Dr Hinemoa Elder is a child and adolescent psychiatrist in New Zealand. She is of Ngāti Kurī, Te Aupōuri, Te Rarawa and Ngāpuhi descent and is a staunch advocate for Te Reo Māori me ōna tikanga, the Māori language and cultural lore. The #TeamHB4 participant is a new recruit to Homeward Bound’s Busara Circle, a group of women who Homeward Bound calls on for their wisdom, experience and leadership.

Hinemoa Elder

Who is Dr Hinemoa Elder, and what do you do?

Ko Amongaariki II tōku tūpuna, ko Muriwhenua tōku ūkaipō. Ko Parengarenga te moana, ko Tawhitirahi te maunga, ko Kurahaupo te waka, ko Potahi te marae, Ko Te Aupōuri te iwi, Ko Hinemoa tōku ingoa.

Amongaariki II is our ancestress who gave our people the lands around Te Kao and Muriwhenua is the name of those lands which nurture and define me, also named after another female ancestor. Parengarenga is the ocean, Tawhitirahi is the mountain, Kurahaupo the vessel which brought our people across Te Moana nui a Kiwa, the Pacific Ocean, Potahi is the meeting place, Te Aupōuri is the tribe, Hinemoa is my name.

I am defined by the lands and waterways, histories and voyages of my ancestors. I am living the dreams of my old people. I live to take care of my iwi and community, my whānau, and to be a source of safety and comfort for those I meet. I am here to ensure a better world for our mokopuna, our grandchildren and those to come after.

You are a staunch advocate for Te Reo Māori me ōna tikanga, the Māori language and cultural lore, especially in understanding the links between climate emergency, mental distress and ill health and effecting change. Can you tell us more about this?

Our forebears had a different relationship with the nature. They knew they were an intrinsic part of the natural world and that was a source of survival, their knowledge, their science, their art and inspiration. More and more conventional science is catching up with indigenous knowledge. We are bringing back ways of caring for the environment from our ancestors for the reciprocal experiences of wellbeing of the planet, our mother earth Papatūānuku and ourselves. Our kaitiakitanga, our guardianship role is at the heart of this way of thinking and action. For example, we are undergoing major health reform in Aotearoa NZ, recognising the gross inequities that we as Māori face in our racist health systems. Our own Māori world view and approaches to oranga, wellbeing, can now be brought forward and become even more visible and accessible, forming the structures and content of health “services” to improve what we usually associate with best health outcomes as well as link to activities that address climate emergency. I reflect on this through the use of whakataukī and whakatauākī, proverbial sayings which highlight this connection in my book “Aroha. Māori wisdom for a contented life, lived in harmony with the planet. (Penguin Random House, and on the Oprah Winfrey Bookclub list)”

What influenced you to specialise in child and adolescent psychiatry?

The importance of whānau (extended family systems) in our culture and the opportunities for intergenerational healing and transformation were key. Cultural approaches to strengthening our identity as Māori as a way to promote resilience, prevention and early intervention of mental illness and to shift trajectories of distress have also been a central drawcard. Witnessing first hand the ways in which our language and customs, connection with our histories are essential to our wellbeing and advocating for those being essential apsects of what is offered in conventional mental health services and not some sort of luxury add on has been possible in the intergenerational scope of child and adolescent psychiatry.

You have a long list of career achievements. Which one is your personal greatest achievement and why?

There is no one aspect. They are all connected. Serving my people continues to take many forms and I am grateful to have opportunities to do so.

You were part of the HB4 cohort. Why did you apply for Homeward Bound and what did you learn about leadership from your Homeward Bound experience?

The chance to be with a group of women scientists from diverse fields, to learn and share, to be part of contributing to maximising the sum of our parts to have a voice and collective action to work towards changing climate emergency was compelling. I was reminded that the science is necessary but not sufficient. We have to be better at telling the stories of knowledge and wisdom.  Given our ancestors travelled in the areas of Antarctica centuries ago, I felt a powerful sense of drawing on their resilience and determination to advocate for our Indigenous knowing and systems of knowledge, too often overlooked.

Homeward Bound’s Busara Circle has a strong focus on elevating the different approaches to leadership in our world today. What is your approach to leadership?

Poipoia te kākano kia pūawai. Nurture the seed and it will blossom. People, ideas and projects are seeds that take time to grow within their own context, have seasons, and bear fruit. Listen with the heart. Respect and embrace differences. Provide a vision that ensures everyone feels part of the purpose. Be reliable and consistent. Follow through. Life is very serious sometimes. And we need to experience the joy of existence too.

What advice do you have for other women who want to be change-makers? 

Me whawhai tonu mātou. Never give up.

What are the best words of wisdom you have ever heard?

Ka tū tonu koe i roto i te aroha. Stand in the love within you.

The women of the Busara Circle call on their wisdom acquired by a long time of service and leadership to support the women of Homeward Bound. What words of wisdom do you hope to pass onto the women of Homeward Bound?

Me aro koe ki te hā o Hineahuone. Pay heed to the dignity of women. The world needs your unique gifts and insights. What are they? Find out and humbly share them.

Read more about Dr Elder’s work:

  1. Fischer B, Bullen C, Elder H, Fidalgo TM (2020) Considering the health and social welfare impacts of non-medical cannabis legalization. World Psychiatry, 187-188
  2. Elder H (2019) Te Puna a Hinengaro: he tirohanga ki a Āheinga. The wellspring of Mind: reflections on capacity from a Māori perspective. Mental Capacity Law in New Zealand, Thomson Reuters.
  3. Elder H, (2018). He waka eke noa: ko te waka oranga rāua ko te waka kuaka ngā rauemi e rua, in Maea te toi ora, Māori Health Transformations, editors Kingi, T.K, Durie, M, Elder, H, Tapsell, R, Lawrence, M, Bennet, S, Huia Publishers.
  4. Elder H, (2018). He tamariki wāwāhi tahā: it is in the nature of childrren to break things, in Maea te toi ora, Māori Health Transformations, editors Kingi, T.K, Durie, M, Elder, H, Tapsell, R, Lawrence, M, Bennet, S, Huia Publishers.
  5. Elder H. (2017).Te Waka Kuaka and Te Waka Oranga. Working with whānau (extended families) to improve outcomesAustralia and NZ Journal of Family Therapy, 38(1), 27-42. DOI: 10.1002/anzf.1206
  6.  Elder H. (2015). Te Waka Oranga: bringing indigenous knowledge forward, in Reconsidering Rehabilitation Theory, editors McPherson KM, Gibson, BE, Leplege A, CRC Press, Boca Raton.
  7. Elder H, Tapsell R, (2013). Māori and the Mental Health Act, in The Mental Health Act in New Zealand, editors Dawson J and Gledhill K, Otago University Press.

Words by Hinemoa Elder
Photo by Erica Sinclair

Edited by Diane Nazaroff