Bringing it back to community

06 March 2022

How one pilot programme is changing the lives of new māmā.

When Dr Aria Graham explains her model pilot on child and maternal wellbeing to anyone, they often laugh and say it’s almost so simple it’s too difficult.

“You describe it to someone and they say ‘is that it’, but it’s just about love and aroha and accepting people for who they are,” says Dr Graham.

Her pilot programme, Mamia, the only one of its kind in the country, is now having a profound impact on new young māma and pregnant wāhine and their pēpi in Hastings. Although based in Hastings, Mamia is reaching and serving the wider area and wāhine are visiting or connecting from Hastings, Napier, Havelock North, and even Australia.

Having transformed a shed out the back of the Waipatu Marae into a home-away-from-home, with the help of the community, wāhine are now free to come into the space any time they like. Some are referred to the pilot, others are brought in by whānau or come in alone. In the space they can meet other young māmā or pregnant wāhine. They can enjoy hot kai or rest while one of the ama (volunteers) takes their baby for respite.

Kōkiri pre Mamia
Kōkiri pre Mamia

Wāhine from the community are invited to awhi and support māmā, with some modelling mothering skills, and anything from cooking and gardening to teething tips.

From the more than 200 women who have connected with and are supported by Mamia, the impacts have been felt far and wide.

“They’ve told me they have a feeling of being at home and they can’t wait to come back.”

How Mamia came to be

Dr Graham’s passion for nurturing and supporting wāhine began early in her career as a registered nurse in Well Child Tamariki Ora practice.

“It was here that I really cut my teeth working under kaupapa Māori, alongside whānau who were challenged and disadvantaged. I was so fortunate to be raised on the marae in a tight, loving whānau with a Nanny and Papa and aunties and uncles. So when I met whānau in the community who didn't have these support systems and were alone and disconnected, I was shocked and saddened. I was like wow, there are Māori not quite like me.”

Dr Graham says more support and care was required for child and maternal health than what was being offered, which included help with breastfeeding, post-natal depression, and developmental needs. It also needed to be delivered in a kaupapa Māori way.

I just kept thinking it’s not enough. It met the needs of whānau who were resourced and confident enough to access mainstream health providers but for some young mothers it just didn’t work. After core checks, we still left them alone and that troubled me.

Later, she was encouraged to study towards a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) centred around Māori mother’s experiences of wellbeing surrounding the birth of their first child.

From the findings of her PhD she formed the Mamia model.


Mama at Mamia
Mama at Mamia

Building community capacity

Dr Graham’s aim is to shift out of a reliance and psyche that improving health and social needs for Māori must be done through the mainstream health service.

“Mamia is building capacity within the community, so community do the caring of whānau and in that way build community responsibility.”

Through funding from Tākai, Dr Graham is now working to set up new avenues to expand their support services. 

Her dream would be to have the programme rolled out across the motu, with communities taking the model and creating their own based off community needs and tribal context.

“It’s about moving upstream on issues. Get in there and support the heart of the whānau, which is the mother, which is then supporting the next generation.”

Mamia: A marae-based 'home away from home' (transcript)

Do you have a great idea?

This community project was made possible with support from the Tākai Local Initiative Fund. Get in touch if you have a great idea to make positive change for whānau in your community.

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