Home Family Health Lifetime’s work in Māori mental health rewarded

Lifetime’s work in Māori mental health rewarded

A mental health nurse's lifetime work in supporting Māori mental health has been recognised in the Queen's Birthday Honours. The Northern Advocate's Peter de Graaf's reports that Caroline "Moe" Milne's interest in mental health was sparked by a 14-year-old classmate at high school.

She has been made an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to Māori and health.

“I’ve always been attracted to people who are different. She was a very pale little girl who had this ability with words and poetry, but she’d disappear from us once or twice a year. I went looking for her and found her in hospital, in seclusion. I only found out later she had mental illness. I didn’t know what that was, all I knew was that I had a friend who was clever, who was gifted. That has stayed with ‘s me.”

That spurred the young Moe Milne, of Matawaia, (Ngati Hine, Ngapuhi) to understand the workings of the mind. She trained at a psychopaedic hospital in Auckland, then qualified as a psychiatric nurse in Nelson and worked at hospitals in Auckland, including Kingseat and Carrington, and Scotland.

In 1980 she changed paths, returning to family land at Matawaia and training as a teacher. She taught at Kaikohe Intermediate and Kaikohe West School before becoming a resource teacher of Maori for the Bay of Islands.

One of her sources of inspiration was a group of pakeha teachers at Northland College who were “in the vanguard of realising Maori education had to be different”. She has instilled te reo in her own children, believing that anyone who knows their own language and where they come from has the self-belief to do anything.

Milne worked for the Health and Disability Commissioner for six years, striving to change systems so they worked better for consumers, and has been a consultant since 2000.

Since then she has contributed to Te Hau Marire (the national Māori addiction strategy), developed education programmes addressing Māori health, and contributed to Maori research through her membership of the Health Research Council and chairing the group that developed Te Ara Tika to improve research ethics with Māori.

She has been a member of the Māori committee of the Royal Australia and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists (RANZCP) for almost 20 years and is active in the International Network of Indigenous Health Knowledge and Development.

Previous awards include Te Ao Maramatanga Māori Mental Health Nurses Award and the RANZCP Mark Sheldon Award for her contribution to indigenous psychiatry, both in 2016.
Milne said she accepted today’s honour not as a tribute to her own work, but on behalf of everyone working in Māori mental health and addiction.

All these years after tracking down her classmate in hospital she still loved working in mental health.

“I believe everyone should work in mental health at some time in their life, to broaden their understanding of humanity.”

– by Peter de Graaf

This article was originally published in fellow NZME publication The Northern Advocate. The original article can be viewed at:


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