Awhitia’s story: ‘Sharing our mātauranga with others’

Rongoā Māori practitioner Awhitia Mihaere using her healing methods on a person.

Rongoā Māori expert Awhitia Mihaere (Ngāti Kahungunu), chairperson of the ACC Rongoā Māori Advisory panel, shares her life experiences and applied practices of rongoā, and what it means for ACC to be supporting the inaugural Rongoā Māori Conference.

I have deep roots in traditional Māori healing, which began in early childhood at the side of my grandmother.

Rongoā Māori (traditional Māori healing) was our way of life. It was knowing how to apply her teachings to our own personal life.

Our first rongoā learning in the māra (garden) was kūmara – how to plant and how to harvest, and then to manaaki (share) with your whānau and hapū.

We applied the same tikanga practices to our moana (ocean) and ngahere (forest). My grandmother taught me the different varieties of seaweeds and their uses.

For example, which seaweed to apply to a bee sting or what to give for low iron count like our kina (sea urchins) or kūtai (mussels), along with pūhā (sowthistle) in a boil up. 

My father experienced injury and disability and so growing up we treated each moment as a rongoā learning, paying attention to the application of rongoā taught to us by our mum.

That included whitiwhiti kōrero (support and advice), mirimiri (bodywork) and romiromi (cellular memory healing).

A close-up photo of Awhitia Mihaere.

ACC has been offering rongoā Māori as a healing option since 2020 and the response shows there’s a need for this healing in our communities.
- Rongoā Māori expert Awhitia Mihaere

Rongoā Māori was suppressed for so long, officially it was from 1907 through to the 1960s, but, in my opinion, it took until 1998 to start to recover from that. In the past 10 years, we’ve been celebrating the resurgence of rongoā being reintroduced back into our communities. 

The progression for rongoā Māori in Aotearoa with the support of ACC has shifted from when my dad had his accident to a place of returning to our mātauranga (Māori knowledge and world view) to help heal our Māori communities.

ACC has been offering rongoā Māori as a healing option since 2020 and the response shows there’s a need for this healing in our communities. 

For rongoā practitioners, the 2024 ACC Rongoā Māori Conference is significant. It’s the first time we’ve seen a government agency acknowledge rongoā in this way, as a kaupapa that brings about wellbeing for our people.
Rongoā uplifts our wairua (spirit) and our mauri (life energy) and there’s certainly an abundance of aroha (love) that’s immersed in our practices. 

We believe this conference will bring a great relationship in terms of honouring Te Tiriti o Waitangi and promoting equity for tangata whenua. 

We’re looking forward to growing understanding of rongoā and being able to work alongside the medical fraternity because we haven’t really been able to do that before.  

The upcoming conference signifies a milestone in promoting collaboration with ACC and rongoā practitioners and their communities.

A close-up photo showing herbal remedies used in rongoā Māori healing.

More information on Rongoā Māori

ACC data shows rongoā Māori claim volumes have doubled in the 12 months to March 2024, with 5,054 additional claims using rongoā.

It’s not just Māori who are accessing rongoā Māori services – 59 per cent of kiritaki (clients) accessing rongoā Māori are Māori while 41 per cent are non-Māori.

“Offering rongoā as a rehabilitation service is part of our continuing efforts to deliver equity for Māori,” says Eldon Paea, ACC Head of Māori Health Partnerships.

As part of our commitment to growing access to and awareness of rongoā Māori across the health sector, ACC is supporting the inaugural Rongoā Māori Conference in Rotorua on 22-23 May.

More information is available on the conference website.

ACC Rongoā Māori Conference