The positive work being done in Rotorua to prevent Maori taking their own lives could be used as a template for indigenous cultures around the world.

Te Runanga o Ngati Pikiao Trust is hosting its inaugural suicide prevention conference, believed to be the first of its kind in the world, attracting indigenous cultures from around the world.

The trust is responsible for many of the initiatives established in Rotorua to help decrease the number of people, particularly Maori, from committing suicide.

In the 2014/15 Lakes DHB suicide figures, 10 people took their own lives, the lowest figure for the region since records began.


The 2014/15 figure from the year to June 2015 was down five from the previous year,
and 13 from 2010/11.

The conference, to be held in June, will provide positive learning with the aim of transforming indigenous communities through cultural recognition and practices.

There will also be an indigenous youth summit alongside the conference with the aim of growing indigenous youth champions so they are able to return back to their communities and lead positive changes from a youth perspective.

Te Runanga Ngati o Pikiao Trust project leader Michael Naera said they wanted to make sure they were seeing positive results from their suicide prevention initiatives before hosting the conference.

"It is something we have wanted to do for a long time but we first had to reduce our suicide rate in Rotorua so we had something to share.

"In the past we have had a large number of Ngati Pikiao taking their own lives. We have helped that number decrease and as we continue to do so we want to bring together all our indigenous brothers and sisters to use Rotorua as an example of moving forward and following good pathways of care."

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He said they had already received inquiries from Nigeria, Canada, Australia, America and India. Mr Naera expected the conference to draw between 300 and 500 attendees.

"There has been a huge response from cultures around the world and we expect that to continue to grow as we get closer to the conference date."

Rotorua woman and Tree of Life - My journey with grief author Heeni Morehu lost her 16-year-old son Hepa to suicide in 2011.

She will be one of the speakers at the conference and said she was looking forward to hearing people share their own stories and knowledge.

"The unfortunate fact is this conference is necessary and my only hope is that by getting people to share their own experiences we can break down the taboo of talking about suicide and work together to stop it from happening."

She said she was grateful the trust was courageous enough to host the event.

"Raising the topic of suicide is one of the hardest conversations a person will have so through this conference people will hopefully feel more empowered, taking what they learned back to their own communities."

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