A young wahine Māori doctoral candidate has secured $249,815 for her latest research project that explores fat bias.
Ashlea Gillon (pictured) of Ngāti Awa, Ngāpuhi and Ngāiterangi whakapapa, has been awarded a Māori Health Emerging Researcher First Grant from the Government’s Health Research Council (HRC) of New Zealand.
Her project titled Mana Mōmona: Exploring Fat (Bias) within Health Spaces for Māori, will look at fat bias within healthcare settings for Māori and how it contributes to and is part of a system of oppression that inhibits and restricts access to wellness and equitable healthcare.
Ms Gillon will be working alongside two of her University of Auckland tuākana, Professor Melinda Webber and Professor Terryann Clark.
“I think it was around September last year when I saw the applications were open and I started to think about applying,” said Ms Gillon.
“In October I wrote the proposal and reached out to my tuākana, Professor Webber and Professor Clark, alongside Dr Meri Haami, Selah Hart and Hāpai Te Hauora to see if they would tautoko the research and they did.
“The application was quite in depth, I gathered reference letters and submitted it, HRC confirmed it was received and under review and then it was a waiting game.
“I was sent feedback that was followed by paperwork and a contract. The whole process took around six or seven months all up, I was excited and nervous the whole time. I still am,” she said.
“Ash’s work grounds understandings of body sovereignty in mātauranga-tuku-iho, referencing the curves and bounty of tūpuna wāhine like Hinemoana and Papatuānuku, and the inherent power in their form,” said Professor Melinda Webber.
The project is an extension of her current PhD work that looks at the wāhine Māori experiences of fat bias. Now, her HRC project will open up insights into the experiences across all genders.
The project will begin on 1 September 2023 and is a two-year project. It will ask questions such as what is fat bias and why it impacts Māori, also spotlighting what enhances Māori mana mōmona and mana tinana in the healthcare space.
Ms Gillon is hoping this project will create positive changes in systems that are inherently biased and not built for Māori.
“I am just so excited to kōrero with fat Māori across the gender spectrum to get to know them and understand their experiences and I know that I am so well supported by both Professor Webber and Professor Clark,” she said.
“My work makes people confront their own personal beliefs and biases it highlights for people the different ways they may understand fat and bodies and it makes them uncomfortable because they start to uncover some tough truths.
“We must start thinking about healthcare in an intersectional way because if we don’t then we are actively harming people whether we realise it or not. So it is so important that when people feel uncomfortable about my work they unpack their feelings to understand themselves and their bias better.”