Real life stories

IGC2022 - Showcasing keynotes - Dr Diana Kopua

10 June 2022
“If you really want to make a change, think about how you indigenous the space that you occupy, stay an active learner of your own processes and engage in obtaining feedback so you can grow."
Article image

This is the first in a series of blog posts showcasing the keynote speakers for this year’s International Gambling Conference, being co-hosted by PGF Group and AUT Gambling and Addictions Research Centre in Auckland from June 29 to July 1 2022. More details on the conference (including how you can register) are available by clicking here.

Dr Diana Kopua and her husband, Tohunga Mark Kopua will be presenting Te Kurahuna - Mahi a Atua - the deployment of Mātauranga Māori, Pūrākau, feedback informed treatment and associated techniques and knowledge that support this paradigm shift.

We asked Dr Diana Kopua some questions about her career and what it was like navigating her journey to becoming a psychiatrist.

Before entering psychiatry, Dr Kopua trained as a nurse.

“The biggest motivation at that time was that I was pregnant with my second baby. I wanted to study to improve myself, for my whānau, for our future,”, said Dr Kopua. “I was 20 with two babies and there was now a purpose. I had previously completed a 6-month administration course at Polytech.”

“However, when pregnant with my second baby I contacted Otago University to enquire about becoming a physiotherapist. I really enjoyed massage and the realm of healing. They said I didn’t meet their criteria and to try nursing.”

“The nursing school was down the road from where I lived at the same polytech I had attended previously and so I applied…”

In 2014, Dr Kopua completed her specialist training in psychiatry and is a Fellow of the Royal Australia New Zealand College of Psychiatry. Her work as a nurse fuelled an “already full pot of passion. It strengthened my own commitment to growing my sense of connection to ‘being’ Māori. I was privileged to be in spaces to hear people’s stories”.

Dr Kopua’s decision to specialise in psychiatry came about when she was involved in developing and coordinating a psychiatric registrar training programme.

“I was not necessarily inspired by what they were doing but with the confidence that I could do what they are doing and that I might be more closely aligned to the patients that we were seeing.”

“Most of the students were of a different culture with a different way of being and knowing.”

As a changemaker, Dr Kopua takes joy from the work in paving a new pathway, grounded in her māoritanga.

“I'm so glad that I stepped out of the usual pathway for a psychiatrist, so I could impact systemic change.”

“Creating my own destiny where there is a very strong connection to the arts and also to a team that, as a whānau, are committed to our kaupapa. I also value relationships with leaders around the country who are passionate about systemic change and improving outcomes for their communities.”

It hasn’t been without its share of challenges.

“When you are forging change at a system level, you lose touch of important connections. You expose yourself in ways that aren’t ‘fun’. You take risks that make you look a little dangerous to be around. It’s lonely.”

And there is also the specific challenge of developing a paradigm shift in addressing institutionalised racism and highlight alternative approaches to orangatanga within the healthcare community.

“Finding my place in society has at times been challenging. The lessons I have learned have come about by the failings I make…”

Dr Kopua thinks that for those who are attending their keynote address at IGC2022, they will learn the three principles of Te Kurahuna.

“If you really want to make a change, think about how you indigenous the space that you occupy, stay an active learner of your own processes and engage in obtaining feedback so you can grow.”

You can read more about their presentation on the IGC 2022 website and you can listen more about Diana and Mark's work here.