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Wahine Māori instigators and advocates of cultural safety honoured at Manawa campus

Portraits marking decades of dedication go on permanent display.


Pictured (Left to right) Dr Irihapeti Ramsden, Dame Aroha Reriti-Crofts (CBE) and Linda Grennell, RN

Ara Institute of Canterbury has honoured three exceptional and inspirational Ngāi Tahu leaders in health, education and cultural safety with their portraits formally installed at its Manawa campus.

The late Dr Irihapeti Ramsden (ONZM), Linda Grennell (Registered Nurse) and Dame Aroha Reriti-Crofts (CBE) all played significant roles at Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology (now Ara), particularly in nursing and midwifery.  But the legacy of these taua (the Ngāi Tahu word for grandmother and also an endearing term for female elders) stretches far beyond the halls of education. All three women were strong and vocal community leaders and advocates for iwi-Māori nationally and locally.

Dr Ramsden (ONZM and herself a registered general and obstetric nurse and doctor of philosophy) is widely recognised as one of the most influential Māori leaders of her generation. She convened and served on several key organisations but perhaps her most significant gift was her instigation of cultural safety in nursing education.


The movement, which has now grown nationally and extended into other sectors, was named ‘Te Kawa Whakaruruhau’ by Irihapeti’s uncle, Pani Te Uri Manawatū (1911-1991).

With origins in the late 1980s, cultural safety became part of the New Zealand nursing and midwifery curriculum in 1992 and is now part of nursing practice throughout the world.

Linda Grennell and Dame Aroha Reriti-Crofts were also honoured for their strong and vocal community leadership and advocacy for iwi-Māori in the health sector locally and nationally. Among their contributions, both were former presidents of the Māori Women’s Welfare League – Te Rōpū Wāhine Māori Toko i te Ora.

Irihapeti Ramsden’s vision for cultural safety also led to the establishment of Ara’s Te Roopu Kawa Whakaruruhau which is made up of institute staff and representatives from the local hapū-Māori community. 

It has continued on its strong foundations, led by Linda Grennell’s twin sister Elizabeth Cunningham for a decade after Dr Ramsden’s death in 2003, before the mantle was handed to current chair Annette Finlay.

Present at the photo unveiling, taua Elizabeth reflected on Dr Ramsden’s contribution, describing Te Kawa Whakaruruhau as the birthplace of cultural safety.

“Irihapeti was about respect and having a wider view. She ran workshops, speaking and consulting widely. Her vocal leadership within Ngāi Tahu and her connections with the polytech came together along with support from the Nursing Council of New Zealand for this kaupapa to be born,” she said.


Manaia Cunningham spoke to the legacy of the three taua

Speaking to a new cohort of nursing ākonga at the whakatau event, taua Elizabeth’s son Manaia spoke of the trio’s steadfast efforts to establish, grow and carry the movement over the years.

“They saw inequity and fought for all people no matter the colour of their skin.  Cultural safety means your safety as professionals and the safety of the people you are treating. It is about protecting colleagues and treating patients with humility to provide unequalled service,” he said expressing thanks to those gathered for stepping into the field of health.


Hector Matthews described the taua as trailblazers

Director Consumer Engagement and Whānau Voice, Te Whatu Ora, Hector Matthews, agreed the system today was better for the taua’s efforts.

“Nursing has been profoundly improved at the education and service delivery level because of the work of these three trailblazers. It’s really important that all of us understand the history that we come from because it makes us grateful to be where we are,” he said.

Ara’s Department of Health Practice Operations Lead Manager McEwen said it was an honour to acknowledge the taua in the common space on the Manawa campus with the latest Bachelor of Nursing cohort present to bear witness.

“I think it will raise people’s spirits to have more of an idea of what these women have contributed to health education and the nursing curriculum worldwide,” she said.

The legacy of these three whaea tupuna will live on through the wishes of their whānau to stay connected with the next generation starting out on their journey of education and working in health practice.