Donna BlairMeet Donna Blair, Chair of Midland Addiction Leadership Network

Regional stakeholders and representatives from across the five DHB areas are integral to the Midland MH&A team to gather multiple point of views, innovative ideas and feedback to be develop and serve in the Addiction sector for Midland.  All our regional networks are led by the chairs that are nominated for a two year period and supported by the Midland MH&A team.

Donna Blair the chair of the Midland Addiction Leadership Network and has been on this network for a few years and has a history with the Addiction sector.  We asked her questions about her role as chair and commitment to the Addiction area.

Tell us a little about yourself and how did you first get involved in with Midland Addictions Leadership Network?

I hail from Hokitika on the West Coast, of Kati Mamoe and Kai Tahu Iwi.  I began my training as an AOD Counsellor travelling back and forwards to Christchurch before relocating to Auckland in 1995 where I finished my training and took up a position with CADS Auckland.  CADS Auckland was a great place to work, great systems, training opportunities and good sector knowledge.   During the late 90’s I was fortunate to be part of the development of Maori services under the leadership of Te Puea Winiata.  

In 2006 I moved to Rotorua as the Manager of a kaupapa Maori service, Te Utuhina Manaakitanga Trust as it was known then.  When I look back at those earlier years it was pretty isolating at times, however, I believed in what I was doing, I had great support from the Board of Trustees and colleagues in the sector.

Recruitment was a significant issue at that time. We worked alongside the Workforce Development Centres and Tertiary Institutes to deliver training locally.   One of the first contracts that came our way was working in Secondary Schools with rangatahi across the Lakes Region.  We were fortunate to be supported by Tuwharetoa Iwi leaders to ensure we recruited the right people for the Taupo/Turangi communities.

As a Manager I believe it’s been important to stay abreast of the issues and the ongoing development of the sector.  Joining the Midland Addiction Leadership Network a few years back has been and still remains one of the keys that keep us connected across the region.

What was your first impression of the regional network?

Impressive, highly functioning, passionate leaders who come together to share their knowledge, discuss and debate issues facing the sector and the region.  It’s a proactive group of people who seek solutions, visionary and who hold the tangata whai ora and their whanau at the centre of all discussions.  We try to ensure that our whanau receive the best services possible in the midland region.

Eseta and her team keep us focussed with significant amounts of reading while challenging us to share our opinions, dreams, and knowledge.  The meetings themselves allow for members to connect.

What do you find most challenging about regional issues for Addictions?

The distance between centres and ensuring those who live more rurally can access services in a timely manner.  We attempt to break down the barriers by frequently visiting providers across the region to share our successors and troubleshoot any issues.  We rely heavily on good relationships and communication via, phone, emails, and AVL.

Distance can sometimes be a barrier for counsellors needing to up skill, we attempt to bring relevant training to the Midland region and or advocate strongly for resources.   Following on from this is the shortfall in qualified, registered practitioners.  Hence we tend to support local people.

Unfortunately there still appears to be a divide between the DHB provider arms and the NGO sector, particularly accessing Mental Health Services.  Often we rely on relationships rather than a system for support.  Ongoing communication at all levels is required to work through some of the barriers to ensure tangata whai ora and their whanau receive a seamless service.

As chair of this network, what is your expectation from stakeholders on this group?

To ensure we have the right people at the table, those who are driven to provide the best services possible.  This requires that members are well read, informed of the issues locally, regionally and nationally about our sector.  We also need to be mindful of other sectors who we need to also work closely with e.g. Ministry for Vulnerable Children etc.

It is also helpful if those in attendance have ways and means to gather and relay feed back to their colleagues and or communities.

What would you like to say to family whānau, whom you represent as a network and chair of the Midland Addiction Leadership Network?

‘Nothing about us, without us’ rings true.  While we may each have our respective communities that we represent, we need to continue conversations to improve outcomes for tangata whai ora and their whanau.  In saying this, I suspect that most who work in this field also have their own whanau stories.

What is your favourite “words of wisdom”?

Hmmm I have a couple, ‘less is more’ for me that means sometimes we need to take a step back and listen, don’t over talk it.  It could also apply to make up, just saying :)  The second one, a dear friend and colleague use to remind us of is ‘trust the process’.

Ma te wa :)