Marilyn McKay is a passionate, dedicated Matanga Auahi Mutunga in the new service, Te Ohu Auahi Mutunga (TOAM). When I spoke to Marilyn, I asked her “as well as your mahi, what matters to you?”, to which she replied “I am a mum to five sons and a grandmother to 18”. Whānau is clearly very important to Marilyn. And this also transcends in the work she does; while she is based in Palmerston North Hospital, she  loves working one on one with whānau in the community who are referred on for support. Thank you Marilyn for taking time out of your holiday to share your whakaaro with us on the challenges and inspirations to becoming smokefree.

I te taha o toku kuia
Ko Panekire te maunga
Ko Waikare Taheki te awa
Ko Maatatua te waka
Ko Waimako te Marae
Ko Ruapani te hapu
Ko Marilyn McKay toku ingoa

What is the whakapapa of your being in the smokefree community?

Over the time I have worked in Tobacco Control I have seen huge changes. I started in this field in 1995, when I was employed in a 3 month contract to conduct a needs analysis within Kohanga Reo in the MidCentral Health Region.  From this, an Auahi Kore resource was developed. An Auahi Kore Taniwha was made and launched for use at events and within Kohanga Reo with a book and a tape developed by Nelson Marlborough Public Health.

My role developed into a full time position and I believe I became one of the first Auahi Kore Health Promotion Advisers in the country. While working in health promotion we promoted Auahi  Kore/Smokefree lifestyles but there was no access to subsidised nicotine replacement therapy or quitting medications. These could be purchased at pharmacies but were expensive to buy. We had the putea to run a lot more programs to prevent young people taking up smoking.  

Just over 10 years ago with cessation services being funded, I started in the Quit Smoking Service at Palmerston North Hospital alongside Fay Selby Law. Part of my role was Smoking Cessation Coordinator, updating and meeting with other services quit coaches including the kaimahi from our local Aukati Kaipaipa provider. 

With the local cessation being contracted out to the community I then became a Matanga Auahi Mutunga in the new service Te Ohu Auahi Mutunga (TOAM). Based at Palmerston North Hospital I am part of the TOAM collective and employed by a Māori provider. I also work one on one with whānau in the community who are referred for support. The majority of these people are keen for advice and support to have a quit attempt. 


What’s the most interesting thing you’ve read or seen this week?

Over the years the ASH year 10 surveys have shown the great increase of young people who have not even tried a cigarette and more of them are living in smokefree homes.  It was interesting to read this week that young people are not taking up using vapours as some had predicted.


What do you think are the biggest challenges we’re facing in achieving smokefree 2025, and has this changed since you first started this work?

Although smoking rates have reduced over the years it seems they have become a little stagnant.  I think the challenge to achieving the Smokefree 2025 goal is to find more appropriate methods for our Māori and Pacifica whānau. As we have experienced, there is not one fix for all.


Who in the smokefree community has impressed you most with what they’ve accomplished?

The most inspirational person in the Smokefree community over my time working in it would be Dame Tariana Turia.  She contributed to changes within the Tobacco Control world and advocated so wisely for Māori. The changes she managed to achieve has seen more people stop smoking and make healthy choices for their whānau.


Do you have whakataukī that you resonate with most?

A whakatauki that resonates with me and I have used with my clients is
Ki te whakaarohia ka taea, ki te whakaarohia ranei Kaore e taea. He tika koe
If you think you can. Or if you think you can’t. You’re right. This talks about the powers of one’s mind and the importance of having belief in oneself.