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Tariana Turia: National Suicide Prevention Conference

Hon Tariana Turia - Kia Piki Te Ora National Suicide Prevention Conference

2014 - Whanganui 29 May 2014

Kia Piki Te Ora National Suicide Prevention Conference 2014

“He muka nō Te Taurawhiri a Hinengakau”

Race Course, Whanganui

E ngā iwi, e ngā mana, tēnā koutou.

Tēnei te mihi atu kia koutou i runga i te kaupapa o te rā, huri atu te pō, nau mai te ao!

Nā reira, tēnei au ‘He muka nō te taurawhiri o Hinengakau’ e mihi atu nei kia koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā tātau.

It is always good to come home.

I love the kaupapa of this hui – featuring ‘Te taura whiri o Hinengakau’ - the plaited rope of our tupuna, Hinengakau.

It is the plaited threads of te taura whiri o Hinengakau that binds us as whānau from the mountain to the sea. Our whakapapa binds us, the people with our rivers, mountains, lakes, forests and seas.

In particular, we are connected to the ebb and flow of te awa tupua. The river is our tribal heartbeat – it is our healer, our highway, our kapata kai, our playground. We go to the water to be safe, to be protected, to talk to our kaitiaki, to be strengthened in mind and spirit.

Through troubled times and times of great joy, I have gone to the river to heal and be restored, to give thanks, to reflect on a way forward.

It is then the perfect metaphor for us all to gather today, to discuss proactive pathways forward, action based strategies and positive initiatives that will support the prevention of suicide.

I want to thank Stormie Hunter Rogan, the Whanganui Kia Piki te Ora Coordinator for the opportunity to address you at this annual Kia Piki te Ora National Conference.

I can honestly think of no more important kaupapa to be addressing than that of whānau wellbeing and our concerted efforts to cherish the gift of life.

I was thinking as I made my way here today about the traumatic impact of suicide and suicidal behaviours on the lives of our whānau.

And in particular the staggering and disproportionate Māori youth suicide rate – that rate currently sitting at 2.4 times higher than that of non Māori youth.

When will we ever get to the point where we can agree to a Zero Tolerance for suicide?

Why is it that our community can sign up to campaigns of zero tolerance for teenage drink driving -zero tolerance for family violence - zero tolerance for sport rage – and yet we can’t set that same goal to prevent suicide?

There is some really remarkable talent gathered here at this conference – and I absolutely believe we can do what it takes to denormalise suicide – to come together in one voice and reject any notion that suicide is an acceptable phenomenon in our world.

I want to mihi – and indeed to marvel – at those who are speaking later this morning –

· the inspirational Professor Sir Mason Durie

· the wonderful Emma Kutia

· the ever enthusiastic Ariana Potaka who along with Tama has inspired so many of our whānau to take on TriMaori

· and Mike King of the Nutters Club and Key to Life fame.

These four people alone have done so much to build whānau resilience - working with whānau solutions firmly located in our own health and wellbeing.

In your invitation you asked me to share what the Government is doing. I’m sorry if I disappoint you but I don’t want to do that. Because in this area – well in every area of our lives – surely our most provocative question is what are we doing for ourselves.

In suicide prevention, some of the most exciting developments have come from what whānau are doing for themselves.

I think of Kawerau and how the families came together, to turn the tide, and take action to support each other - to find ways to gain strength through crisis and to build their own leadership, their own intelligence, their own capacity.

They had had every provider under the sun seeking to become a helping agency – but in their everyday lives they found the strongest source of support within themselves.

I think of The Raid Movement who I see here today – again a community response to far too many tragedies amongst the young people of Te Tai Tokerau.

And of course with every one of you here, there are whānau at home, who you will turn to for inspiration, for advice, for comfort and for hard-hitting truths when a bit of robust opinion is required.

When we launched Waka Hourua – the national suicide prevention programme for Māori and Pasifika communities in February this year, one of our first priorities was to establish a contestable community fund for on the ground initiatives, while at the same time setting up a national Māori and Pasifika suicide prevention coordination centres.

Initiative, courage, communication, colloboration is required in great measure to make the changes needed in encouraging whānau solutions.

We have nine Kia Piki Te Ora providers across the motu – based in Auckland, Bay of Plenty, Christchurch, Hawkes Bay, Nelson Marlborough, Northland, Whanganui and Southland.

I want to really commend each of Kia Piki te Ora champions for your commitment to make a difference. And I think we need to be brave enough – thirteen years after we first established Kia Piki te Ora coordinators – to ask the hard questions : are we making the difference?

Is change evident or is it more of the same? What have we seen that enables the difficult conversations to flow?

How deep are your connections through to the whānau across your rohe?

We all know that those of our own who have contemplated suicide have been in a very very dark space - and tragically we have lost loved ones without ever knowing what might have kept them with us.

My absolute belief as Minister or as Mum - as neighbour or as Nanny – is that we must take every opportunity to intervene at every point. We must take seriously every instance of alarm – every warning signal that something is not right.

And if that means we take an active interest in our mokopuna’s entries on Facebook – or that we ask what they are listening to on their ipod – then let us be brave enough and creative enough to make the effort.

Just a couple of days ago I sent one of my mokopuna a text, telling her I was worried about her and putting it out there, that I wanted her to take care of herself.

She sent me a fairly abrupt text back – “Nan, I’m hurt – I’m not stupid’.

The key thing is sometimes we may want to wrap up our babies in cottonwool and loving arms – but we might actually be better to be direct. Don’t allow them to wallow in their misery - show them we care and we’re watching.

Another one of my mokopuna lost a friend to suicide, and tried to tell me that she was now in a better place. My response was immediate.

“Baby, when you go to her tangi tomorrow, look at her parents – look at her sisters and brothers. Look carefully at the faces of her nannies, her koros, her whānau – then look at your friends.

Are they pleased she is in a better place? Or are they actually in a much worse space than anyone could ever have envisaged?”

There will be whānau members here today who know only too well the state of devastation – the despair and distress that is associated with loss of a loved one under suicide.

We need to learn from your experiences - listen and be able to act in ways which do everything possible to help our whānau and communities become self-sustaining.

Finally, I am aware that we all have huge expectations on Te Rau Matatini –and that is quite right.

We must be confident that we can expect measurable differences from Waka Hourua – the national suicide prevention programme for Māori and Pasifika communities.

We want to see our whānau having the capacity and the capability to both respond effectively when and if suicide occurs – and importantly to do everything possible to prevent suicide.

We need to foster leadership - build a strong evidence base and ensure that culturally relevant education and training course are available to support our approach.

But we must never ever revert to thinking that the answers lie at the centre – at head office. And we must be strong enough to know that the role for Waka Hourua isn’t about building mainstream responsiveness – as crucial a need as that is. It is about strengthening families to do for themselves.

We must act in ways which are totally determined by the belief that whānau provide the best solutions for their own.

I think about the words of the late Nelson Mandela : The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling but in rising every time we fall.

How do we focus on our whānau to rise every time? It is a wonderful question to motivate us in every action that we take.

ENDS

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