Kia mau ki te aka matua, te toi huarewa o ngā tūpuna
Hold fast to the wisdom of your ancestors
The above whakataukī speaks truth to the essence of mātauranga and tikanga that informs, motivates and drives Ruth Herd in her endeavours to improve problem gambling for Māori. Ruth began her career as an art teacher working in a Māori medium immersion wānanga and kura. In 2001, Ruth entered into the addictions sector, raising awareness and developing resources for the alcohol and drug sector. In 2001, Ruth developed a resource kete which was available at Te Matatini 2002 National Kapahaka Festival held at Takaparawhau (Bastion Point), Tāmaki Makaurau.
Over time, Ruth has developed an interest in gambling, particularly its impacts on wāhine Māori and has been involved in establishing and delivering a problem gambling support group Wāhine Tūpono. Ruth also collaborated with Professor John Raeburn in the development of Te Ngira, a public health problem gambling plan and the Te Kakano workforce development project.
Ruth was actively involved in Te Herenga Waka o Te Ora Whānau, the Māori Reference Group advocating for Māori to be more actively involved in decision making in gambling policy and planning. Together with Dr Laurie Morrison, she co-convened an international indigenous symposium on problem gambling hosted by Te Arawa in Rotorua in 2012. The symposium was attended by over 100 indigenous delegates.
As the inaugural recipient of Te Rau Ora’s Hoe Wha Problem Gambling Award, Ruth undertook research that informed her Doctor of Health Science thesis that explored taiohi Māori perspectives of gambling in their communities. Tirohanga Taiohi: Taiohi perspectives on gambling among whānau, hapū, iwi, and urban Māori communities provide unique insights into taiohi experiences and perspectives of gambling that occurs within their environments. Ruth’s research is an original contribution, and out of this, she has developed the TEKA Model for public health in this area.
The Teka (magic dart) is featured in the pakiwaitara (historical narrative) from Te Atiawa. The story is about a taiohi (teenager) guided by the Teka on an intrepid journey to find his father who lived in Waitara. The story took place over four hundred years ago when “Teka” was a game requiring a great deal of skill, unlike Pokie machines games where employing lucky charms is not going to influence the games’ outcome. This narrative is also carved in the gateway of Owae Marae, Waitara.
Without a doubt, Ruth is a tireless champion and leader for Māori whānau, hapū, iwi and urban Māori communities who are affected by problem gambling. Driven by her determination, commitment and aroha for Māori, Ruth has tirelessly advocated for the improvements in outcomes for those affected by problem gambling.
Herd. R. (2018) Tirohanga Taiohi Taiohi perspectives on gambling among whānau, hapū, iwi and urban Māori communities. Link to thesis https://openrepository.aut.ac.nz/bitstream/handle/10292/11675/HerdR.pdf?sequence=7&isAllowed=y
Professor Denise Wilson, Tainui, Professor of Māori Health Auckland University of Technology