There’s a phrase that goes, you never really know someone until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes.  This week in Masterton, in recognition of World Suicide Day, 564 pairs of shoes were laid out to represent every New Zealand person who lost their life due to suicide last year. 564 whānau who have lost a loved one; never to have that second chance to have that conversation; to spend the time, to be there through the hard days and the good.

Alongside each pair of shoes were stories from friends and family members; who had donated the shoes as a symbol of the empty space left behind in their hearts and their lives.

It was a message that resonated also in Christchurch at the Waitaha Suicide Prevention Symposium on Friday and followed with the community event in Kaiapoi, ‘Pūrerehua’. The theme that we need to connect, communicate and care was powerfully championed by some keynote speakers, including Hemi Te Hemi and the power of waiata from kapa haka groups such as Te Pa o Rakaihautu and Te Ahikōmau a Hamoterangi.

Life advocate and fighter-for- the-cause, Rā Dallas summed it up: “Life is scary and we all have fear but it's what we do to overcome that fear that challenges us and that we never walk this path alone... Do what ever it takes to stay alive... Talk, sing, dance, paint... Whatever it is that makes you fight for your life... And that this is why we call this a life of a fighter because we fight for our lives every day of every minute!"

The reason I was in Masterton this week was to speak at their Mokopuna-Centred Symposium, attended by a wide ranging audience from a waka ama medal-winner; to healers, to departmental officials.  In my speech I referred to Te Rangiura o Wairarapa – the region’s first active adult kapa haka group to perform at the Ngāti Kahungunu kapa haka regionals in close to a decade.

But their ability to stand on the atamira, combining the strength of both Kahungunu ki Wairarapa and Rangitane o Wairarapa, was more than just a ten year record: it was living out a prophecy from over a century from the tupuna, Paora Potangaroa who had anticipated that the language would be lost but it would be brought back by our mokopuna.


Oranga Tamariki

The best interests of all our mokopuna was a central message in the pōwhiri I attended on Monday, to welcome the new Chief Executive for the organization that will be established as of 1 April 2017, Oranga Tamariki.   Gráinne Moss will have a big job in front of her.

The Ministry for Vulnerable Children, Oranga Tamariki, will be responsible for the care and protection of vulnerable children and young people, youth justice services and operational adoption services. The Children’s Action Plan Directorate and the Children’s Teams will become part of the new Ministry.   Community Investment functions relating to funding and contracting services for vulnerable children will transfer to the new Ministry, along with family and sexual violence services relating to child victims or perpetrators, complaint and grievance panel services and policy advice relevant to these functions.

Photo / Dean Purcell (NZ Herald)

Photo / Dean Purcell (NZ Herald)

There were a couple of things that stood out at the powhiri. First – her name; Gráinne is pronounced ‘Grohn-yah’. Second Gráinne is an accomplished long-distance swimmer. She is the first Irish woman to swim the English Channel and Cook Strait. I thought that was pretty fascinating! But what pleased me the most, was her decision to end her speech drawing on the wisdom of the late Dame Whina Cooper: “Take care of our children. Take care of what they hear, take care of what they see, and take care of what they feel. For how the children grow, so will be the shape of Aotearoa”.

In that regard, it is good to see the perspectives and practical life experience of our young people continues to be part of the influences that the new Ministry and the new Chief Executive will need to take into account.

Three of the youth advisors to the new reform, Investing in our Children and Families

Three of the youth advisors to the new reform, Investing in our Children and Families

For those keen to step up and add your views to the conversations about caregivers and caregiving, there is a Hui in Christchurch; on Thursday 14 September, from 10am-2pm; at the Hagley Park Atrium.   The hui is for both Caregivers andProfessionals -  Māori (CYF / CAP / NGOs / Iwi, Māori and Pacific / partner agencies) and will consider the following issues:

1.     How do we widen the pool of caregivers for teenagers who need life-long, loving families (including recruitment and approvals processes) ?

2.     What supports do new and experienced caregivers need (including improvements to the existing supports)?

Te Tihi o Ruahine

This week we had the pleasure of hosting Materoa Mar and Luke Rowe from Te Tihi o Ruahine Whanau Ora Alliance and Chiquita Hansen from Central PHO with us for the day, to hear about Te Pūtahitanga o Te Waipounamu and spend some time visiting some of our entities (Kākano Café and Cookery School; and the Whenua Kura Hauora Day out on the farm). It is always interesting to hear other entities interpret and implement Whānau Ora.

Members of the Te Tihi o Ruahine Alliance are:

  • Māori Women’s Welfare League
  • Māori Wardens
  • Te Rōpu Hokowhitu Charitable Trust (Ngā Iwi o Te Reu Reu)
  • Ngā Kaitiaki o Ngāti Kauwhata Incorporated
  • Rangitāne o Tāmaki Nui a Rua (Te Kete Hauora)
  • BestCare (Whakapai Hauora) Charitable Trust
  • He Puna Hauora
  • Te Wakahuia Manawatū Trust

The interesting thing about Te Tihi o Ruahine is its combination with the Central PHO – the central primary health organisation. All primary healthcare services in the MidCentral DHB area are managed and delivered in the community through the PHO. It was great to see the support of the PHO Health leadership as absolutely fundamental in supporting Te Tihi o Ruahine’s growth.

Word from the World

Shot to our two speakers who held the workshop captive at the International Social Innovation Research Conference in Glasgow, Haydon Richards and Sacha McMeeking. The abstract of their presentation was Indigenous Peoples Social Innovation—Aotearoa New Zealand Case Study on governmental devolution enabling Indigenous led investment in transformational social innovation.  

No surprises, word on the conference floor was that they did us all proud and even got an immediate invitation from the session's chair to take this story to her country (Australia) so that it can inspire and inform their local efforts.

Finally, this week, we said goodbye to Sean Bragg who has been a great kaimahi, innovator, and team-member in his three month internship with Te Pūtahitanga o Te Waipounamu. Part of his work with us has been in putting together a Whānau Ora Directory. Watch this space!

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