Climbing the health career ladder

13 March 2017

Despite a life-long interest in health, Hauora Tairāwhiti’s Wanita Tuwairua-Brown ended up working in the sector by chance.

With a little help from a Hauora Maōri Training Fund (HMTF)and lots of support from colleagues and her whānau, this modern day super-mum is now studying towards a diploma in Health Science and has an exciting new career firmly in her sights. Here is Wanita’s story.

Wanita Tuwairua-Brown and her whānau

Wanita Tuwairua-Brown and her whānau

‘From a young age, I had no choice but to be interested in health,’ recalls Wanita. ‘When I started playing sport my dad would spend hours training with me and my siblings. Mostly at Te Poho o Rawiri Marae in Kaiti where we grew up. We ate kai from our home garden, takeaways were non-existent in our upbringing.’

‘Sport taught me discipline, resilience and teamwork. However, being away from school for weeks-on-end to compete nationally certainly had an impact on my education.’

‘I missed a lot of school. I felt like I was behind all the time and spent a lot of time trying to catch up which made me dislike it.

With no formal qualifications, Wanita went back to education as an adult. ‘I took a computer course at Tūranga Ararau, where my tutor suggested that I apply for an admin position at Tūranga Health. ‘

After 4 years at Tūranga Health, Wanita applied for a position at Tairāwhiti District Health (as it was known then). ‘I was certain that I wanted to grow my career in health. I started in health promotion, working as Auahi Kore/Smokefree Advisor in 2012 and loved it! Engaging and uplifting our community was where I felt most comfortable.’

After three years, Wanita’s career progressed further, as she took on the role of Healthy Workplaces Facilitator, where she remains today. ‘My job is to enable a work environment that supports the health and wellbeing of its employees. I love my job. When you see the difference you make, the feeling is priceless’.

In addition to moving up the ranks, Wanita has also found time to raise four children with her husband. ‘Our kids are involved in many sports but we ensure their education is a priority.’

Two years ago Wanita went back to study. ‘I wasn’t too confident about studying again. But with the financial costs taken care of thanks to the HMTF and encouragement from my manager and work colleagues, I enrolled.

‘I won’t say that it has been easy. Balancing my work, family, sport and study are very challenging at times. There have been plenty of occasions when my husband has picked me up from the office in the middle of the night so I can study.

So what’s Wanita’s secret to success? ‘For me, it’s about being ready. Balancing life but being able to have a bit of fun too. Most importantly having support. My kids are my priority. I always attend school interviews, sports practises and games, my study comes after my kids. My mum is my backbone, my husband and I are so lucky to have both our mothers to help us. My husband supports me with everything I do, for which I am very grateful. I’m also surrounded by fantastic colleagues who are bursting with knowledge, and always willing to help me with my study’.

Wanita hopes to continue toward a Bachelor of Health Science and potentially graduate at the same time as her eldest son. ‘I think it would be an awesome whānau achievement if we can complete this journey together.’

Following her graduation, Wanita has an interest in health protection but would like to leave her options open. ‘Every paper provides new knowledge and sparks new interests. As long as I’m helping my whānau and community live the best life that they deserve’ I will be happy.’ 

Hauora Maori Training Fund is a workforce development fund for the health and disability workforce. Click here to see if you qualify, or to make an application. Alternatively, contact hwnzhauora@tdh.org.nz