Te Kuwatawata


Tairāwhiti health professionals have listened to a call for a more effective response to mental health and addiction distress that affects too many Tairāwhiti families.

Te Kuwatawata is a unique and groundbreaking response to that call. It is about applying indigenous mātauranga (knowledge/understanding) to reframe the way we talk about a person’s experience and to find a pathway forward for people experiencing distress.

The approach has been endorsed by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern in her 2019 budget announcement on mental health services. 

Te Kuwatawata pilot was (part) funded by the Ministry of Health’s Fit for the Future fund. This funding, combined with clinical services, formed the basis of the bicultural service.


A groundswell of people – indigenous knowledge experts, local GPs, community groups and mental health professionals - have been learning about using stories to look at all the characteristics of Māori deities and how they interacted with each other. This helps to understand interactions and behaviours. “Mātauranga enables us to move away from only using western ideology to categorise distress while staying critical in our thinking as health professionals. We are not abandoning western psychiatric approaches; we are just putting other principals - such as relationships and community voice - forward as an immediate response. This helps us to respond quicker, closer to where people live and most importantly this makes people feel connected, rather than disempowered.”


A formal evaluation of the pilot was completed in 2019 and included recommendations for the ongoing development as part of the suite of Mental Health Services offered in Tairāwhiti.

How to access to the Service

Te Kuwatawata is a key access point for those in distress and needing guidance to access the right support. Referrals are accepted from all sources - General Practice, social service agencies, whānau and self-referrals.

Open: 9am to 4:30pm weekdays 
Phone: (06) 868 3550 
Call into 73 Peel Street, Gisborne
No appointment needed. 

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