August 26, 2022

Inaugural Whakauae Kia Rite Scholarship recipient - Danielle Sword

Inaugural Whakauae Kia Rite Scholarship recipient - Danielle Sword


Tēnā koutou,

Whītiki mai a Tamanui-te-rā ki te taumata o ōku tīpuna, ki tihi o ngā Pae maunga o Tararua. Ka rere iho ko te awa o Hokio, ka tau ki tāku tūrangawaewae ki Kohuturoa ki Kawiu hoki, ā, te kāinga o te pekanga nui a Tara. E kai kanohi ana i ngā pūhihi e kānapanapa ana i ngā tai o puna, he puna ora, he puna marino, ā, ko Punahau te roto. Ka mihi t?nei mokopuna o Ngāti Pariri, o Muaūpoko ki a koutou.

Ko Danielle Leah Valmai Oriwa Sword tōku ingoa.

It is a great privilege to be accepted and granted the Whakauae Kia Rite 2022 Scholarship which will allow me to work under the direction and guidance of Māori researchers here at Whakauae Research for the next 3 months.

I have recently completed a Bachelor of Biomedical Science with Honours, specialising in the Molecular Basis of Health and Disease. As I am in preparation for my next steps in postgraduate study, this scholarship has also provided me the opportunity to explore a variety of potential kaupapa, supervisors and institutions that can support and guide me in setting up and completing a PhD.

My papakāinga is Taitoko (Levin) in the Horowhenua region where my Nannies and Koros all still reside. I was born and raised in the big smoke of Te Whanganui-ā-Tara and currently live there. It is fortunate that Pōneke is only an hour away from Taitoko so during my childhood we would often return to our whānau there for the weekends at the marae. Summer holidays were always at the Waitārere or Hokio beaches, gathering pipi and competing with the usual 20+ cousins on who could fill up their chilly bin the most and on other important occasions, we would be back in Taitoko. One of those important occasions were tangihanga. These occurred fairly regularly, which was something I considered pretty normal. It was not until later in life that I realised, compared to our Pākehā whānau, tangihanga occurred quite often. I mention this because most of my whānau that were passing away were due to preventable illnesses and health related issues which became the inspiration and my ‘why' to leading down this biomedical science pathway.

My interest in Western science started at Hato Hohepa College in Napier with my favourite teacher the late Mrs Caffery who made science quite fun for me and ultimately gave me the confidence that I could pursue this world of Western science as a potential career if I wanted.

Since starting my undergraduate studies at Te Herenga Waka (Victoria University of Wellington), there were some aspects of the programme and degree that were stand outs, which unfortunately were not about the actual science itself. I was the only Māori in my classes and learnt quickly that this would somewhat be a unique journey for me. I had not experienced this in my classes during high school, so it was a wake-up call and I soon felt isolated in that space with other tauira but also from lecturers. The only mention of Māori in the entire course was when they would talk of the poor health rates of each disease we would study and how Māori always seemed to take lead in most of the statistics. This sparked my determination to help make a change to the health outcomes whānau Māori face in Aotearoa and therefore I (eventually) completed my degree.

Having taken a break from studies after gaining my first tohu, I worked for a couple of years as a research assistant at the University of Otago, Wellington. There I also gained a lot of experience in health research having been involved in projects that looked at things such as type II diabetes; gout; asthma and allergy in our tamariki relating to their home environments; and diet interventions such as keto diets for diabetic whānau in Aotearoa. I learnt a lot from all of these kaupapa, especially how I thought health research could improve in their engagement with whānau Māori.

This inspired me to take the next steps in being able to conduct and lead research in a way that I hope will only be more beneficial and empowering for our whānau Māori here in Aotearoa which in turn, led to the decision of pursuing a PhD. I needed to complete an honours programme first, which I did at the University of Otago, Wellington and was awarded first class honours which was an amazing achievement especially when I consider that my undergraduate studies were not as... successful, shall we say.

I hope to be guided and lead by tikanga, mātauranga and kaupapa Māori in the research I do in the future as I believe it will not only enrich the Western science practice that I specialise in but will also and mainly help to encourage our whānau to be active participators and contributors to bettering our health outcomes for any illness we may face in the future. 

At Whakauae I am undertaking a literature review and exploring how different Māori health research kaupapa in Aotearoa have adopted kaupapa Māori methodologies. This will not only inform Whakauae of the current state and uptake of kaupapa Māori approaches in Aotearoa but will also inform and guide me personally in my endeavour to set up my PhD kaupapa by the end of this mahi.

Tēnā tātou

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