Mātai News

Mātauranga Māori the highlight for all

The Gisborne Herald, 12 February 2023

Collaborative learning: The group of summer interns squeeze into the Mātai Research Institute offices on Childers Road. Work has begun on a new centre for the institute, up the road on the former St Mary’s Catholic Primary School site.

Mātai Research Institute, a not-for-profit centre based in Gisborne Tairāwhiti, has farewelled 16 summer interns. Here’s a look back on what they achieved over the course of the programme, from learning new skills to forming lasting relationships.


Mātai is focused on enhancing the capabilities of medical imaging using new and advanced software, post-processing and artificial intelligence. It takes a collaborative approach, drawing on a network of leading expertise nationally and internationally.


The research undertaken at Mātai supports kaupapa Māori and the community on a journey towards a better understanding of a healthy brain, heart, and body.


It was an emotional week as the Mātai interns completed their 10-week summer programme and headed back to universities across the country.


Amid the structured chaos, with 16 students squeezed into the Mātai office, the interns participated in a cutting-edge research programme and had presentations from local and world leaders in their fields, both in person and online.


A few of the highlights that stood out for many of the students were the leadership programme (led pro bono by Stu Potter), and the opportunity to engage in learning more about community health and various research/MRI-related lectures as well as weekly mātauranga Māori sessions, which included community engagement at the Elgin Manawarū centre led by Erana Skudder.


A weekly research methods course gave the interns a holistic overview of the research journey. This included a journal club, which helped the interns to interpret and critique scientific journal articles, and covered topics including how to ask a research question, selecting the right study design, engaging with community and clinical stakeholders in the study design process, ethical considerations, fundamentals of statistics and understanding data, interpretation of results, and how to effectively communicate scientific findings to a general audience.


Mātai set several challenges for the interns, including a brain-art competition and a task to create an introduction to MRI for kids.


The teams developed concussion information explaining what a concussion is — symptoms, things to avoid, expected recovery, and referrals to Gisborne clinicians.


Mātai thanks the clinicians and healthcare providers involved for their valuable input into this resource.


The students were involved in community engagement and pūrākau (traditional stories) at the Tūranga Health Hub, Manawarū, which was notably one of the highlights each intern portrayed during their final presentations. Mātauranga Māori sessions provided a unique perspective on te ao Māori.


Pūrākau kōrero allowed students to explore new concepts and express their ideas through creative means like waiata, dances, or art. Other activities included participation in the Tūranga Health Sports Day, and a kava night.


Four of the interns will continue their education journey with Mātai through Masters and PhD programmes through the University of Auckland. The interns selected were enrolled in health science, medical or engineering degrees at a national university, from or with strong ties to Tairāwhiti.


Internships are open to undergraduate students from Year 1 to Year 4 with priority given to students from Tairāwhiti.


Applications for next year’s programme will open in July.


The institute has extended special thanks to Erana Skudder at Manawarū, Stu Potter, Taiki-E!, all the presenters, and the Mātai team involved. Thanks also to the institute’s supporters without whom the internship programme would not have been possible — the Hugh Green Foundation, Te Puni Kōkiri, Tūranga Health, FMHS at the University of Auckland, and the Auckland Bioengineering Institute.

Feedback from the interns

Grace Cleland-Pottie, third-year data science: “As a group of young people heading into careers where communicating effectively is so important, having someone like Josh (Mātai Research fellow Dr Josh McGeown) take us under his wing to teach us how it’s done was awesome.”


Nusrat Ahmad, second-year optometry: “At Mātai, learning skills like doing a literature review will come in very handy. Also in our internship, we learned about how to read research papers and how to formulate a research question. Those are quite essential skills to have when writing a research paper.”


Katie Blackburne, neuroscience PhD candidate: “Having the opportunity to listen to researchers who are world leaders in their fields was a highlight. It’s incredible and speaks to the level of work that is going on here at Mātai.”


Rikki Noble, second-year engineering: “One thing that makes Mātai special is their focus on the community. It’s a new lens that inspires me to be better and be more selfless.”


Haylea Rodgers, fourth-year medicine: “I am really appreciative that I had this experience and developed this new lens, not only fulfilling my desire to delve deeper into medical research, but also for exploring and refining topics that are typically glossed over, such as community, Mātauranga Māori and self-development.”


Braden Fowell, third-year psychology and Māori studies: “You can learn all you want in a classroom or a lab, but that doesn’t mean anything if you can’t translate that knowledge practically in our communities where the difference is being made.”


Julia Imo, master of bioengineering: “As a Pasifika person, I realised that I used to be quite a passive ally to Māori. However, from my first mātauranga Māori workshop I am now empowered with the knowledge and understanding of the part I play in protecting mātauranga Māori,”


Jovan Potter, first-year health science: “Te Aturangi Nepia inspired me to follow my dreams and believe in myself in whatever I do.”


Jakob Teneti, fourth-year medicine: “If we are to serve our communities it’s important that we appreciate how culturally diverse they are becoming and therefore learn a bit about each of them — earning mutual respect.”


Jet Wright, bioengineering PhD candidate: “Stu, you would have to be one of the most natural leaders I’ve ever encountered. It helps when you see that the person who is running your leadership workshop is someone with real experience.


“It is important for us to know about effective leadership styles in our modern world, as well as how to tackle problems and coach others when we are in a profession that requires that skill set. Thank you for your time.”


Ben Bristow, neuroscience PhD candidate: “My internship experience gave me the confidence to pursue a career in neuroscience. Medical imaging and neuroscience are daunting fields but the first-hand experience helped reduce any doubts I had.”