HUMANS OF KAITAIA Pleasure in making a difference
My father is from Te Hapua and my mum is from Oturu. At age 30, my father suffered from a mental illness. Usually around the same time of the year, things would get difficult. This had an impact on us as kids. It was my mother who brought all four of us children up, and she worked extremely hard.
The one thing my mother taught me above all was to love, that no matter what happened, to remember to show love. We had a pretty tough upbringing, we had to do everything ourselves so I appreciate the little things. I’m not a materialistic person — people and whanau are more important to me than anything.
I am a naturally driven person. I’ve been involved in sports ever since I can remember and I have a number of sporting achievements in all things from netball to squash, and triathlon (Iron Maori). I’ve always been a leader ... the captain of a netball team, or coaching and umpiring netball at a young age. It was probably the people around me too that kind of pushed me toward being a leader.
When I was 18 my Nanny told me I had to be the marae treasurer, so I was, because she said, “you will”. Some 34 years later and I’m still treasurer. I had other strong women such as Millie Windelborne and Winnie Larkins guiding me at a young age. Both women were really influential in my life, especially in the early days of my nursing career. I also think being a leader is just part of my personality too; I’m a doer, though I’m not academic by nature. Yes, I’ve completed my nursing studies, and I have a post graduate Diploma in Ma¯ ori Business Management, but those achievements came from me writing things down and working really hard, it wasn’t easy.
My journey to becoming a nurse started as soon as I left school, when I began working as a healthcare assistant at the hospital. During this time I became pregnant with my first child. When she was 18 months old I began training to become an enrolled nurse in Whanga¯ rei. My baby came with me and I had wonderful support from my wha¯ nau. Once I’d finished I came back to Kaitaia, had my second child and worked in a range of roles in the hospital.
In those days it was a very busy hospital, there was a children’s ward, a big surgical ward and a medical ward. With baby number three on its way, I had the opportunity to complete a two-year bridging course. This meant more travel to Whanga¯ rei. Baby arrived in the middle of it and this child was definitely my most difficult. Sleepless nights, working part-time, being a mum and still managing to complete my assignments and deliver presentations was challenging, to say the least — the ultimate balancing act. I thought “If I can do this, I can do anything!”
My friends would say I’m hardworking, caring, giving and definitely stubborn. They’d say I put people at the forefront of everything I do. With everything I’m involved in with work, community, marae, family and sport, it’s difficult trying to get the time out to take care of me. I’m not discouraged by this though, because those other things are most important. I lead by the values of this organisation, because they are my values as well, which is People First, Respect, Caring, Communication and Excellence. Taking on this role was certainly not on my bucket list. Managing a human resource is challenging but I always come back to those core values to guide me in my decision-making.
My husband supports everything I do. While I was out helping others, he was doing all the sporting and school stuff with the kids. My five children are healthy, they’re happy, they’re all hard-working and are out there doing what they love. This makes me incredibly proud as their mother.
I love the work I do and the amazing team I work with. Sometimes we are criticised because we don’t offer the same services of more equipped hospitals. One thing the community would agree on though, is that everything we do offer here at Kaitaia Hospital, we do well. I’m really excited about the future of our hospital, we are always looking at what we are able to do next. If we can provide services closer to home for our people and we can achieve that, then that really excites me.
Neta Smith is a naturally driven person.