In 2016 Adrian Te Patu (Aotea, Kurahaupo) who was then a co-vice president of PHANZ, became the first Indigenous person elected to the Governing Council (GC) of the World Federation of Public Health Associations (WFPHA). A leader in public and Indigenous health Adrian played a key role in the establishment of the Indigenous Working Group of the WFPHA, of which he is now Chair, in 2018.
PHANZ caught up with Adrian recently to reflect on the highlights of his time on the Council, the achievements of the Working Group since its launch, and its plans and goals for the future.
Q: It was six years ago that you were nominated by the Public Health Association of NZ (PHANZ) and then elected as the first Indigenous person to become a member of the Governing Council (GC) of the World Federation of Public Health Associations (WFPHA). We would love to hear about how your journey with the WFPHA began, and what motivated you to join them?
New Zealand was a founding member of the WFPHA in 1967 with a New Zealander being a president in the early years. Our association was invited to re-join the federation and to put forward a candidate and if possible, an Indigenous candidate for a vacancy on the governing council. I was a co-vice president of the PHANZ and one of four Māori on our council. The PHANZ put forward my nomination and as an election was required, sent me to Geneva to attend the general assembly where I was able to speak to the nomination and mihi to the global representatives while representing PHANZ, Te Ao Māori and our nation. The Ministry of Health gave me government delegation status which supported my nomination and allowed me to attend the World Health Assembly (Annual WHO meeting). I was also supported financially by my iwi Te Atihaunui a Paparangi to attend.
Q: Being the first Indigenous person on the GC must have been such an honour for you! Can you recall how you felt when you heard you were elected to this role, and did you feel any added pressure of having to live up to this milestone?
After the results were announced I was immediately humbled with the representatives from China, Japan, USA, Cuba, Australia offering wee gifts of recognition and words of welcome
to New Zealand’s return to the federation. Professor Michael Moore of Australia spoke as president-elect, of his pride in the federation’s milestone of recognising the importance of its first Indigenous GC member. So, I felt very humbled and proud of the recognition given to our association and as one of 370 million Indigenous people globally, and my whanau, iwi of Aotea and Kurahaupo waka.
Q: What are some of your reflections/highlights on your time serving two terms, concurrently, on the Governing Council?
Including and infusing the narrative always with indigeneity, accentuating other with a sociocultural, socio-political, socio-ethnic lens. Having the IWG invited by the WHO and UNICEF to moderate a global dialogue session at the 40th anniversary of the Alma Ata Declaration in Kazakhstan. We sent two women, a Māori, and an Aboriginal-Ni Vanuatu woman.
Q: How significant was the launch of the Indigenous Working Group of the WFPHA in May 2018? Can you tell us a bit about how the Group was formed, who comprised the Group and what was the impetus behind it?
At the 50th anniversary congress on the WFPHA in Melbourne 2017. A traditional “yarning circle” under the whakaruruhau of the Kulin nation and attended by Indigenous folk plus supportive non-Indigenous colleagues from across the globe gave me the mandate to establish a working group and petition the GC to accept the group formally. It was accepted in November then work began to form and have a formal launch at the next general assembly in six months. The Hon Ken Wyatt, Australian Minister of Indigenous Health gave the IWG a seeding grant that allowed us to have the launch, which was at the University of Geneva, which was attended by global dignitaries, leaders, our MOH senior staff including Dr Ashley Bloomfield who was in his role as DG for three days plus WHO, UNICEF staff. The week we were there we had 11.2 million tweet impressions and 1000 organisations and individuals watched the hui live online.
Q: What are the main aims of the Working Group, and what are some of the main achievements/highlights since it was launched?
Our aims are to provide an international platform for the voice of Indigenous public health supported by local, national, and international associates and organisations.
· Build and implement a 3-year work plan focused on priorities learned from evidence
-based research and face-to-face workshops held at identified international events and other relationship and network resources
· Continue to build a membership base of Indigenous and Associate members. Currently there are members and associate members from New Zealand, Australia, Colombia, United Kingdom, United States, Canada, Republic of Congo, and Tunisia.
Q: As Chair now of the IWG what are your goals heading into the future?
We plan to grow the IWG membership. We would like to have a permanent seat similar to the Young Professionals seat on the governing council. Currently, only member nations can
have a seat. The health of Indigenous people (370 million) is not as prominent as it is in developed countries like ours. I see it not as our role but our duty to support indigenous health outcomes from our relative safety. Recently a British journalist and an Indigenous activist were murdered in the Brazilian rain forest.
Q: When we look back at your time at the WFPHA we acknowledge that you and your ‘better half’ Emma Rawson Te Patu, make a pretty good team! You’ve both played key roles in the WFPHA, in the IWG, and with Emma’s recent appointment as the first Indigenous woman vice-president and president-elect to WFPHA you must be so proud! How has this teamwork contributed to both your roles at the WFPHA?
Having served six years on the GC I am very happy to be replaced by someone who is familiar with, and familiar to the GC and staff in Geneva. We do make a good team, but my tenure was focused on creating and giving momentum to an indigenous presence. Her nomination was supported by our Māori caucus and our PHA Executive Council, then voted on by international public health leaders. Already she is achieving our IWG plan by chairing the WFPHA session at the APHA Conference Boston, convening a meeting at the European Public Health Conference Berlin and guest speaking to an international public health course at Oxford University. My role is to continue to lend support as her husband, business partner and colleague.