TWICE a week, Turanga Health's hub at Elgin thrums to the strumming of up to 30 ukelele and leading the charge is George Brown.
It might seem an unusual task for the community nursing kaiāwhina but George, Rongowhakaata, Ngāi Tāmanuhiri, Ngāti Kahungunu, says it fits right in with the Turanga Health kaupapa.
“It not only gets people in the door to show what services might be available, but they also go out and play in the community and share what they have learned.
“It is like an outreach programme, but with ukulele, so as the hub grows the community is informed and on board.”
That also fits in with George's own kaupapa which, throughout his career, has focused on working with Māori, for Māori.
After growing up in rural Matawai, he started work in as a cadet with the Department of Māori Affairs.
He found the engagement across social work, housing, rural development and Māori Land Court to be enriching so moved to Hamilton to further study the history of Māori land, returning to Gisborne until 1989 when the department was dissolved.
Over the following years he was shoulder-tapped for roles that saw him working in tertiary education and Māori development, and took him to the South Island and back to the North, where he wanted to be closer to his daughter in Hamilton.
“Throughout that time I always said I would go home and I eventually made it.”
Once back in te Tairāwhiti, there was still plenty of work to do and George spent the next decade in senior roles with the Rural Education Activities Programme, Rongowhakaata Iwi Trust, Te Runanga o Ngati Porou, Tairāwhiti Children's Team and Whānau Ora.
In 2019 he joined Turanga Health where his key roles involve supporting the nursing team and its programmes, and driving the “voice” initiative that gets feedback from whānau to ensure services are targeted and appropriate.
“And that's really important,” he says. “We have gone from a time when government was telling Māori what was best for them, to one where whānau can define what they need, and how that can be accessed.”
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