Rockingham teens use culture as focus to build resilience

Staff RepotrterSound Telegraph
The group taking part in the Outrigger/Waka Ama program.
Camera IconThe group taking part in the Outrigger/Waka Ama program.

Getting out on the water on the weekend might seem like just a bit of fun, but for a group of youngsters, it is a way to reconnect with their Maori cultural traditions and improve their social and emotional wellbeing.

The Outrigger/Waka Ama program is run by Rockingham-based organisation Te Urupu Indigenous Community Development Inc., whose project co-ordinator Tina Tuira-Waldon takes the group out in canoes called a waka or vaka, most weekends.

Ms Tuira-Waldon said helping young Maori and Pacific Island youth to build their strength and resilience through reconnecting with their cultural values was at the forefront of the program.

She said it was great to see the importance of culture highlighted at the recent second World Indigenous Suicide Prevention Conference held in Perth. Some local youth attended the conference with support from the WA Primary Health Alliance, the organisation leading the Peel, Rockingham and Kwinana suicide prevention trial.

Ms Tuira-Waldon has been representing the local Maori and Pacific Island community on the trial’s steering group since its inception.

“Through this group, I have been able to partner with WAPHA to educate my community about suicide awareness by delivering programs and meeting the needs of the community,” she said.

WAPHA suicide prevention trial site co-ordinator Chloe Merna said the trial focused on young people aged 16-24 from Rockingham, Kwinana and throughout the Peel region, including Pinjarra and Waroona.

“We were really pleased to have Tina and her team of young Maori leaders attend the conference, so they could gain a better understanding of why indigenous communities experience much higher rates of suicide than non-indigenous communities and what they can do to be part of the solution,” Ms Merna said. The PaRK steering group was first convened by community members in 2016 in response to suicides occurring in the Rockingham and Mandurah areas and comprises representatives with lived experience, government and non-government agencies, and health services.

A key focus for the group is to raise awareness of depression among young people and the wider community, to decrease the stigma around mental health and encourage people to open up.

Ms Merna said she couldn’t stress enough the importance of young people talking to friends, family or someone trusted about feelings, especially if suicidal thoughts were present.

“Young people should not be afraid to reach out for professional help, as depression responds well to treatment and there are many local organisations who can help,” she said.

“Your GP is a great place to start but the teams at the Headspace centres in Rockingham and Mandurah are also fantastic to talk to.”

The Federal Government selected the Rockingham, Kwinana and Peel regions as one of 12 national suicide prevention trial sites because of an identified high suicide rate over an extended period.

The objective of the trial sites is to find the most effective approaches to suicide prevention for at-risk populations and share this knowledge across Australia.

The four-year trial will run until June 2020 when its findings and outcomes will be evaluated by the Government as part of a national evaluation.

A list of local organisations can be found at

Other 24-hour services include Lifeline 13 11 14, Suicide Call Back Service 1300 659 467 and Kids Helpline 1800 55 1800.

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