Kelly | Uawa, Gisborne

“I think I’m one of the ones that actually take people through those challenging experiences, being Mirimiri Rongoā, carrying along the lines of our Tohunga work. You know, matakite.

So, I’m the one that will work with people through mental illness, a lot of trauma, a lot of physical ailments that’s caused by a lot of psychological trauma. But if I was saying something personally for myself, I would say the hardest thing was actually being able to recognise my talents for myself, because in most societies it’s not recognised what we do in our practices. Most of the time we’re seen as airy-fairy and not quite all there. We’re specifically put to the side where you’re not really part of a social circle. So, the hardest thing is a lot of isolation within the work that I do. It can be quite a lonely life where you’re always second-guessing whether what you’re doing is right, but what ends up confirming it at the end of the day, are the people that you work with. The smiles you see on their face, the way their physical body changes and their personality when they come and see you, and when they leave you. There’s no scientific proof to prove what it is that we do is right, so I suppose that’s my way of saying that that’s how I get through. It’s through the work that I do, and the people that I help.

Recently we just got registered with ACC as a vendor for Rongoā Māori Mirimiri. So what that entails is that we can do traditional healing, or holistic. It’s not clinical, so we get to practice how we like. So, that’s working also along the guidelines in which I like to say, Te Whare Tapa Whā, where we make sure that we mimic a home and how people can actually see themselves as being like a home with strong walls and a strong roof. As they go through troubles in their life, holes appear in parts of those walls or roof. I like to say that I work along that line to make everything nice and strong as you would a basic whare. We’ve only been going here for about six weeks. In the time we’ve been going, it’s been pretty full-on working with organisations, making sure that things can work properly because it’s all still very new to ACC. Working alongside ACC and other organisations, it’s been a trial, but the most positive thing about it is it’s going forward. We’re getting good results. We just got told the other day that apparently the rest of New Zealand is watching how this all happens. Other things that we’re looking at doing is helping the rest of our whānau all the way up the East Coast to get established the same as us, because as I tell everyone, I’m only one person and the East Coast is a very isolated place. East Coasters are people unto their own. It’s not really somewhere where a lot of people would come. So, to utilise our own whānau that we have here, our practitioners, if we can get them going, I’ll be absolutely ecstatic with that.

I grew up in parts of Ōpōtiki, but I’m a child that was handed around to all of my aunties and uncles, along with my mum. I grew up alongside my grandparents. So, I was quite fortunate that I was really well looked after. I had a lot of love especially from my aunties and uncles. I cherish them ultimately, but how I came about doing this, it’s pretty much a gift that’s given within my family. Each of my family all have certain gifts, in which they help to portray and help people. I grew up around my grandfather who was always around horses, and he taught us to be very humble and to laugh a lot. He taught us so many practical skills, but to me, what I do is a gift, and it’s handed down from generation to generation from our family, and being from Ōmarumutu which was known as a hospital during the Māori Wars. We have he huts that sit at the back of Ōmarumutu, and that’s where they used to take all the warriors for healing throughout the Māori Wars. So, as I say, this is a generational thing, being handed down. That’s part of our gift, is where we come from, how we were brought up, and I appreciate everything that I do and I plan to pass it onto those who are willing to learn. Because it’s a tradition that’s slowly dying because most people are still on koha-base, but these days we actually want our whānau to be able to live, to generate something from gifts that they have and to make a comfortable life out of it.”

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