Te Oranoa Matthews is a third-year Bachelor of Medicine and Surgery student at the University of Auckland, raised in Te Tai Tokerau. Blessed by an inspiring community, Te Oranoa grew to value connections and hāpori. As a high school student, she was involved with different groups that aligned with these values.
RAID (Respond to All In Distress) was set up after a cluster of local teen suicides in the Whangarei area; with the support of Ngāti Hine Health Trust, RAID works to encourage more positive behaviour and a better life outlook among their peers. Te Oranoa and the other rangatahi in the group raised awareness about youth suicide and bullying. Te Oranoa was also one of the first mentees within the Hawea Vercoe Leadership Programme that the MOKO Foundation led. This programme works to build confidence and leadership skills in Rangatahi so that they can go on to build a better Aotearoa.
A couple of years into her medical studies, she turned down an opportunity to participate in the 2020-2021 Ngā Pae o te Māramatanga Summer Internship Programme after being paired with Dr Donna Cormack. Instead, she began working as a contact tracer for Auckland Regional Public Health Services with their Covid-19 Response Unit. This experience exposed her to the harsh realities of Māori health inequities, “for a lot of these whānau", Covid was the last thing on their mind. Living pay-to-pay, overcrowded housing and chronically ill family members - she was hired to ask about Covid symptoms when I wanted to do was Hāpai (elevate) my people”.
She has since been offered another place on the 2023-2024 Ngā Pae o Te Māramatanga Summer Internship Programme, where she has been paired with researchers from Te Kānui Raraunga Charitable Trust (TKR) based in Rotorua. TKR aims to provide creative tikanga-based solutions on the use of databases for Māori and reaffirm the importance of data sovereignty.
Te Oranoa continues to connect with different communities and groups with the intention of using this network to elevate her Far North hāpori. Some honourable mentions include Whakapiki Ake, Te Oranga - Māori Medical Students Association Aotearoa, Hāpai te Hauora Pia Internships, Blue Light NZ, and Te Aka Whai Ora - Medical Workforce Pathway Group.
As an aspiring Māori Health practitioner, she is on the path to becoming a future Māori health leader.