Hard to Reach communities experience high rates of violence, suicide, homicide and methamphetamine addiction.  Many have experienced intergenerational trauma and violence through being placed into state care and imprisonment. Their overall health literacy is often very low and their distrust of authority means they do not utilise the available health services.  The services themselves can also be designed and delivered in ways that make them inaccessible or hard to reach, including service providers who have negative perceptions about, and struggle to engage, the very populations they are supposed to support.  Because of this lack of access to health services and support, alcohol and drug abuse is often a means of self-medication for the trauma they have experienced. 

In the last half of 2020 H2R Ltd was funded by Te Rau Ora to deliver initiatives in four Hard to Reach communities to build resilience to suicide. The initiatives were designed, developed and delivered by community leaders in Hawke’s Bay, Gisborne, Rotorua, and Whanganui with our support and guidance. We have been working with leaders in these communities over a number of years. Each community is unique and while there are commonalities of experience, the approaches they designed targeted the different priorities and solutions they identified to prevent suicide, respond effectively when a suicide occurs, and enhance the overall wellbeing and resilience of their hard to reach whānau and communities.

Hawke’s Bay – residential methamphetamine rehabilitation programme (Kahukura)

In the Hawke’s Bay the leadership of the Chaindogs, a cluster of Mob chapters with a common affiliation to the Notorious chapter of the Mongrel Mob, piloted a methamphetamine rehabilitation programme ‘Kahukura’ to address the poor health and high suicide rate in their Chaindog community. Kahukura refers to the “red cloak”, and is a term used for a warrior that acknowledges his role and leadership within his whānau, hapu and iwi.

The residential programme ran from 29 September – 20 November at Te Whatuiapiti Marae, Poukawa, Central Hawke’s Bay with 10 tane. Kahukura utilized a mix of Te Ao Māori and Western methodologies to address trauma and rectify drug-seeking behaviours, instill better coping mechanisms, and teach important relapse prevention skills.  Learning tikanga was a strong and central element to the initiative, recognising this is critical to building identity and resilience.

Kahukura achieved a 100% completion rate, with all 10 tane passing all drug tests and graduating from the programme. Since completing the course the Police have commented that there has been a reduction in offending amongst the group.

Gisborne – Mana Mahi leadership programme

Hard to reach leaders in Gisborne developed a ten-week ‘Mana Mahi’ leadership programme for tane to enhance the mana of the individual and whānau through re-connection to self, whānau, and whenua. The programme sought to build the supports and skills of the tane to raise the prosperity of the whānau as a collective – empowering tane to become leaders for their own families. Mana Mahi was founded on the underpinning Māori principles of Tika, Pono, and Aroha. Each week explored different kaupapa to build self-esteem, hope for the future, and increase resilience. The program utilised the natural environment in various outdoor locations in the Gisborne area to support learning and build life skills.

The programme ran for one day a week for ten weeks from 6 October – 28 November 2020. In total there were 9 hard to reach tane on the course from a range of backgrounds, including experience of homelessness, addiction, involvement in the criminal justice system and with Oranga Tamariki.

Mana Mahi achieved a 100% completion rate, with all nine tane who started the course completing it. It supported the rehabilitation of two tane who were recovering from addictions with the tane still remaining drug free, and improved employment outcomes with three of the tane going on into employment.

Whanganui – tiaki whakapapa wānanga

The initiative came about in recognition that abuse of substances such as methamphetamine and alcohol damages whakapapa. The initiative targeted hard to reach whānau from Ngati Tuera, Ngati Hinearo, and Ngati Hau hapū and sought to build, strengthen and support the whānau, hapū and community.Two Tiaki Whakapapa wānanga were undertaken in November to build understanding of suicide prevention for whānau, hapori, hapū and iwi. 

The first wananga was held on 13th-15th November at Parikino Marae, a settlement situated 20 kilometres inland from Whanganui. Speakers korero focused on suicide awareness and the spaces they work in, including from the Whanganui DHB, Kimiora Trust, and Te Oranganui Iwi Health Authority. Activities included suicide prevention training, learning about the maramataka from a te ao Māori perspective for the health and wellbeing of people contemplating suicide, learning waiata and haka, and sharing their mamae and experiences of whānau they had lost to suicide (whakamomori).

The second wananga was held on 27-29th November 2020 at Patiarero marae in Hiruharama (Jerusalem), 64 kilometres up the Whanganui River. Speakers korero focused on health and wellbeing, including learning about Rongoa Maori and the experience of an Iron Maori mentor and participant.

Outcomes of the wānanga included developing an action plan to move forward about how to better support each other as a hapū, including learning matauranga, gathering rongoa and mahinga kai, supporting hauora through exercise, regular catch-ups at the marae and creating a safe space for tane to korero.

Rotorua – Mana Wahine wānanga

The purpose of this initiative was to get women reaching their potential, changing their thought patterns, dealing with personal and generational trauma and dysfunctions, becoming the best version of themselves and looking after themselves. The target group for this initiative was Māori wahine in the Te Arawa region, with a strong focus on including hard to reach women. Focusing on women recognises the vital role women play as te whare tangata (the house of humanity) in providing life and nurturing future generations: heal the mother to heal the whānau.

The one-day wānanga was held at Tunuhopu marae, Ohinemutu on Saturday 14 November. The programme utilized Te whare tapa wha to build a holistic understanding of the dimensions of health and wellbeing, and many of the speakers referred to this framework in their korero. Some of the korero shared included experience of anxiety, depression, addiction and whakamomori, difficulties experienced with the mental health system, strategies to support improved health and wellbeing and sources of support.

During the break there was a dance activity, arts and craft activity, and an opportunity for wahine to support local businesses started by wahine who had set up displays outside. Outcomes included building a sense of community and creating connections for wahine to support and uplift each other and achieve their aspirations, and building knowledge of resources and strategies that can help to overcome grief, trauma and addictions and support health and wellbeing, including those from Te Ao Maori.

Published by


Co-director of H2R Research and Consulting Ltd

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