Plunket/Whānau Āwhina staff and volunteers are being joined by direct descendants of the first ‘Plunket baby’ from Kāti Huirapa whānau today, in a hikoi to mark 110 years of Plunket.
Around 30 Plunket staff and volunteers are making a symbolic journey from Puketeraki Marae to Karitane, birthplace of Plunket and home of its founder Sir Truby King, joined by whānau from Kāti Huirapa and school children from Karitane School.
The hikoi marks 110 years of the first Karitane hospital opening its doors, and celebrates the local staff and volunteers today and over Plunket’s history for supporting the health and wellbeing of generations of local whānau and tamariki.
The hikoi also recognizes the interwoven history of Plunket and Kāti Huirapa. Plunket paid tribute to Mere Hipi and Ria Tikini, local midwives from Kāti Huirapa who worked alongside Truby King and influenced Plunket’s origins. While their names are not as well known as Truby King’s, much of the work he did in the early years to help mothers and babies thrive was based on their knowledge from their work as midwives.
Today’s event is a homecoming for Plunket Chief Executive Amanda Malu - among the direct descendants of the first Plunket baby, Thomas ‘Mutu’ Ellison, her whakapapa traces back to Puketeraki Marae. “I am extremely proud to be here today to represent Plunket, to represent and acknowledge my whānau and to celebrate some of our fantastic staff and community here in the birthplace of Plunket, Karitane. Today Plunket people are welcomed in to the homes of 9 in 10 families with newborns. I want to acknowledge staff and volunteers for their work in making a difference for young children’s health and wellbeing here in Karitane, and across the country.”
She said the spirit of working in partnership to respond to families’ needs 110 years ago are key to Plunket’s future: “Plunket is committed to being here for future generations of families, by listening and changing in response to families’ needs, and by forming partnerships with others, just as Truby King and my tipuna did all those years ago.”
In a speech at the Sir Truby King Memorial, Chairperson of Plunket’s Board, Christine Lake, acknowledged the role of volunteers to Plunket: “Volunteering is at the heart of our history: Truby King’s vision was brought to life by volunteers who raised funds to turn ideas of ‘helping the mothers and saving the babies’ into reality. Today, Plunket is a place where families can help one another by volunteering. It is a core part of Plunket’s work to make sure no family is left isolated, disconnected or unable to cope, and to help make sure every child has the opportunity to be as healthy and well as they can be.”
by Jen Riches 26 January 2018