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Te aka oranga waikawa wahakura wananga

Te aka oranga waikawa wahakura wananga

What is Te Aka Oranga Waikawa Wahakura Wananga?

Te Aka Oranga Waikawa Wahakura Wānanga is a programme developed for Māori hapu mama (pregnant mothers) to learn key safe sleep messages through the vehicle of weaving a wahakura (bassinette).

Workshop attendee weaving her wahakuraThe one-day programme takes women through a process of weaving a bed for their infant and in the process, we weave into the day important messages about smoking, breastfeeding and safe sleep practices. At the end of the day, the women are able to take their wahakura home to use for their own baby, and to keep as a reminder of the key messages shared.

What are we trying to achieve?

  • Sudden unexpected death in infancy (SUDI), also known as cot death, is the leading cause of death in infants in the under one year age group
  • Some of these deaths from SUDI are preventable
  • SUDI rates for Māori is almost double that of non-Māori

Our aim is to reduce the rates for SUDI for Māori to align with non-Māori rates, and to develop a programme that would help spread safe sleep messages throughout Māori and wider communities.

What have we done?

We developed the Te Aka Oranga Waikawa Wahakura Wānanga programme which is aimed at engaging Māori hapu mamas through the process of weaving a wahakura for their babies.

Meetings were held initially with Whakawhetu National SUDI prevention for Māori; and a subsequent project team was established with a focus on developing a Waitemata DHB branded and owned programme that could be replicated.

In the course of the project we:

  • developed resources such as invitations, programme vision, workshop outline, weaving resource booklets, evaluation forms and certificate of completion
  • engaged with master weavers in the community in partnership with He Kamaka Waiora (Maori Health Services)
  • invited pregnant Māori women who had registered to give birth at Waitemata DHB to attend the Wānanga (workshop)

On the day prior to Wānanga, the Harakeke (flax) is harvested and prepared as hapu mama are tapu (sacred) and not allowed to harvest. This preparation ensures that the Wahakura can be completed in one day.

This program is also based on a partnership model, which means that the mamas who attend the programme have a responsibility to pass on the safe sleep strategies to their wider whānau and friends so that the fingers of knowledge can spread wider into the community.

Workshop participants with their completed wahakura
Workshop participants with their completed wahakura

Did we make a difference?

Te Aka Oranga Waikawa Wahakura Wānanga has received a high level of engagement. The feedback from participants has been very positive and they valued the opportunity to take away their own safe sleep space (wahakura) for their babies.

The second Wānanga that we held was oversubscribed with women wanting to attend, and many family members, including partners, also attended. The wahakura are being well used by the participants, and the appealing traditional design is a talking point for families. This enables the safe sleep messages to be shared more openly in the community.

Workshop participants have even shared pictures of their completed wahakura on social media with their wider networks which is further expanding the circle of influence of the programme.

Patient experience video of creating their waikawa wahakura
View Toni and Jaclyn's experiences of creating their waikawa wahakura


"The whole process of making the waikawa wahakura, it was an awesome bonding and healing time. Like just how we were weaving the flax together, we were able to mend the broken harakeke spiritually within ourselves… For myself and my mum to complete the wahakura was just awesome and to be able to take it home as well." – Jaclyn

"I would definitely recommend young mums to try Te Aka Oranga Waikawa Wahakura Wānanga. The biggest thing for me were all the different messages you get out of it, the people you meet and obviously at the end of the day coming out with the taonga." - Toni

Where to from here?

We are exploring the prospect of working with community partners who will take up the programme and resources and provide this to their local communities.

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