On Thursday 17 August 2017, Le Va held its second regional GPS in Christchurch, at the Christchurch City Council function room. Apollo Taito, mental health lead for Le Va, put out the challenge to Christchurch to attend, and Christchurch responded with its usual Crusader flair, poise and success.
The satellite seminars were born out of feedback to Le Va in 2016, where people mentioned that they would love to see local/regional seminars as opposed to one large conference. Facilitated by their regional Pasifika leaders and agencies, Christchurch Pasifika health workers jumped on board to ensure they were well represented.
The graphic below indicates where participants said they were from on the day, with the size indicating the relative numbers present.
The central theme for the Christchurch GPS seminar was growing Pasifika solutions in suicide prevention.
At the start of the day, we were blessed to have one of Christchurch’s faith leaders, Pastor Ivan Taula, begin the day. Pastor Tuala shaped the tone and discussion with an apt analogy speaking to the special relationship between a mother and her child in the womb. As new life grows, the mother and child share not only food and water, but also emotions and dreams. There is a sacred balance in this sharing. Pastor Taula metaphorically refers to the GPS seminar as a ‘womb’, where ideas are shared in the medium of talanoa (Samoan for talk or conversation), growing Pasifika solutions that permeate through and within the GPS Christchurch participants.
Under the auspice of the analogy and prayer, we were fortunate to have Matafanua Hilda Fa’asalele (chief advisor Pacific, Ministry of Health) present in Christchurch, providing a high-level perspective from the Ministry. The message was clear: the nature of suicide cannot be solved by just one solution - suicide prevention requires a collective approach and shared responsibility. Furthermore, it requires a cross-government and sector approach.
Looking at what the data was telling us about Pasifika suicide deaths, Dr Maree Inder (chief executive, CASA) said, "The more we know about suicide, the more we can do about it, provide platforms for discussion and creating viable Pasifika solutions, more importantly creating hope and life". While Pasifika statistics were disproportionately high, there was a sense of purpose within the room to address it.
David Cairns and Maria Pasene (from local primary health organisation Pegagus Health) provided the unique local perspective in the area of collaborACTION – which starts first and foremost between team members! This was followed by Josiah Tualamali’i (PYLAT) with a Pasifika youth perspective, presenting the concepts of identity journeys for ‘afa kasi Pasifika finding their way in Niu Sila.
Lupesiliva Tu’ulua, from the Diabetes Centre (CDHB), shared her story as an island born Samoan registered nurse, working with our people in the field of diabetes, which was a proud moment for her and her family. Continuing with primary care solutions, Gafa Tuiloma and Malu Tulia from Etu Pasifika1 provided a window to their work. It was especially rewarding to see one of our Futures that work Pacific mental health and addictions scholarship graduates, Malu, talking about her journey from study to real time applications of learnt skills. Our very own Le Tautua alumni, Philip Siataga, gave us a glimpse of his latest project on kindness literacy, and his daughter Talia Siataga shared her powerful spoken word poetry with us all.
The day then moved towards discussion on frontline solutions, with Nikki Coleman from CASA and the important work of postvention. Leilani Clarke from Le Va’s FLO: Pasifika for Life, displayed their community suicide prevention programme. Finally, Dr Monique Faleafa gave us a glimpse of the new website for LifeKeepers, New Zealand’s first home grown national suicide prevention training programme for all people living in New Zealand.
A special acknowledgement need to go to the Le Tautua alumni that co-designed the event, our local co-MC Norman Vaele, as well as the masterful DJ tunes of Nonumalo Vito Nonumalo.
It was a great day well spent in the company of many wonderful Pasifika and non-Pasifika people. Anecdotal feedback thus far has been:
“This is great, we should do more collaborative crucial work like this.”
“This Council building has never felt more alive and colorful.”
“My 25-year-old son texted me later to say: Really proud of you mum! I heard nothing but great things about your presentation!! That was a fantastic compliment coming from a young man!”
The Christchurch GPS Satellite Seminar built on the learnings from the Auckland event, with Pasifika workers in the mental health and addiction sector leaving the day feeling better equipped to address suicide. A big thank you to Christchurch, though the weather was chilling, your humour, love and warmth kept us homely and well.