$1.2million Grant Awarded for Military to Civilian Research Project

Heather Hamerton and Tepora Emery

Thursday, 30 Jun 2022

Applying a mātauranga Māori lens on a veteran’s transition from the military to civilian life will be the focus of a new research project being undertaken by Toi Ohomai Te Pūkenga Kaihautū Rangahau Māori, Dr Tepora Emery. 

The project has, today been named as a recipient of Health Research Council (HRC) funding, and at almost $1.2million, it is one of the largest funding grants Toi Ohomai has received. 

Dr Emery says the project, He Toa Taumata Rau (The Many Resting Places of Courage), will look at the transition from military to civilian life and the effects on veterans and their whānau. 

Dr Emery says the grant is significant. 

“It’s a huge milestone in a research career and we will work hard to ensure our rangahau has impact. But it’s also significant given the current merge of all the polytechnics into Te Pūkenga – New Zealand Institute of Skills and Technology.  

“He Toa Taumata Rau can assist in establishing the place of Te Pūkenga in the rangahau-research landscape of Aotearoa,” she says. 

The inspiration for this project was drawn from veteran Calvin Mitchell (Mitch) of Instinctive Fitness, who desired to establish a fitness programme for some fellow veterans, catering to their various physical and mental needs. Having been on the rangahau development journey from its inception, Mitch is a named investigator. 

“We want to explore what a mātauranga Māori-based transition process might look like,” Dr Emery says. 

He Toa Taumata Rau is a narrative-based project and Dr Emery and her team will be collecting stories from contemporary veterans and their whānau, nationwide. 

They will look at the veterans’ histories, backgrounds and military life and experiences, as well as their transition to civilian life. 

“Working alongside and with veterans and their whānau, we will explore and examine their life course and, from their stories, co-create a range of holistic, pro-life, mātauranga Māori-based health and wellbeing tools, including web-based, to support transition.”

The mental health of veterans will be a focus and exploring ways to improve their experiences going forward.

“For veterans with a strong attachment to military culture, assimilation into the civilian world can be doubly difficult; loneliness and social isolation are possible outcomes and the risk of suicide is palpable.”

Dr Emery hopes that the collection of stories will enable a better understanding of the military to civilian transition and associated struggles as well as identify key themes in their transition enabling them to create health and wellbeing tools to improve outcomes.  

Partnered with Associate Professor David McBride (Lt Col), the Director of the University of Otago's 'Health of Veterans’ research theme, the He Toa Taumata Rau project team also includes: Dr Heather Hamerton, Dr Candy Cookson Cox, Anna Elders and former Rotorua RSA secretary/manager Maxwell Rolston.  

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