Topic: Health

Awards night continues to honour those suffering from respiratory conditions

  • Auckland

Organisers of the National Respiratory Achievers Awards are calling for nominations to honour and celebrate people suffering from respiratory conditions. 

The biennial event, now in its 14th year, was established to make people aware of the difficult lives for those suffering. Respiratory disease is particularly common among Māori and other Polynesians and is New Zealand's third most common cause of death.

One in six New Zealanders live life every day challenged by a respiratory condition. These rates are worsening.

Vanessa Searing of the Asthma and Respiratory Foundation says, "We want everyone in New Zealand to know about the incredible and inspiring people that win the Respiratory Achievers Awards. At the same time we want everyone to realise the difficulties and challenges that people living with respiratory conditions have to overcome, and that they can be very serious."

There are six categories across the night. They are:

Asthma 5-12 Category
Asthma 13-18 Category
Asthma Adult Category
COPD Category
Other Respiratory Condition
Cody Forbes Award for Courage

There have been a number of Māori recipients in past years. 

Last year, 10-year-old Tomairangi Pihema-Brown was the recipient of the Asthma 5-12 category. She is a regular in the Children's Ward at Gisborne Hospital.

Tomairangi has an active input into her asthma plan and adheres to it as necessary. She plays netball, loves music and has represented her school at waka ama, ripper rugby and athletics. She never uses her asthma as an excuse to not give something a go.

Tomairangi faces challenges head-on, is able to identify trouble spots and has developed strategies to overcome them. She remains determined to get on with life despite the challenges of her condition.

Tomairangi with her mother

In 2014, Esther Jordan Muriwai received the Cody Forbes Award for Courage. Esther was diagnosed with Bronchiectasis at the age of eight and spent most of her life in hospital.

Despite her condition, she excelled in life. Esther completed her Bachelor of Māori Studies. Due to her health, she completed one paper at a time over five years.

Esther also founded the Northland Bronchiectasis Support Group and mentored young people with the condition, but passed away in June 2014. 

Esther Muriwai with her parents

In 2013, Māori Television's current affairs show Native Affairs spoke to Esther.


Organisers want more nominations for this year's Awards ceremony. Searing says, "We do need more nominations across all categories, especially the 13-18 years old and adult categories."

Nominations for the Respiratory Achievers Awards are open until February 29. The ceremony will take place on April 15.