Connecting to culture key to wellbeing for Maori youth

Getting out on the water on the weekend might seem like just a bit of fun, but for these local Maori youngsters, it’s a way to reconnect with cultural traditions and improve their social and emotional wellbeing.

The Outrigger / Waka Ama program is run by Rockingham-based organisation Te Urupu Indigenous Community Development Inc (Te Urupu IMPI Inc) whose project co-ordinator, Tina Tuira-Waldon takes the group out in a Maori and Pacific Island canoe called a Waka or Vaka, most weekends.

The group taking part in the Outrigger/Waka Ama program in Rockingham.

Ms Tuira-Waldon said, “At the forefront of the Outrigger/Waka Ama Program is helping young Maori and Pacific Island youth to build their strength and resilience through reconnecting with their cultural values.”

Ms Tuira-Waldon said it was great to see the importance of culture highlighted at the recent 2nd World Indigenous Suicide Prevention Conference held in Perth.

Some of the young people attended the conference, thanks to support from the WA Primary Health Alliance (WAPHA), the organisation who is leading the Peel, Rockingham and Kwinana (PaRK) Suicide Prevention Trial.

Ms Tuira-Waldon has been representing the local Maori and Pacific Island community on the Trial’s Steering Group since its inception.

“Through this group, I have been able to partner with WAPHA to educate my community about suicide awareness by delivering programs and meeting the needs of the community,” Ms Tuira-Waldon said.

WAPHA Suicide Prevention Trial Site Coordinator, Chloe Merna, confirmed the Trial has a focus on young people aged 16 to 24, and the communities involved are Peel, Rockingham, Kwinana, Pinjarra and Waroona.

“We were really pleased to have Tina and her team of young Maori leaders attend the conference, so they could gain a better understanding of why Indigenous communities experience much higher rates of suicide than non-Indigenous communities and what they can do to be part of the solution,” Ms Merna said.

The PaRK Steering Group was first convened by community members in 2016 in response to suicides occurring in the Rockingham and Mandurah areas and comprises representatives with lived experience, government and non-government agencies, and health services.

Due to the strong link between depression and suicide, a key focus for the group is to raise awareness of depression among young people and the wider community, in order to decrease the stigma around mental health and encourage people to open up.

Ms Merna said, “I can’t emphasise enough the importance of talking to friends and family or someone you trust about how you are feeling, especially if you are having suicidal thoughts.

“Also, young people should not be afraid to reach out for professional help, as depression responds well to treatment and there are many local organisations who can help.

“Your GP is a great place to start but the teams at the headspace centres in Rockingham and Mandurah are also fantastic to talk to.”

Access a list of local organisations you can reach out to.


Media Contact

Fiona Clark, Corporate Affairs Advisor, WA Primary Health Alliance
Tel: 0437 563 735 Email: fiona.clark

To access a pdf version of this media release, download here



If you find yourself in an emergency, or at immediate risk of harm to yourself or others, please contact emergency services on 000. Other 24-hour services include: Lifeline 13 11 14, Suicide Call Back Service 1300 659 467 and Kids Helpline 1800 55 1800.

About the Trial

The Australian Government selected the Perth South (Peel, Rockingham and Kwinana) region as one of 12 national Suicide Prevention Trial Sites due to an identified high suicide rate in these areas, that has continued over an extended period.

The objective of the Trial Sites is to find the most effective approaches to suicide prevention for at-risk populations and share this knowledge across Australia.

The four-year Trial will run until June 2020 when its findings and outcomes will be evaluated by the Australian Government, as part of a national evaluation.