Published Monday 17 Jun 2024

Meet Grace Hemara-Tylden, Māori Bowel Screening Programme Co-ordinator

June is Bowel Cancer Awareness month. Regular bowel screening can help save lives by finding bowel cancer – one of our most common cancers – at an early stage where it can most often be treated.

We talk to Grace Hemara-Tylden, who advocates for bowel screening in our local communities, about her role.

Tell us about your role and what made you interested in this work?

My role takes me out into the Māori and Pasifika communities here in Pōneke (Wellington) to teach them about the Bowel Screening programme, how to complete the KIT test and why it’s important for our people to participate in screening. Being new to Pōneke, I thought this role would allow me to get to know all the different whānau here and look out for our kaumatua (older people), knowing I’m in a role that advocates for healthy futures and allows me to contribute to achieving health equity for Māori and Pasifika people. This is what made me interested in this mahi.

What is your career background?

This is my first full-time job after leaving university. However, during my years studying full-time as a student, I worked as a tutor in the Māori studies department, sat on a few Māori student committees and travelled home a lot to Kaikohe to work on our family farm. I’ve also done a short stint in social services. My professional career has only just begun but I know I’ve been privileged enough to have the tools to do this job effectively.

What’s the best part of your job?

Once I have the hang of this role and am able to lay down some solid foundations, I know I’ll be actively working towards achieving equitable health outcomes for Māori and Pasifika people in one way or another. Knowing I’m doing meaningful work is enough motivation for me to do this mahi and do it the best I can.

What would you like people to know about bowel screening?

I’d like people to know that doing your bowel screening test is one step you can take to look after your hauora (health), that you can do it in the comfort of your own home, there is nothing to be whakamā (ashamed) about and there is support available to you.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

Hmm I can’t think of anything, but I’ve been given a lot of advice throughout my life. I come from a family full of very hard-working people, so although the advice hasn’t come in the form of words, I have observed and understood the value of working hard and this is something I’ll always be grateful for. I think that has got me to where I am today and will continue to take me further.

Do you have a hobby you’d like to share?

A pretty consistent hobby of mine is kapa haka. I’ve grown up in a whānau that actively does it in our own homes and I’ve been able to participate in it at school and university. Although most of the time I’d rather watch, I do love performing.