by Helen Martin
Donna Wilson, of Ngâti Mahuta, Ngâti Tahinga, grew up in the Manawatu before moving to Hobsonville with her Air Force parents. After marrying at 18 she and her Air Force husband Paul Kerridge were posted to several bases before settling in Hobsonville with their children Rob and Jelena. Buying a property in 1995 they chose Helensville because a strong, comfortable home here was affordable and, importantly, because it was small and community-minded.
With varied employment, Donna’s most long-standing job was her 15 years as owner and project manager of an IT consulting company. She loved the work and the people “but it wasn’t the kind of lifestyle I wanted for the rest of my life,” she explains. Changing direction, she began learning about and practising traditional medicine, training at a number of places around the world and at home, where she gained a Bachelor of Health Science in Complementary Medicine as well as diplomas in naturopathy, herbal medicine and massage therapy. Specialising in rongoâ Mâori (Mâori medicine) and learning how to make medicines and balms from plants, Donna realised she had experienced this as a child without realising it. “My aunt who raised me used a lot of traditional remedies like dock and kumarahou. It was only when I started to learn about traditional medicine I realised what we were doing then wasn’t the norm.”
A turning point came for Donna 10 years ago when, after attending a rongoâ Mâori workshop run by Glorit-born Rob McGowan, Rob invited her to work with him. Since then the pair have been a team, working together to further the practice through community, tertiary education and corporate workshops, clinics, informal consultations and conference presentations. Donna has shared her expertise many times on television and is currently on the government’s natural health products working party providing advice and information for legislation currently in preparation.
After running a rongoâ Mâori clinic in Helensville for a time Donna now lives in the motor home she calls ‘The Bus’ with Paul, travelling the country to teach and hold clinics. “It’s pretty full on, because once people hear I’m in the area they queue up. The key is to show people how to have a hand in their own healing - I teach them how to make their own medicines and balms so they’re not dependent on anyone else,” she says.
It’s not a lucrative lifestyle, Donna sees any payment she may receive as secondary to progressing the understanding and value of traditional Mâori medicine. It’s exhilarating, working with communities around the country, with time off for fishing and fun. Donna says, “It’s a big adventure, and it’s great knowing we have a home to come back to in Helensville, because we really like our community and we feel like we belong here.”
You can read more about Donna and her business, Ora New Zealand, on http://oranewzealand.com/shop/