It’s been 22 years since Tūranga Health started with modest beginnings and an even more modest bank balance, and Billy Babbington was there right from the beginning.
As a respected rugby league stalwart who had worked in shearing sheds and on the freezing works floor, he was the perfect person to come on board to work in a key area of need . . . men's health.
When he joined Tūranga Health back in 1997, Billy had already spent time working at a residential home for people with physical, intellectual and mental health disabilities.
And while he may come across as a bit of a hard man, the father, grandfather and great-grandfather says his ultimate goal is to help those who need it most.
“Billy's attributes were obvious to us very early on in the piece,” says Tūranga Health chief executive Reweti Rophia. “He is a man that makes things happen behind the scenes, at the back of the marae.”
When it came time for a change, Billy's past experience in the workforce again came to the fore – he'd already seen his fair share of mental health issues – so for the last eight years he has been working with the mental health and addiction services team, upskilling with a Certificate and Diploma in Mental Health to help fulfil the role.
“Back in the day you might have known someone had problems but nothing was really done about it, then one day they might just not come back to work,” he says.
“Now we know better. We know that with the right care and support we can help whānau towards being well and that's why we do what we do. It's about making a difference.”
And according to Tūranga Health kaumatua John Pomana, that's just what Billy (Ngati Porou) does.
“Some of our whānau need a special kind of support and that is what Billy offers,” says John. “With all whānau, Billy cares for them while ensuring their rights around self-determination are protected.”
Tūranga Health chair Pene Brown, too, highly values what Billy Babbington brings to the team.
“He has really found his niche in supporting whānau with mental health challenges.” Pene Brown says.
“He's sympathetic and non-judgemental, and has an innate ability to earn the trust of whānau he is looking after, often during times that can be very emotional.”
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