Meet Peta Ruha, Principle Clinical Advisor to the Office of the Directorate of Mental Health & Addiction services with Ministry of Health

P RuhaTell us a little about yourself, who you are and what is your role?

Ki te taha o toku whaea

Te hapu ko te Patuwai, mai i te Manukatutahi ki Whakatane o Ngati awa

Ki te taha o toku papa

Te hapu ko Tuhourangi,
Te  iwi ko te Arawa

Ko Peta Ruha toku ingoa

I was born and raised in Kawerau. A time when we would spend most of our days after school and during the weekends swimming at the Tarawera River and grazing from the plentiful fruit trees on the way to the river and on the way home. A time when moving freely in and out of whānau homes was a norm and when everyone knew which whānau you belonged too.

My partner is of Ngati awa, Tuhoe and Tangahoe descent. We have 5 tamariki and our mokopuna is 2 years old. My tamariki have been immersed in kohanga reo, kura kaupapa, home schooled and kapa haka. We currently reside in the Manawahe of the Whakatane District where we are returning to learning how to live off the whenua.

At age 15 I left Kawerau to continue my schooling at Queen Elizabeth College in Palmerston North. In 1990 i started my nursing training, graduating in 1993. It was through the

Māori student support from Te Aira Henderson, Hine Delamere and Karl Pulotu Endemann that I succeeded in completing my training. I continued with further study at Massey university graduating with a post- graduate diploma in applied science, taking a specific focus on advanced mental health nursing, co-existing disorders and family therapy. With the return home to the Manawahe in 2011, I transitioned from Massey University to Te Whare Wananga o Awanuiarangi to complete my Masters in Indigenous studies, which focused on kaupapa Māori theory as evidence based practice. I am currently In the third year of my PHD.

From January - May 2018 I completed a spring semester at Berkeley University with the Goldman school of social policy where I studied at the faculty of social work specialising in mental health. I graduated as a Berkeley Alunmi with an international leadership qualification. This was all made possible as an owner of Tuaroapaki trust.

I have recently taken up a role as Principle Clinical Advisor to the Office of the Directorate of Mental Health and Addiction services, with the Ministry of Health. A privileged opportunity where I can leverage off my sector experience to make a difference strategically as a means of improving service delivery for Māori.

Tell us about  your background in Mental Health & Addiction?

I have worked in a variety of roles over the past 25 years across the mental health sector. I graduated at the time mental health institutions such as lake Alice were being closed down, so had the privilege of being mentored by experienced psychiatric nurses. I recall my time at Manawaroa inpatient unit in Palmerston North where I was mentored by Pat Tapiata and supervised by Gene Lewis Clarke. Over the years I have worked in the DHB, NGO, with Iwi providers and Kaupapa Māori mental health teams.

The past seven years before joining the ministry I held the role as the clinical manager for Tuwharetoa ki Kawerau Health Education and Social Servcies. A vision that was finally able to be realised after twenty years of living and learning away from home. A goal of being able to return home and work with my own whānau, my people and in the community In which i was raised. A challenging but rewarding time in my career, which drew on all the skills and experience that has been developed over the years.

How do you see yourself supporting the Midland region and how can we in turn support you?

As I grow into the new learnings and role, it provides an opportunity for the voice of the Midland region to be echoed across the ministry.  In turn being able to meet with the whānau across Midland who keep the home fires burning is critical, because it is through our realities of working with our whānau that we see where the change needs to happen.

If you could change one thing for Māori relating to Mental Health & Addiction, what would that be?

Māori mental health service delivery models need to reflect the needs of our whānau, therefore being able to bring my experience working across the sector into arenas where there are opportunities to make change is paramount. To reduce the disconnect we experience as whānau working at the coalface and the decisions being made by the ministry.

What is your favourite 'whakatauki - words of wisdom"?

"Mahia te Mahi" - (Do the mahi that needs to be done)