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Katrina Pōtiki Bryant

Professional practice fellow and School of Physiotherapy kaiāwhina

Katrina Anne Pōtiki Bryant was born in Dunedin and studied at St Hilda’s Collegiate and the School of Physiotherapy at Otago.

She whakapapas strongly to Ōtākou rūnanga.

Katrina believes that to be most effective, services which engage indigenous people must be authentic. They may also call for a change in the conversation from ‘how do we get Māori in the door’ to ‘how do we provide services which are more relevant for Māori?”

A life in motion

At the age of 12, Katrina represented New Zealand in World Age Group springboard diving competition and was in both Commonwealth Games and Olympic training squads. Captivated by movement and by the creative and healing arts, she decided to become a physiotherapist at the age of 14.

Ideas soon became actions, and after one year of study at Otago she was able to branch into physiotherapy, along with one other student who identified as Māori.

Katrina completed her final study year in Christchurch before setting off with a group of friends for some work experience in the USA. She worked as a paediatrics physiotherapist in Tennessee and Connecticutt, and enjoyed the experience so much that the planned twelve-month visit turned into a stay lasting ten years.

On her return to New Zealand, she moved first to Tauranga and later to Dunedin. It was here that she picked up her academic career and began her work with Māori.

Toi Ora ("move well")

Katrina discovered the sport of rock climbing while living in the US, and loves the range of movements it involves. Climbing, and her work in physiotherapy stimulated a lasting interest in ‘functional morphological anthropology’, which proposes that the human body has evolved for a range of movements including climbing, clambering, throwing and squatting.

In this dimension, the work of Māori health and physical activity consultant Dr Ihirangi Heke also resonates for her. Dr Heke believes that better health is an incidental outcome of lives led holistically, rather than something that must be pursued. Health improves when there are better lived understandings of ancestral knowledge. In such ways, honour goes back to the ancestors who have sustained and nurtured those treasures for millennia.

One such approach involves the reshaping of old martial ways and moves to a contemporary therapeutic setting. Long before Kapa haka began to receive popular attention, warriors used exercise including taiaha and poi movements as part of their rehabilitation. Now, whānau based initiatives for at-risk populations can involve the practical application of such traditional movement forms, waiata (songs) and stories for wellness.

Katrina is now developing a balance and strengthening exercise programme dealing with falls prevention which applies tactics drawn from the Māori worldview and traditional movement forms.

Many iwi-led initiatives which aim to improve the physical and cultural well-being of Māori and Pacifica are underway in Southern New Zealand. These engage Māori by honouring the role of the wairua or spiritual, and connecting to the earth and place - or whenua, and operate within the context of Te Tiriti o Waitangi.

Te Kāika (“The Village”)

Te Kāika describes a series of conversations led by Ngai Tahu, which will help set standards, create connections and encourage collaborations.

This evolving facility in Dunedin will address some of the disparity in the provision of health services for Māori and Pacifica people. It offers easier access to Dentistry, Physiotherapy, Medical, Pharmacy and Nursing services, along with gym and exercise programmes and also provides real-world training for staff and students from the University of Otago.

The School of Physiotherapy at Otago has contributed to the establishment and growth of this far-reaching health initiative.

Read about this innovative new health and well-being hub in Dunedin

Ōtākou Rūnanga

Donna Matahaere-Atariki has worked in the promotion of health and education of Māori for more than 20 years. She leads marae-based projects which aim to empower iwi and hapū to realise their fullest potential.

Arai Te Uru Whare Hauora

An independent community provider of integrated health, education and social services for Māori which works in partnership with whānau and other organisations to “support whānau using an integrated and collaborative approach”

More relevant services for Māori and Pacifica can help to improve physical and cultural wellbeing. Physiotherapist Katrina Pōtiki Bryant continues to help develop authentic health initiatives which honour traditional lifeways and patterns in Otago - Ōtākou and Southland - Murihiku, New Zealand.


Katrina Pōtiki Bryant holds a Bachelors in Physiotherapy and a Master of Physiotherapy from the School of Physiotherapy at Otago. The title of her Masters' thesis was: He Kiteka hauā I Murihiku: Perspectives of disability and wellness of hauā Māori living in Murihiku. The link is here.
Katrina whakapapas strongly to Ōtākou rūnanga