Maia's mission to make a difference

Ko Hikurangi te maunga

Ko Waiapu te awa

Ko Ngati Porou te iwi

Ko Horouta te waka

Ko Rahui te marae

Ko te Whanau a Rerewa me te Whanau a Karuwai oku hapu

No Tikitiki me Rangitukia au engari i tipu mai au ki Turanga


Maia Rickard is an Occupational Therapist (OT) at Hauora Tairāwhiti.

She attended Te Wharau, Ilminster, and Lytton High School before moving to the North Shore in Auckland to study OT at the Auckland University of Technology (AUT).

At school, she knew she wanted to do something in health to support people at home, especially up the Coast. Maia has always had a great relationship with learning and can attribute some of this to having great role models; Maia is the youngest of her four sisters. While she was looking into the health industry, figuring out what she wanted to do, one video made an impression on her. In it, there was a little boy with a lifetime disability. He could not walk, but someone gave him equipment to help him walk again – this person was an OT. That image stuck with her and she has remembered it since. 

To attend university, Maia needed to apply for a scholarship. She applied for and received the McDonald’s scholarship, which is granted to one applicant from Gisborne and one from Te Wairoa. The value of it amounted to $12,500 over 4 years, which immensely supported her study journey. In the summer holidays, she would supplement this by working as a lifeguard at the Olympic Pools.

Maia’s university journey was not without struggle. She went by herself as no one in her friend group moved to Auckland. Not knowing anyone was scary but if there was any consolation, it was “knowing that everyone else was starting fresh too; that helped with confidence.”

If there was an event on, Maia would just go, even if she was by herself. Sport, Church, her sisters, and engagement in te ao Maori helped immensely. For example, Maia attended “Titahi ki Tua” a programme for Maori led by the University. Here, students would engage in whakawhanaungatanga via events, study wananga, waiata, and kai. Maia also gave back by becoming a mentor for newer students.  

After one month of study, COVID-19 struck and Maia returned home to study the entirety of the three-year degree. While having whānau around was great, being forced to desk-study for a practical degree was tedious. Procrastination and going at it alone were her greatest challenges.

Now one year out of university, Maia is enjoying working as an OT at Hauora Tairāwhiti. She plans to do as much as she can for our community and has a special interest in working with whanau from the Coast.  

OTs set people up with equipment so that it is safe for them to go home and to ensure that they do not readmit to hospital. It is common to work with pakeke, and with whānau who are impacted by neurological dysfunction. For example, you may see children with autistic and motor neuron dysfunction diagnoses receiving care from an OT in the form of walking aids, specialised home equipment and utensils, etc. Maia typically tends to whānau who come into the hospital but on rare occasions may also do a follow-up consult in their homes when there are not enough staff in the Community Team. The best aspect of her job is making connections.

Maia’s advice for those looking at leaving Gisborne to study at university:

  • Don’t be afraid to step out and do things by yourself
  • Find the right people who will help you
  • Find some good ones! (As in good friends to work alongside)
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help – everyone else will be in the same place as you.
  • Give back – if you get help, then do the same for others.


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