Pacific midwife numbers are on the rise in South Auckland, thanks to a mentoring initiative led by Pasifika Midwives Aotearoa, supported by AUT midwifery department.
The Aunties Initiative is a voluntary and self-referral programme that pairs a Pacific student (nieces) with a registered Pacific midwife (aunties).
AUT Pasifika Midwifery student Liaison and Clinical Educator Ngatepaeru Marsters says the programme is a response to an urgent need for more Pacific midwives in New Zealand, especially in South Auckland.
“We decided to look at the issue ourselves and we realised the best way to raise more Pacific midwives was to support our own Pacific students,” she says.
Through the Aunties Initiative, established Pacific midwives volunteer their time and expertise to guide Pacific midwifery students through their educational journey – providing academic help, pastoral support and expert advice. Currently, there are 12 Aunties and 22 Nieces enrolled in the initiative across New Zealand.
In 2014, Pacific midwives made up 2.1% of midwives nationally. Marsters estimates that in South Auckland where 30.7% of the birthing population is Pacific, there are only about 10 Pacific midwives.
“That’s not enough,” emphasises Marsters “South Auckland is in dire need of more Pacific midwives and the Aunties Initiative aims to reduce that gap.”
Marsters points to research that shows a workforce that mirrors the community has better outcomes. “Pacific midwives work better with Pacific mothers because of the intrinsic cultural understanding between both,” she says.
“This intrinsic cultural understanding overcomes misunderstandings about cultural norms, language barriers and leads to greater relationship outcomes.”
Aunties Initiative National Co-ordinator and Counties Manukau DHB midwife Tokarahi Tobeck says the big dream is for at least 20% of midwives in New Zealand to be Pacific.
“The end goal is that every Pacific woman who wants a Pacific midwife can get a Pacific midwife,” she says. “New Zealand needs to be able to offer this because of our growing Pacific population.”
AUT Midwifery student Dinah Otukolo’s journey
For AUT Year 3 midwifery student and Aunties Initiative participant, Dinah Otukolo, having a mentor, or ‘auntie’, to call on has played a significant part in her midwifery journey.
One of the aunties she works closely with is self-employed midwife Nora Bukateci.
“I call on my auntie anytime I need help,” says Otukolo.
“Nora has walked me through so much in my midwifery journey. When I’m dead on my feet after a birth and have an assignment to complete, I can count on Nora to be there for me. She is always rooting for me, and encouraging me.”
“Nora helped me have confidence in myself and helped me believe that I can be a great midwife.”
Bukateci says it has been an honour to watch Dinah grow. “I love to pass on my knowledge,” she says. “I always says to my ‘nieces’ – if you have passion, you are able to overcome anything.”
“When Dinah graduates, I look forward to serving our Pacific communities alongside her.”
Otukolo’s goal is to give back to the South Auckland community she grew up in.
“I moved from the Gold Coast in Australia to study at AUT because I believe it’s the best place to learn midwifery,” she says. “My heart is with the Pacific community here in South Auckland and I want to give back.”
“I’m so grateful to all the Aunties who volunteered their heart and time, and to all my fellow students. It’s been a privilege to be a part of this and I can’t wait to be an auntie myself after I graduate.”