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Focus on reducing Pacific drownings


For immediate use
9 May 2008

Focus on reducing Pacific drownings

A worrying rise in drowning deaths must be prevented by speaking to the hearts of Pacific communities, delegates at the Alcohol Advisory Council of New Zealand (ALAC) Pacific Spirit conference were told today.

Three Pacific people drowned in January this year alone and there is continued cause for concern at the rate at which Pacific people are drowning in New Zealand.

In response to this growing problem, Water Safety New Zealand (WSNZ) is launching a national Pacific Peoples Water Safety Strategy in September. Caution around alcohol consumption when swimming, boating or engaged in water activities is embedded in the key water safety messages.

WSNZ is urging awareness that undertaking water activities and drinking is as lethal a mix as drinking and driving.

Project manager, Ben Taufua says the issue must be addressed in a way that Pacific people can relate to.

“We’re reaching Pacific people by developing tools that make sense to them – that grab them by the heart, soul, mind and speak to who they really are.”

The project’s key goals focus on raising awareness through engagement with media and networks including churches and community roadshows.

“Every person that drowned this year has been an active member of a community church so that’s where we started,” Mr Taufua says.

A DVD, Without A Father, was developed specifically for the roadshows. The documentary focuses on the impact of drowning on ‘real’ Pasifika families, living with ‘real’ consequences and evoking ‘real’ emotions within Samoan and Tongan communities specifically.

“Although this is still largely work in progress, we’ve had a great response so far from the Pacific community. We’ve had particularly powerful feedback from ministers who have buried drowning victims and really know how important this issue is,” says Mr Taufua.

“There’s a lot of skepticism about using emotion to get a message across but ultimately, if that’s what people can relate to, that’s what will make their behaviour change.

“In Pacific culture we have a saying – ‘The hard of hearing will eventually hear if you keep on knocking’. We have to keep knocking and eventually we will get there.”


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