Applications are now open for the country’s first Rainbow Nursing Scholarship, a joint initiative by UCOL | Te Pūkenga and Te Whatu Ora Te Pae Hauora o Ruahine o Tararua | MidCentral.
The scholarship, founded by ex-UCOL ākonga (learner) and current Te Whatu Ora MidCentral employee, Mel Meates, is available for LGBTQI+ Bachelor of Nursing ākonga studying at UCOL’s Palmerston North campus.
Meates says the scholarship is a huge step for LGBTTQI+ ākonga in Aotearoa.
“We’ve seen the rainbow community receive general scholarships in the past, however, this is the first time that a scholarship specifically for LGBTTQI+ nursing ākonga has been established in the entire country.”
Having recently graduated from UCOL as a Registered Nurse, Meates now works as a Rainbow Education Facilitator at Palmerston North Regional Hospital and provides diversity training for both UCOL and Te Whatu Ora MidCentral, alongside a Registered Nurse role in aged care.
Meates says they understand first-hand how much of a difference a scholarship like this can make to the career paths of those who identify as LGBTTQI+.
“When I was a nursing student, I couldn’t find any scholarships when I needed them. There were a few school-leaver scholarships available, but that was about it.
“I’ve been part of the rainbow community for over three decades and then came out as transgender (transmasculine, non-binary) almost seven years ago. It’s hard being trans and studying when you’re over 40. The Government only offers student allowance for three years, instead of the usual five if you’re under 40. I had to do a six-month course before my degree to prepare for my studies, which meant that I had to finish my degree with student loan living costs which I have to pay back. A scholarship like this would have been immensely helpful.”
The $1500 cash scholarship has been set up to support nursing ākonga who are part of the LGBTQI+ community and need support with course-related costs or financial help during a nursing placement.
Ashwini Patel, who runs the scholarships programme, says when Meates approached UCOL to support the Rainbow Nursing Scholarship, it was a no-brainer.
“We’ve heard from a few ākonga who had been looking for rainbow scholarships at UCOL, so it was on our radar. When Mel approached us for funding, we knew we needed to help fill this gap in the community.
“Mel’s been amazing. They’ve worked with Te Whatu Ora MidCentral and UCOL to get all the funding sorted and create these opportunities for our rainbow whānau.”
Meates says that the scholarship also wouldn’t have been possible to set up without the backing of their manager, Jaime Court and the (Acting) Executive Director of Nursing, Yvonne Stillwell.
“Diversity and inclusion are really important in providing care to our patients. This scholarship is just one of the first steps in ensuring we meet the needs of everyone in our community. We value diversity as a key component of the education and professional development for our nurses, and this scholarship supports that goal. This partnership was a fantastic opportunity to continue to work alongside our colleagues at UCOL who are responsible for the development of our next generation of nurses.”
Meates says they hope to inspire other institutions around the country to create their own rainbow scholarships, too.
“I’d love to see a knock-on effect across the whole country. I want people to look to us and think, if Palmerston North can have a rainbow scholarship, why can’t we?”
Applications for the Rainbow Nursing Scholarship are open now and close on Tuesday 30 April 2024, with the first scholarship being awarded in June 2024.