Meet the senior assessor mentor: Kat Reweti-Russell

October 21, 2021

Kat Reweti-Russell spent 18 months working at Skills Active Aotearoa, but her career as a Skills Active assessor has been much longer than that - and now she is helping others to become great assessors as well.

Kat (Te Atihanunui-a-Pāpārangi, Ngāti Raukawa, Ngāti Pākehā) has worked in health and education for more than 15 years, and has a particular passion for Māori health and public health. She first came across Skills Active when she became an in-house assessor while working at Capital and Coast District Health Board.

With Kat’s support, CCDHB learners were able to complete Te Tohu Whakawaiora, which was jointly developed with Skills Active and is Aotearoa’s first health-specific, nationally recognised cultural competency qualification. Kat got registered as an assessor to support her colleagues who wanted to improve their capabilities in working with Māori patients, clients and whānau.

“We wanted to develop the cultural competency programme as a way to improve Māori health outcomes, by increasing staff awareness of mātauranga Māori,” Kat says.

The very successful programme has now been running for more than six years and has seen more than 80 graduates come through it with increased confidence and familiarity with te ao Māori.

When an industry advisory role came up within Skills Active, Kat was excited to join the team and take a break from the sometimes demanding world of public health.

During her time at Skills Active she was involved in the development of the Māori suite of programmes, covering Manaaki Marae, Tikanga and Māori Business. She also worked with another health provider, Wise Group - Te Pou, to support eight graduates through Level 2 and Level 3 te ao Māori programmes.

Kat recruited a number of new assessors to work in the Māori development space. To nurture this growing pool of specialists, she stepped herself up and became a senior assessor mentor (SAM) – a really important position that underpins the quality and consistency of the entire Skills Active assessor workforce.

“After seven years of being an assessor, in order to continue my own professional development and that of my peers, I wanted to support the development of all the new junior assessors that were coming through,” Kat says.

“I would also like to bring more people on as SAMs in the Māori qualifications. I’m not a lone expert; it takes the work of many. When we’re working together as a group, sharing ideas, iwi perspectives, and knowledge on mātauranga Māori – then that will be a robust space to inform the assessments and qualifications.”

As a SAM, Kat’s job is to support new assessors through their provisional period.

“There are some very strong criteria around what you have to do, and techniques around being a good assessor as opposed to just being an assessor.

“A good assessor gives high-quality feedback to the learner, they connect with them regularly, making sure the support is there, and providing openings for conversations to happen.

“So as SAMs, we are walking alongside the junior assessor in their first year, and monitoring that they are picking up those things. And it’s important for them to know that they can pick up the phone and call whenever they need to.”

After her time at Skills Active, Kat decided to return to her main passion, and she’s now working on critical public health objectives at the Ministry of Health. But she is stoked to have worked on creating cultural learning opportunities while she was at Skills Active. And the work continues in her ongoing role as a SAM.

Kat says she loves to see people with potential succeed in their training and become talented and capable assessors who will spread te ao Māori capability and competence even further.

“It doesn’t matter if you’re in health or education or any other area of work – being able to communicate and engage effectively with Māori, having knowledge of tikanga Māori and mātauranga Māori, these are essential skills for being a well-rounded person in Aotearoa,” Kat says.

These skills help to break down barriers, dismantle racism, and encourage people to conquer their fear of the unknown, she says.

“For me, this knowledge is the first step in bridging gaps between people and communities. And I am proud to be following in the footsteps of my grandparents, who were native speakers and practiced tikanga every single day. So this work is honouring my ancestors, but it’s also teaching the next generation that te ao Māori can and will be a part of their lives.”