For the first time ever in Te Hiku, 18 schools closed on Friday so staff could attend a Well-Being Symposium. Each of four venues hosted a keynote presenter with knowledge and personal experiences to share about working through trauma, building resilience, and looking after their well-being and the well-being of those they care for.
The event was the idea of a group established by the Ministry of Education Director of Learning, Hira Gage, and her '2IC,' Dr Tim Andersen.
"As the name says, 'Working Differently in Te Hiku' is a group focused on making impact through action and connection with our community," organising spokesman (and Kaitaia Primary School principal) Brendon Morrissey said.
"It features members from Ministry of Education, local schools, iwi services, health services and Oranga Tamariki.
"The idea of the symposium was to uplift and inspire those who support tamariki and whānau in our community. By doing so we value their efforts and encourage them to do a little more moving forwards."
Local school principals had identified how hard it was for many of their staff to stay positive and strong for those who needed their support, a sentiment that was echoed by other service providers in Te Hiku, so an action plan was developed, the outcome being a large-scale gathering of professionals across Te Hiku region.
The sessions were closed to the media, so on one would be discouraged from speaking freely, while registered attendees could choose to hear one presenter in the morning and another in the afternoon. Far North Reap was at each venue to take registrations, and staff from Te Roopu Kimiora were available to speak with anyone who might have had powerful emotions come to the surface.
"Our guest presenters all acknowledged how important this support was on the day," Morrissey said.
"For three of our keynote presenters - Pio Terei, Nicola (Nix) Adams and Dr Hinemoa Elder - the day was about giving back to the community they have family ties to. All three have whānau connections to Te Rarawa," he added.
"The other two, Ngahihi o te ra Bidois and Jase Te Patu, were both excited to be supporting the Kaitaia community at a time when we all need well-being practices more than ever, especially for our mental and emotional health."
Kaitaia Intermediate School principal Wayne Lunjevich said the symposium had been a real success.
"The kaupapa of hauora o te hinengaro, o te tinana, o te wairua, o tenei ao hurihuri, was definitely on top for everyone. I received positive feedback from everyone throughout the day on all presenters and what they covered in their presentations.
"To hear people having in-depth conversations during lunchtime on what Pio and Nix spoke about touched everyone's hearts in some shape or form. The emotional impact it had on some of our audience was positive, and made people reflect on their own lives and situation. I even had some whānau leave the hall to seek support and advice from Te Ropu Kimiora.
"Thank you to all our principals, organisations and the MOE for your support in making this happen. This could be the start of something big which no doubt will impact Te Hiku as a whole."
Another principal said: "It was a day of unity for me, and I'm thankful to all the schools that closed to take part, to the agencies that supported the day, the speakers who shared their heart, humour and knowledge. Thank you; my cup needed some serious filling, and I got it on Friday."
Morrissey said the organising committee also wished to thank everyone who played a part in making the day a reality. Special thanks went to Ani Leef and her catering team, who looked after all four venues on the day with "awesome kai," and Jeff Hobson and the team at Mussel Rock Café, who hosted the speakers and organising committee for a delicious buffet breakfast before the event.
The organising committee would be meeting this week to discuss what to do next so the momentum would continue and spread throughout Te Hiku o te Ika.