Northland health communications leader awarded Public Service Commissioner's Commendation for Excellence | Te Whatu Ora - Te Tai Tokerau

Northland health communications leader awarded Public Service Commissioner's Commendation for Excellence

Te Whatu Ora – Te Tai Tokerau communications manager Liz Inch has been awarded the Public Service Commissioner's Commendation for Excellence. 

At a ceremony at the Beehive in Wellington on Wednesday 8 November, Liz was one of 20 public servants awarded the commendation for their outstanding spirit of service. 

Liz has served 11 and-a-half years as the Communications Manager with Te Whatu Ora in Te Tai Tokerau, formerly Northland District Health Board.

She manages a team of several staff responsible for internal and external communications related to hospital and specialist services, community healthcare services, public health, infectious disease outbreaks, emergency management, staff and stakeholder information, media liaison, and strategic projects throughout the region.

Liz was nominated for the award by Ian McKenzie, General Manager of Mental Health and Addiction Services, Peter Thomas, General Manager of Te Poutokomanawa – Māori Health Services, and Jacquie Walters, former Senior Communications Advisor.

Mr McKenzie says that “Liz shows extraordinary dedication to her role.”

“Liz is an inspiring and compassionate leader of her team and an incredibly staunch advocate for the people in the community she serves. She continually goes above and beyond in terms of the additional hours she works – often on-call on weekends and public holidays – and her passion for finding new ways to reach and engage with the community,” he said.

The award citation included that her “deep commitment and passion for promoting equitable public health outcomes drives her to perform her role with tremendous humility. Liz is motivated by a higher purpose and yet she remains firmly grounded in local values, and she never seeks any accolades for her work.”

Liz says she is humbled to have been nominated in the first place and for being awarded the honour.

“I am proud of my achievements and acknowledge that they couldn’t have been realised without the partnerships, relationships and trust that has been formed over time,” she said.

“There are challenges, particularly when managing crises such as meningococcal and measles outbreaks, as well as COVID-19, of course. We work hard on supporting each other, making sure that the load is shared, and each other’s wellbeing is being looked after.”

The NZ Public Service Award recognises Liz’s wider health-related work in Te Tai Tokerau Northland, beyond her job with Te Whatu Ora.

She also serves as the communications lead for Te Ara Oranga, a unique Northland initiative to reduce the supply and demand for and, ultimately, the harm caused by methamphetamine – led jointly between Te Whatu Ora, the New Zealand Police and local community agencies.

“A highlight was making the music video Let’s Make a Change(external link), which went onto win at the Problem-Oriented Policing (POP) Awards in Wellington in 2020.

For many years, she was also a champion for the It’s Not OK family violence prevention national campaign.

“One project I am immensely proud of is producing the documentary Enough is Enough(external link), in partnership with the family of a young woman killed by an act of domestic violence, as well as the NZ Police and It's Not OK Campaign. The documentary highlights the damage family violence has on families and their communities.”

Originally from Christchurch, Liz’s passion for health care was inspired in the early 1980s during her nursing training at Burwood Hospital, subsequently studying for a Health Education Certificate at the Otago School of Medicine. After graduating, she worked as a nurse in Queensland, Australia, and later at Greymouth Hospital.

In 1990 she moved into health education and promotion with the Department of Health in Wellington. This led to a new job in 1993 with TVNZ at Avalon Studios in Lower Hutt, where she was responsible for the development of health and education television concepts. Key projects included Alive & Kicking, New Zealand's first health and lifestyle television series, and later the Really Living series.

In 1997 she moved back to Queensland to work in radio, scriptwriting and developing marketing strategies for six years.  She then moved into an employment services advisory role and then into fundraising and promotions with an aged residential care and disability services provider.

Returning to Wellington in 2007, she worked in external relations and communications with Presbyterian Support Central, before moving to Northland in late 2008 for a job as Community Liaison Advisor with the Ministry of Social Development.  It was 2012 when she joined Northland DHB.

Outside of work, Liz enjoys spending time with family and friends, as well as gardening, fishing, painting and photography – with some of her portrait and scenic photography prints displayed throughout Whangārei Hospital, the Jim Carney Cancer Centre and Bay of Islands Hospital.

Photo: Public Service Commissioner, Peter Hughes, Liz Inch, and Deputy Public Service Commissioner, Heather Baggott.

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