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Ngāti Kahungunu nurse wins prestigious Te Akenei Hei Māori health award

Janice Wenn, Ngāti Kahungunu ki Wairarapa, Ngāti Moe, Ngāti Hinewaka is the latest recipient of Te Runanga o Aotearoa NZNO’s prestigious Akenehi Hei Award. The award is for a significant contribution to Māori health. A nurse with a long career in nursing, nursing management, cultural safety and hauora Māori, Janice Wenn was presented with the award at NZNO’s annual conference in Wellington on Wednesday 15 September.

Matua Amster Reedy spoke recently at Te Runanga o Aotearoa NZNO annual general hui of the qualities needed to be a leader; to be unobtrusive, to be humble and to be inspirational. Janice Wenn has all of these qualities.

This year’s recipient of the te Akenei Hei Award has an outstanding and extensive nursing and midwifery career which spans five decades; Janice Wenn has held roles as staff nurse and ward sister, solo charge nurse (nurse practitioner) position in isolated Tasmania, public health nurse, assistant principle nurse, principle nurse and chief nursing officer at Taranaki hospital, board member of a crown health enterprise and district health board.

Her career has moved between academic, clinical and administrative aspects of nursing, with an ongoing commitment to health services that deliver ‘Māori, by Māori for Māori’. She worked closely with the late Irihapeti Ramsden and other Māori nurses promoting and practising cultural safety.

Alongside her brother Kim Workman she devised a health plan for Māori; a health provider called Whaiora Whānui Māori, which is still providing community based health services for Māori.

Her academic accomplishments include a diploma of nursing, a masters thesis on hospital information systems and, in 2007 and at the age of 74, she was awarded her PhD which focused on identifying the core values which underpinned Māori health. Much of the research was completed by talking with kaumatua and kuia, whose stories provided her with a rich narrative. She continues to working 20 hours a week at Massey University as a senior research fellow.

The Akenehi Hei taonga was created in memory of Akenehi Hei, the first Māori nurse to register under her Māori name. The taonga can be awarded to anyone who has made a significant contribution to Māori Health. There have been four past recipients including the late Irihapeti Ramsden, Putiputi O’Brien, Vera Morgan and the late Noeline Warmington.


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