The Whakapiki Ake Project (Whakapiki Ake) is a tertiary recruitment program that targets Māori secondary school students wishing to pursue a career in the health professions (medicine, nursing, pharmacy, health sciences and optometry) at the University of Auckland. Indigenous-led, Whakapiki Ake is situated within a comprehensive health workforce development program known as Vision 20:20, which involves three integrated core components:

  • Whakapiki Ake (recruitment)
  • Certificate in Health Sciences (bridging/foundation)
  • Māori and Pacific Admission Scheme (admission and academic/pastoral support) (Curtis & Reid 2013).

Vision 20:20 receives funding from the Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences at the University of Auckland, the Ministry of Health and Tertiary Education Commission Equity Funding.

In 2012, Whakapiki Ake conducted a formal literature review exploring national and international evidence associated with ‘best’ practice for the recruitment of Indigenous students into health careers (Curtis et al. 2012). It identified six principles of ‘best’ practice , including the need to increase engagement with parents, families and Indigenous communities within all recruitment measures, particularly early exposure activities. This principle highlighted an area of concern for Whakapiki Ake, as the historical model of student recruitment targeted Year 13 students via secondary school engagement (Curtis & Reid 2013). Broader contact with students’ families and their communities was, therefore, limited.

In response, Whakapiki Ake introduced a new intervention known as Hui-ā-Rohe – referring to multiple gatherings across different regional areas – to increase engagement with secondary school students, their parents and whānau (families). This case study presents the Hui-ā-Rohe approach to share with other student recruitment programs how Whakapiki Ake responded to one principle of recruitment ‘best’ practice: that of greater engagement with families and Indigenous communities when recruiting Indigenous students into health careers.