Collective community kaupapa essential to suicide prevention

Ngāti Porou, mother to 9 and nan to 10 mokos. Kerry Hirini is underway in her new role as Suicide Prevention Coordinator. This is a newly created role which aims to support Tairāwhiti community initiatives related to suicide and coordinate the development of a comprehensive community suicide prevention plan.

Kerry has a rich background in social work, Māori youth development, drug and alchohol counselling and rehabilitation. She believes that what helps her relate to those in a state of mauri moe is the fact that she has come full circle in her own life. Kerry confesses that she has experienced inequalities and lack of opportunities due to bad choices and lack of awareness. All it took however was one chance at turning her life around, which she embraced, completing a degree in social work and proceeding to forge a distinguished career in her hometown of Whanga-nui-a-Tara, Te Tai Tokerau and across the Tasman. 

“Our rangatahi need connection and positive role models. They need to see that there is always time to turn their lives around and its never too late to do so.”

Kerry has to come to us from Ngāti Hine Health Trust in Northland, where she was a Senior Drug and Alcohol Clinician and admits that all of her previous experience has prepared her for this important role here in te Tairāwhiti.

Taita college in Lower Hutt was where Kerry’s journey began as a student and later as a teacher aide, playing a role in the development of the groundbreaking Mentoring Project(external link). A large percent of the students of Taita college were from gang associated whānau and the project aimed at positively engaging whānau with the school and integrating the mārae as a centerpoint for development. It was during this project where Kerry had continued exposure to the devastating effects of suicide.

During the mentoring project, Kerry was mentored herself by the recently knighted Sir Kim Workman. “Sir Kim and I had a lot in common, he believed in me and the potential that i had yet to unlock. With my mother being pākeha and my father being māori, I learned how to walk in both pākeha and māori worlds. I learned a whanau-centred approach to improving outcomes for our rangatahi." Kerry believes that retracing whakapapa is essential to re-connecting people with who they are. "Being proud of who we are and whom we descend from is a cornerstone of suicide prevention and the healthy development of our rangatahi."

Kerry’s ties to Tairāwhiti are strong, her whakapapa connects her to Whangara, Waihirere and Mangatu. “I’ve always had an extremely strong connection to my turangawaewae and looked forward to spending summer holidays up the coast with whānau. I guess the right opportunity to come to Tairāwhiti had never arisen until now.”

In terms of the expectations and pressure of such an important role, Kerry is taking it in her stride. “I’m excited about the role here, and I’ve already met some inspirational people. There is already a lot of work being done here and my aim is to support this mahi, empower community leaders and bring everyone people to the table to establish a collective kaupapa which is a right fit for the people of Tairāwhiti.”

Kerry can be contacted by email - kerry.hirini@tdh.org.nz or telephone (06) 869-2095.

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