Family Doctor, Filmmaker and Author

David Whittet is a family doctor, a multi-award-winning independent filmmaker and an avid writer.

‘Storytelling has been in my DNA since childhood. I have vivid memories of watching Sunday teatime serials on television as an impressionable youngster. A dramatisation of Oliver Twist had a profound impact on me. In its day, Dickens’ novel brought reform to the poor law. This convinced me of the potential of the written word to change the world, and I decided then that I wanted to be a writer. Subsequently, the novels of A J Cronin, especially The Citadel—which pre-empted the foundation of the National Health Service in the UK and beyond—inspired me to become a doctor. Medicine is a constant source of inspiration for my writing. General practice, in particular, is about being interested in people’s stories—they go hand in hand. The colourful cast of characters I have met throughout my career—colleagues and patients alike—breathe life into my writing.’


The Gang stole her childhood. She won’t let them claim the rest of her life.
The idea for David’s debut novel Gang Girl, the story of a young woman’s struggle to escape from the Gang, came to him during a fifteen-year stint working as a family doctor in a rural New Zealand community.

Born into the Gang, Aroha is the daughter of a notorious mob leader. Trapped by an arranged marriage to her cousin, she longs to escape the misery of her childhood. A chance meeting with a business executive promises her a new life away from the Gang—but can her dream survive retaliation from the mob? Or will the ensuing blood feud destroy all hope of freedom?

‘I hope Aroha’s heart-wrenching story, which juxtaposes her resilience against the harshness of gang life, will resonate with my readers. The contrast is stark. Innocence versus the gritty realism of Once Were Warriors. At the heart of my book, we have a courageous woman determined to take charge of her own destiny. The Gang stole her childhood. She won’t let them claim the rest of her life.’


A Cathy Come Home for our times
Following the success of Amiri & Aroha on the international film festival circuit, David is excited to be working on a new project that is close to his heart.

Hīkoi is a hard-hitting drama dealing with child poverty. A burnt-out social worker takes risks to help a single mother escape from loan sharks. The inspiration for the film came from the hīkoi against child poverty in Auckland in September 2014, one of several real-life events incorporated into the story.

Child poverty remains a crucial issue in New Zealand.
Hīkoi culminates with a recreation of the presentation of a petition with fifteen thousand signatures to the government, which took place outside parliament in Wellington on 20 May 2015.

David’s screenplay has received glowing reviews at the Emerging Screenwriters and the Table Read My Screenplay festivals. Armed with this feedback, David is currently negotiating with leading New Zealand production companies to bring the story to the screen. He is particularly keen for the film to go into production in election year.

An enthusiastic producer described
Hīkoi as ‘a Cathy Come Home for our times.’



With Gang Girl nearing completion, David has several more writing projects in progress. His next novel, The Road to Madhapur, draws on his experiences working as a doctor in a rural community in Odisha state in India.

Theo, an idealistic New Zealand doctor, heads to the remote township of Madhapur, with high hopes of making a difference. Elisha, an Australian missionary’s daughter, is also bound for Madhapur. Unlike Theo, Elisha is angry and deeply resentful that her parents have uprooted her from her friends and her life in Australia.

Theo and Elisha’s worlds collide in a violent political uprising and tragedy propels their lives on an inescapable trajectory.

‘While The Road to Madhapur is a work of fiction, many critical events in the story are based on true-life incidents that occurred during my time in India. A leper colony plays a vital role in the story. For many, like Elisha in my novel, it was a place of overwhelming sorrow, despair and heartbreak. To Theo, it proved a near-impossible challenge that almost ended his career.

‘That leprosy mission was among the happiest places I have seen in my life. Beyond the immense suffering, I found love and fulfilment. Writing The Road to Madhapur has brought back many vivid memories. I will never forget the leper children’s faces. Despite a lifetime of suffering, they always had a smile for everyone. I hope I can capture something of their indomitable spirit in my writing and share their joy of life with my readers.’


David has started work on a third novel, Threepence on the Carpet, the story of a struggling Kiwi musician, Thomas Te Whare.

Tom gets caught up in the hippie movement and the Aldermaston marches while on his overseas experience in Britain in the 1960s. Disillusioned with his dead-end job in a bank and unable to adapt to free love in a commune, he returns to New Zealand destitute.

Back home, Tom tries to resurrect his career as a musician with gigs up and down the country. But his protest songs from a bygone era don’t strike a chord with New Zealanders who are more interested in cricket and rugby than folk music.

Tom’s life is on a downward spiral until a long-lost uncle leaves him some puppets in his will. How could such an inconsequential inheritance end up tuning his life around?


Gang Girl is in its final draft, Aroha’s Journey is far from over. David is working on two companion novels, Gang Blood and Young Blood.

Still bound to the mob, Aroha’s struggle continues. The birth of her son Arapeta throws Aroha into fresh conflict with the Gang.

Like Beth in
Once Were Warriors, Aroha faces brutality and repression day in and day out. But Aroha is a strong woman who refuses to let the Gang crush her spirit.

For fans of the film trilogy, the new books propel the story in a new and exciting direction and take us to a thrilling conclusion.

Read more about all of these stories on David’s Author Page and follow progress with Hīkoi on his Filmmaker Page:

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