Awerangi Tamihere (MNZM) has spent the last 30 years working in health strategic planning, organisational development, and social policy reform, with whānau development as her focus.
She first entered the health sector as a speech-language therapist and then moved into strategic and management roles in health reform. Throughout her roles, she continues to partner with Māori to create spaces for whānau to co-produce outcomes.
She is the Chief Operating Officer (COO) of the Whānau Ora Commissioning Agency and Waipareira Trust, where she uses a collaborative approach to improve the well-being of Māori communities. Working with whānau, hapū, and iwi ensures there is self-determination in the changes to healthcare provision.
As COO, she was pivotal in overseeing the agency's response to the COVID-19 pandemic. She pushed for Māori wellbeing to be considered regarding isolation policies and vaccine rollouts. She also worked to ensure an understanding of the different challenges communities may face, which led to a mobile nursing team that provided initial support, testing advice, calls to a GP and the public health team, and setting them up from a medical point of view.
Awerangi also examines how community-based organisations and agencies can tackle poverty in New Zealand. She recognises the importance of asking families what barriers they encounter on their path to empowerment.
Awerangi emphasises that it's important for families to have the right to determine their own path for transformation. She has focused on measuring outcomes achieved to understand the success of short-, medium-- and long-term solutions.
In 2023, Awerangi was appointed a Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit at the King's birthday awards for her services to Māori health.