.

Gill and Donna were later delighted to be able to reciprocate and support a presentation by Wheturangi Walsh-Tapiata and Rebecca Davies of Te Oranganui.


Gill Potaka-Osborne (left) and Donna Kerridge in Cairns
Gill Potaka-Osborne (left) and Donna Kerridge in Cairns

Gill was also able to catch up and network with colleagues at the conference who worked with Whakauae in the research centre's earlier days. They included public health advocate, Shane Bradbrook and former Whakauae researcher, Dr Rachel Brown, who undertook doctoral study when with Whakauae and who is now Chief Executive of the National Hauora Coalition based in Tāmaki Makaurau.


Download the file
Go Back