Te Arawa and Tainui descendant Sonia Hawkins is one of four people to be awarded the Health Research Council scholarship valued at more that $128,000.
The funding will allow her to complete her doctorate which will focus on understanding racial and ethnic bias in the nursing profession.
Hawkins is the former Strategic Partnerships and Māori Success directorate as an advisor at the tertiary education provider Toi Ohomai. She developed a new Treaty-based approach and the inaugural Equity report.
Hawkins says her doctorate will help build on her masters' thesis and the work she completed with Toi Ohomai.
“My PhD research relates to the findings from my masters research that centred on narratives of power and privilege. The nurse participants expressed strong views related to the dominant theme of power and privilege, and four subthemes of privilege discourse, bias and stereotypes, cultural safety and racism.
"My thesis findings were a call to action to undertake further research, and to build on another HRC funded study that examined ethnic and racial bias decision-making among medical students."
She says there are 57,000 nurses in Aotearoa, but Māori only make up seven per cent of the workforce.
Hawkins adds that the reasons why there aren't more needs to begin with institutions, its policies and priorities.
“New graduate nurses that whakapapa to a rohe, are confident in te ao Māori and are NCNZ qualified, are critical to developing the nursing workforce. However, the system doesn’t always recognise or value the dual attributes Māori nurses bring. The disproportionate over-representation of non-Māori would suggest one of the contributing factors is the recruitment system and process, which privileges a non-Māori western worldview instead.
“Our Māori health research tells us since the Treaty of Waitangi institutions’ structure disadvantage and marginalise Māori.”
Hawkins graduated from Waiariki Institute of Technology with a Bachelor of Nursing in 1997 and completed her Masters in Health Science in 2017 at the University of Auckland.