ACC and Rongoā Māori

Rongoā Māori - Northland Story

For Teresa Hart making rongoā Māori a viable health outcome for the people in Northland is not just her job, it’s a lifelong promise.  

Hart, the Kaiwhakahaere Lead for the Te Houtaewa Maori Charitable Trust, made a promise to her father who was sick with XX to make the pathway for rongoā Māori a reality in the far north.  

“I’m passionate about rongoā Māori because we needed it when my father was unwell,” she says.  

Rongoā is a traditional Māori system of healing that includes rakau rongoa (native herbal remedies), mirimiri (massage) and karakia (prayer), as well as spiritual support.  

“Rongoā Māori is part our DNA,” says Hart. “In our contemporary times, it is a real connection back to who we are as people.”   

Hart, who was born and bred in XX, came home from Melbourne to help her sick Dad in XX when he could no longer afford his health insurance and his health was deteriorating.  

“Unfortunately, I didn’t have enough time to be that for Dad but he made me promise that I would look after many more people going forward,” she says.  

“What we learn in our deepest grief helps us to overcome and to be there to help others.”  

Hart now leads a Pilot Project for rongoā Māori in the Kaitaia Hospital which she says is growing significantly in awareness and popularity.  

“Because of COVID-19 our people in the far north are dealing with pressures they haven’t faced before,” she says. “People are really struggling.”  

She says rongoā Māori is for all ages and ethnicities.  

Some whānau are bringing long-term cancer patients to use rongoā Māori. Kaitaia Hospital is right alongside Kaitaia College and as a result they get a number of students who coming “running through the doors” for help with sensitive claims.  

One of the barriers Hart came across in delivering rongoā Māori at Kaitaia Hospital was they were operating in a borrowed space (the marae) as Kaitaia Hospital is currently going through renovations.  

“We looked at our operation in the new world with COVID-19 and we wanted to be able to operate regardless of the Alert Level,” she says.  

To fix the problem, Hart has set up a cabin at the front of the Kaitaia Hospital which is dedicated to rongoā Māori.  

“We are an essential service for many people. We need to be able to serve our people at all levels and ensure they feel safe when they come into that space. 

“We don’t want to be in a situation where COVID-19 hits and we are pushed away. We have to come forward more.”  

Used by Māori in Aotearoa for centuries, rongoā remains a popular healing option.   

As of June 2020, rongoā Māori has been offered as a service by ACC.   

If ACC agrees to provide cover for a person’s injury, the person can ask ACC to pay for rongoā Māori as part of their rehabilitation.  

Hart says it’s “awesome” that ACC has recognised rongoā Māori.  

“It’s acknowledges that rongoā Māori contributes to the care and recovery of that person,” she says.  

“I’m experiencing an overwhelming expression of interest to be part of that, both in our practitioners and our clients.”  

From June 2020 to August 2021 there have been 805 people use rongoā Māori services in Northland.  

Māori (576) make up the majority ahead of NZ European / Pakeha (183), Pasifika (25) and other ethnicities (21).  

ACC Tumu Pae Ora (Chief Māori and Equity Officer) Michelle Murray says the rongoā Māori service is a programme by Māori, with Māori, for Māori and available to people of all ethnicities. 

“We have enabled access to rongoā Māori services (traditional Māori healing) to improve equity of choice, access, experience, and outcomes for Māori,” says Murray.  

“We recognise we need to offer a choice of support services that reflect tikanga Māori and te ao Māori to uphold our Te Tiriti o Waitangi responsibilities.”   

Murray says ACC data shows Māori are more likely to sustain a serious, life-changing injury, but less likely to access ACC services. 

“We want to bring more Māori to ACC to support better health outcomes; enabling tikanga-aligned services is one way we can do that,” she says.  

“It’s positive to see that two thirds of those using our rongoā Māori service are Māori.”  

ACC data shows that 83 percent of clients who received rongoā care in the last calendar year no longer need ongoing support from ACC. And of the clients that have used the service only 1.2 percent have lodged a subsequent claim (for the same injury site) to date.  

Hart says relationships are critical to achieving positive health outcomes in the far north. She is committed to fulfilling her promise.   

“A lot of Māori simply don’t understand the options that are available to them so we need to build that awareness,” she says. 

“The message is getting out to all ages about the benefits of rongoā Māori and there is more to come. We are focused on getting our people the help and the support they need.”  

ACC and rongoā Māori 

  • ACC data shows that Māori are more likely to sustain a serious, life-changing injury but are less likely to access ACC services.  
  • The data tells us Māori are 25% less likely to make a claim with us than non-Māori. 
  • As of at the end of August 2021, we had approved rongoā Māori for around 1,200 claims and funded nearly 7,245 sessions. 
  • One in four of those clients hadn’t previously received other forms of ACC care or treatment before benefitting from rongoā. 
  • Rongoā Māori is available to clients on request and can be used as standalone care or in conjunction with other treatment.  
  • There are around 100 ACC-registered rongoā Māori practitioners in New Zealand, from Te Araroa to Dunedin.

Rongoā Maori Kaupapa is holistic and inclusive supporting the health and wellbeing of the individual, their whanau, hapu and iwi. Enabling Māori to access culturally appropriate care in Māori values nurtures cultural identity and affirms the legitimacy of mātauranga Māori.

“To transform Rongoā Māori from one of our country’s greatest health risk to one of our greatest achievements.”