Te Pou believes New Zealanders deserve the best mental health, addiction and disability services provided by a skilled workforce. That’s why Te Pou was created 10 years ago, and that’s why we continue to exist today. As we mark our 10th birthday this week, we reflect on our roots and how our past shapes our future. 

In 2002, there was a growing and urgent need in New Zealand to improve the way services worked with priority groups including Māori, young people and Pasifika. The Ministry of Health knew the workforce was key to this and embarked on establishing workforce development programmes.

Workforce development programmes grew from an urgent need  

The Werry Centre began within the University of Auckland, with child psychiatrist John Werry as its namesake. Te Rau Matatini grew out of Massey University under the leadership of Sir Mason Durie, and later the National Addictions Centre started at Otago University with Doug Sellman at the helm. The Health Research Council (HRC) ran adult mental health workforce programmes, alongside the research and development programme, where outcomes development and Te Rau Hinengaro were born. 

I was the first HRC programme manager for the adult mental health and workforce programmes in 2002. Workforce development grew, and I moved to the Ministry of Health where I took up the role of workforce manager. I had the pleasure and challenge of supporting all programmes and developing the inaugural workforce plan for the sector, Tauawhitia te Wero. Let’s get real was born out of this plan, and my next piece of work was to lead the development of this competency framework. 

In 2006 Te Pou o te Whakaaro Nui was formed

During this time the Ministry of Health’s vision about a national centre became stronger and the Wise Group won the contract to deliver these programmes. Our name Te Pou o te Whakaaro Nui was gifted to us, and the rest – as they say – is history. 

In my role as workforce manager at the Ministry of Health I was heavily involved in the early days of Te Pou. It was an exciting time, somewhat challenging with much work to be done and so many priorities. A new team came to be and we still have a number of those folks here today – Martin Molloy, Lana Griffith and Caro Swanson. 

Wise Group joint chief executive Jacqui Graham led the charge and with her usual flair and innovation set up systems to manage multiple projects, road shows and develop a strong brand that we have built on. The programmes of mental health workforce, research and development and information started.  A new Pacific programme kicked off, Le Va, under the leadership of Dr Monique Faleafa.  

Leading 'developing entity' teaches skills in persistence, change, loyalty and values 

I joined Te Pou in 2008 after a very exciting and challenging year of leading the team at the Ministry of Health. There was no other job I wanted more than to lead this developing entity. Jacqui and Julie Nelson (Wise Group joint chief executive) and the Te Pou Board supported me to launch into a very challenging environment. We developed structures and systems to get to where we are today. I learnt so much during this time – invaluable lessons in persistence, change, loyalty, values and a good work ethic.  

Working relationships with workforce centres developed and grew. Te Rau Matatini took a journey to becoming independent, and Matua Raki moved under its leadership. Raine Berry was leading Matua Raki and between all of us we could see that there was a need to bring our work programmes together. This led to us being able to negotiate a merger between Matua Raki and Te Pou, and Vanessa Caldwell began as Matua Raḵi general manager.   

The icing on the cake was the establishment of our disability workforce programme. I could see that this was a great fit for us. A new area, new relationships but a line of sight to many areas of mental health and addiction workforce development. Rob Gill was then at the Ministry of Health and established the way for such a programme, based on what had happened in the mental health sector.  

Te Pou is well set for the future

Our programmes have now merged closely together. We have held true to our belief where strong relationships exist, anything is possible and our underlying philosophy to support organisations to develop their workforce for people who use services.  

Thanks to all of you, our sector partners and the Ministry of Health for helping make Te Pou o te Whakaaro Nui such a special organisation.  

Ngā mihi nui,
Robyn