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Cutting Edge Te toka tū moana 2023

- by Selina Elkington

Cutting Edge Te toka tū moana 2023, the addiction sector's largest conference, was held in Kirikiriroa Hamilton in November. The weather was beautiful and the vibe was positive, despite the underlying uncertainty regarding our new Government and the effect of policy changes on Te Aka Whai Ora and health funding generally.

The conference began with mana whenua, Ngāti Whātua, opening the conference, followed by the opening keynote address from Rangi Mātāmua, talking about how Matariki is about people, unity, and wellbeing. The first day continued to be filled with expert presentations. One that stood out was from Dr Andre McLachlan, who discussed neurodevelopment and trauma through matapihi of the Whare Tūpuna. He used the model of a whare, including explanation of areas within the whare, to explain parts of the brain and how it works. The session emphasised the importance of mātauranga Māori in improving the lives of people experiencing neurodevelopment issues. It highlighted the need to move away from the Westernised medical model and instead enhance current scientific/psychological approaches underpinned by Te Whare Tapa Whā.

Another interesting and informative session was the “Review of the addiction workforce in Aotearoa”, which highlighted what many of us already knew: we need to think of ways to grow and retain the addiction workforce. We are losing staff at retirement ages but also around the 24 to 29 age categories after they have been in the sector for a few years. On the flip side, it is nice to hear the positive reasons why people stay in the sector, such as the pride and passion they hold for the work they do. I was fortunate to present in the Harm Reduction stream, chaired by Sarah Helm from the Drug Foundation. After all the presentations the Drug Foundation tabled some suggested language to be used around harm reduction which led to great discussions.

Day two brought more gems. Bronwyn Dunnachie and Karin Isherwood from Whāraurau, with Melissa Roberts from CADS Waitematā, presented on single session family consultation (SSFC) use in AOD services. Bron and Karin spoke about the history of SSFC and how it arrived in NZ, and its cultural validation for the Aotearoa context. Unfortunately, because the sessions were so short, Melissa only got two minutes to talk about how it is being used in CADS Waitematā and to what effect.

Then we heard from the amazing team from Te Ha, working with wahine at Wiri Women's Prison - such an amazing programme reconnecting wahine Māori with their culture. There was lots of kōrero around the use of the maramataka and understanding the different phases and their influence on energy. We heard a very moving story from one of their kaimahi who had worked in prison with a woman who is now clean 4 years, has been released from prison, and is actively involved in Kapa Haka. She has a house, a job and her kids back, and is awaiting clearance to work in the prison with Te Ha. Half the room was in tears listening to this story, which was followed with a very passionate haka to awhi.

As always, it was a privilege to attend the Cutting Edge Te toka tū moana conference and to be able to network with people that often I don’t see in person unless it is at a conference.

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