Fanau Ola nurse case manager and proud Cook Islander, Matangaro Rima, talks about her found passion for nursing and how weaving culture and faith into her life is essential.
“I have been a nurse for 13 years, working in ward nine and radiology before starting with the Fanau Ola team. My current role is to engage with members of the Pacific community who have high and complex health and social needs. We attempt to engage people with services and specialists that are readily available, using a holistic approach. Through this connection, we also work hard to educate people about self-sufficiency and independence with their health.
“I am passionate about this work and supporting and caring for Pacific people.”
Before becoming a nurse, Matangaro wasn’t always sure what she wanted to be in life.
“I grew up in South Auckland and attended Manurewa High School. I failed School Certificate and didn’t finish school. After I left, I studied business computing and administration because I had enjoyed typing, but I was still unsure of what to do next.
“My father was a very sick man, who was always in and out of the hospital because of health. Whether it was at home or the hospital, there was always the mention of the career of nursing, and every visit to the hospital would end in long lectures about how I would be a good nurse and how proud he would be.”
Mata started her nursing journey with a certificate in nursing from AUT in 2002, while she was pregnant with her first son, and the drive to become a nurse was not strong.
“When I decided to become a registered nurse, it took me four and a half years to complete my degree. I had another baby during this time, and having a family and wanting to provide for them finally gave me the drive to succeed in nursing.
“When I completed my studies, it was incredible to see my father at the graduation ceremony. My father was a very humble man but seeing the pride on his face when I walked back to my set was very rewarding.”
Mata’s parents were born in Mangaia, Cook Islands, and migrated in the 1970’s to New Zealand in search of new opportunities in the ‘land of milk and honey’.
“Growing up in New Zealand, I was very fortunate to have been exposed to the Cook Islands culture. Knowing my akapapaanga (genealogy) is very important to me. It has given me a sense of identity and confidence in myself. When someone asks me ‘who is my family’, I can provide an in-depth answer, and I think that shows how I was brought up and how important knowing my family is.
“It has also helped me connect with my Cook Islands patients through determining bloodlines. Once you make that link, you can engage with the patient. That is what is unique about our Pacific Islands people; we can engage with our very own.”
Mata says the Cook Islands are a unique nation, and the people are hospitable and welcoming.
“We are a happy people, and we like to smile and laugh and have a great time.
“Te tara Mangaia, the Mangaian Language, was always spoken to me by my parents and extended family, so growing up, I always knew the Mangaian dialect.
“I attended church every Sunday, so reading the bible in Cook Islands and finding its’ translation from the English bible helped me to learn my words. I was not ‘smacked with the kikau broom’ instead, it was the look.”
Faith is an essential aspect of Mata’s life, and she says God is what keeps her focused, grounded, and gets her out of bed.
“If it weren’t for God, I would not have the strength to do my work and to be calm in situations that are out of my control.
“Providing and being responsible for my family is also what drives me in my career. And I am thankful every day that I have a warm and dry home, that I have clothes, food to eat, all because of where I am today.”
Mata is proud of what she has achieved for herself and her family and says she wants young Cook Islanders and Pacific people to know they are needed in health.
“Only we can look after our own because we know who we are and what we are like. We understand the characteristics and mannerisms of our people and are able to adapt to it.
“Take that time to have that journey to find out who you are and where you come from. Know who your ui tupuna is, because they are your backbone.”
The highlight of Mata’s journey was in 2018, when she completed her postgraduate diploma in health science.
“I was eight months pregnant with my fourth child when I walked the stage to receive my certificate. Unfortunately, my father had passed in 2012, so he didn’t get to see this achievement, but I know he would be happy for me and proud.
"Yes life may present you with many obstacles on your journey, but never give up on that goal you have. One day, you will look back and say, wow, I did that."
Kia mataora to tatou Epetemoa o te reo Maori Kuki Airani.