Cook Islands Language Week 2021: Dr Aumea Herman ‘overwhelmed’ after receiving Tu Rangatira Award

Photo credit: Te Maeva Nui NZ / Gerardus Verspeek Photography

Director of Pacific Health at Waitematā District Health Board, Dr Josephine Aumea Herman, was awarded the Tu Rangatira International Award which, recognises instrumental work in advancing and developing Cook Islands community and culture.

The award acknowledges Dr Aumea Herman’s work as the former Secretary for Te Marae Ora Cook Islands Ministry of Health in which her expertise played a key role in leading the Covid-19 response in the Cook Islands.

“This award was unexpected and overwhelming. I think it is a privilege to receive acknowledgement of the work that has been done, but this award represents many people rather than just me. It represents people and organisations in the Cook lslands, New Zealand and abroad who worked together to keep Covid-19 out in 2020.

At the awards night, I referred to the three pillars; firstly, the Government of the Cook Islands, the traditional leadership structures and the Cook Islands Religious Advisory Council. Their contribution and manoeuvring of the community gave us the best possible position to protect our population. But this award is also for the Cook Islands community as well, and international partners like the Pasifika Medical Association that were involved.”

With over 25-years of experience in the health sector, she says everything in her career so far, led her to be prepared for the Covid-19 response in the Pacific nation.

“Having a pandemic happen in front of you and you are a part of it and its response team, is really surreal. You’re seeing the devastation happening in other countries and you have to think how you can protect the population that you serve. You really understand the responsibility and the training that you’ve received to be able to respond and advise as efficiently and as effectively as possible.”

Reflecting on Cook Islands Language Week Dr Aumea Herman says this year’s theme (‘Ātuitui’ia au ki te Oneone o tōku ‘Ui Tupuna/ connect me to the soil of my ancestors) has always been relevant to the purpose of her work.

“The work we do is all about our people. Living in New Zealand now, you still understand that there is a big Cook Islands population here, so serving them allows us all to connect with each other and draws us to the roots and ways of our homeland.”

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Date: Wednesday 04 August