New resource for Maori End of Life care

03 June 2015

Digital stories created by whanau about Māori caring for their kaumatua at the end of life are a unique new teaching resource for palliative care and student nurses.

The eight, three to four minute stories were created as part of a research project at the University of Auckland’s School of Nursing and will be launched at the Te Arai: Palliative and End of Life Care Research Conference later this month.

The pilot study investigated whether digital storytelling could be used as a research method to learn about Māori whanau experiences of providing end of life care for their kaumatua.

The study was led by Dr Lisa Williams and co-researchers, Dr Tess Moeke-Maxwell (Ngai Tai) and Dr Stella Black (Tuhoe) along with Professor Merryn Gott.   A forward to the digital stories was provided by Te Arai kaumatua, Rawiri Wharemate.

The digital storytelling expertise and technology was provided by staff from the University’s Media, Film and Television unit – Associate Professor Shuchi Kothari, Dr Sarina Pearson, Peter Simpson and Julia Zhu.  

“Māori are traditionally an oral culture, and sharing stories remains an important method of imparting knowledge,” says Dr Williams.  “Given the significance of storytelling to Māori, tapping into its wisdom to inform research may lead to innovative discoveries. One such means with the potential for doing so is digital storytelling.”

Dr Williams says, in public health, digital storytelling has been used to inject the ‘popular voice’ into research.

“It incorporates the meanings and experiences of those who have been excluded from participating in knowledge production,” she says.

The research team adapted an established digital storytelling three-day workshop method to include a powhiri on the University of Auckland marae.  The eight participants, each with at least one whanau support person, completed their own digital stories on computer with help from the team.

Dr Moeke-Maxwell and Dr Stella Black also recorded a short commentary at the end of each whanau story with learnings to be used by nursing students and lecturers and available to the wider healthcare community.

“The digital storytelling DVD resource will be used in the University’s School of Nursing as a teaching resource, to help with building health literacy and to foster a better understanding of End of Life care and the need to help whanau to care for their own,” says Dr Moeke Maxwell.

“The project draws on Kaupapa Māori research principles by incorporating traditional Māori values and beliefs as activated within the Powhiri process of engagement and participation,” she says.  “Powhiri provides participant safety and protection through the observance of traditional rituals such as mihimihi (introductions), establishing whakapapa (geneaology) and connections, karakia (prayer) and waiata (song).”

“The powhiri process encouraged the expression of manaakitanga so critical to the workshop’s success,” she says.  “Mastering new computer skills was regarded as both a benefit and a challenge, but despite that, participants viewed the workshop as an important means for Māori to share stories about end of life care, tangi, bereavement and grief.”

She says future workshops will include an adjusted format to minimise time pressures while still retaining the powhiri process.

This new digital storytelling resource will be launched at the inaugural ‘Palliative and End of Life Care’ Conference at the University of Auckland’s Tamaki Campus on 25 June.  The Conference, organised by the University’s Te Arai Palliative Care Research Group (led by Director Professor Merryn Gott) is intended to brief its audience on the research done by the team and the issues they see for End of Life carers, both in quality of care and end of life care for Maori.

For media enquiries email s.phillips@auckland.ac.nz