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Māori Mental Health Trust Needs Instructors

A Tauranga Māori mental health trust is looking for instructors who can teach traditional crafts to people struggling with mental health issues.

Kessie Kohu of Rau Ō Te Huia Community Trust, which operates from 20th Avenue, says learning traditional crafts such as weaving, flax work and carving, has a positive effect on those who are dealing with mental health problems.

The organisation is looking for craft instructors skilled in harakeke (flax work), taniko (decorative weaving), tukutuku (woven panels) and whakairo (carving) who are interested in teaching mental health whanau. It’s not as easy as teaching the usual arts students, she said.

“We find that connection with traditional crafts helps with mental wellness. It’s a slower journey for them, but so rewarding. We are trying to normalise mental health as much as possible.”

Kessie has taught te reo, literacy and numeracy, kapa haka and waiata and has worked in the mental health field for many years. The Rau Ō Te Huia whānau are well cared for and the facility is funded for nine beds and three respite beds for whānau who are finding it difficult to cope with a family member. 

Kessie Kohu

“We get referrals from Te Whare Maiangiangi, Community Mental Health, the Māori health unit at the hospital emergency department, Corrections and Health New Zealand.”

All whaiora (clients) are medicated, and receive support from psychiatrists, clinical nurses and case managers. Most also have social workers.

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 Rau Ō Te Huia has benefited from the services offered by SociaLink, an umbrella organisation for social and community organisations in the western Bay of Plenty.  

“We provide wrap-around care, but the biggest challenge is finding lived-experience staff - those who have dealt with mental health issues themselves. This is what the whaiora need most of all, but it is the hardest to implement,” Kessie said.

“Mental health has always been stigmatised and marginalised, but people are now starting to relate to it better after the last couple of years with Covid. 

“Now we need a more concerted effort in providing the crafts and skills that work for our whaiora.”

Anyone with the skills to teach these crafts to those with mental health issues can contact Kessie at:  

Rau Ō Te Huia Community Trust

34 20th Avenue, Tauranga South, Tauranga 3112

Ph: 07 571 5136


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