Hutt Maternity midwife Ronnie Jayaprakash, left, with kaiārahi Esther Lambert from Te Rūnanganui o Te Atiawa ki te Upoko o Te Ika a Maui.
Hapū Ora, a drop-in clinic based at Lower Hutt’s Waiwhetu Marae, is a collaborative Māori maternity service for whānau expecting a new baby.The drop-in service provides a continuum of care covering everything from midwifery to breastfeeding for new mothers and their whānau.
The free services are run by mana whenua Te Runanganui O Te Atiawa with support from Hutt Maternity and Hutt Valley DHB.
Demand for Hapū Ora’s services has grown steadily since opening in 2017,with many Māori whānau finding the marae environment an ongoing source of comfort.
“Māori can feel whakamā at hospital, but feel comfortable at a marae,” said lactation consultant Maria Hakaraia.
“The advantage of offering all the services for whānau at a place where they may feel more comfortable than in a more mainstream clinical setting has seen demand grow steadily”.
The breadth of the Māori cultural knowledge available helps connect whānau with traditional practises such as ipu whenua, or the importance of tūpuna, and the natural benefits of generations of wahine breastfeeding.“
There can be lifelong benefits to helping whānau build a strong foundation early-on — our role is to partner with them on this journey,” Maria said.
Hutt Maternity midwife Ronnie Jayaprakash runs a weekly clinic at the marae where she sees about six or seven clients.
“Some of the mums that come here can be on the more vulnerable side of society,” she says.
“It’s not just about mum and baby, it’s also about the wider whānau.
”By encouraging whānau to engage with health services, they can connect them with a wide range of support including scans and medical tests.
Service co-ordinator Miri Luke says their focus is ensuring whānau engage early with lead maternity carers, offering long term contraception postnatally, and carrying out appropriate referral to other services.
“Our main priority is getting our people access to the services they need – the health of the people here has dramatically improved.”