Mataku-Ariki de Roo
Patua Te Taniwha
To those who feel the call to work in this field, Mataku-Ariki says: "Think from the heart, not the mind."
Patua Te Taniwha Charitable Trust was established in May 2019 by Mataku-Ariki de Roo. After the loss of her father to suicide, and a delayed grief response, Mataku-Ariki experienced suicidal ideation herself. Luckily, she reached out for help; however, she found that the support she received from the health system didn’t benefit her in the long term. “I learned that Te Ao Māori was more beneficial for me,” she says. “Instead of medication and six weeks counselling, which was not long enough, I found the ngahere, the wai, the marae, wairua which is ongoing and accessible.”
She began her mahi in this field working as a volunteer for HopeWalk in 2018. “I shared my story of losing my Dad for the first time, not being able to grieve and then experiencing the ripple effect myself. A lot of people opened up and shared their stories, and asked me where the help was.”
After organising a Hope picnic and getting an enthusiastic response from Māori, Mataku-Ariki decided to create a charitable trust. “I wanted to create a kaupapa Māori space, to get more Māori to come and talk and share.” She reached out to friends who had also experienced loss from suicide and asked them to help establish Patua Te Taniwha Trust. Currently, the other Trust members are Cassie Thompson, Anahera Waaka-Stockman and Camilla Ransfield. The Trust has been very active. “We had one hui and we came up with five kaupapa," Mataku-Ariki says, laughing.
First was Hikoi For Life, a kaupapa Māori version of HopeWalk. Not long after, they held Waiata in the Pā, a music event. “The focus of this kaupapa was to use marae,” Mataku-Ariki says. So far, Waiata in the Pā has been held at Pikirangi Marae, Waitetī Marae, and another is planned for 2021 at Te Takinga Marae. Musicians from around the Bay of Plenty come to perform, and there is a rangatahi space for young people to sing. Xmas in the Wai is the Trust’s end of year whakanuia celebration where around 100 tamariki have a swim, a spa, engage in fun activities, and share kai, free of charge. Hoe 4 Life is their hoe waka kaupapa, using traditional paddle boating. “The idea of that is to connect whānau with each other, themselves, and the wai.” Finally, there is Ride 4 Life, a motorcycle awareness ride. “We knew going for that approach would pull in more men, as you know men are higher in the (suicide) statistics then women.” The ride is from Rotorua, to Murupara, to Kawerau to Maketu, and was first held in March 2021, drawing 100 riders from around the rohe.
In addition to these five kaupapa, the trust has organised other initiatives such as Wāhine Walking (a walk for wāhine through the Redwood ngahere for wellbeing and support) and a healing wānanga for whānau bereaved by suicide. A healing expo for tohunga is planned for this year. “I want to make sure our tohunga are valued. They have been instrumental in my own healing,” says Mataku-Ariki. At each event, Māori hauora and other service providers are invited to hold space and provide information. There are future plans to make these spaces more interactive, to fully engage tamariki and rangatahi.
So, what makes these projects unique? Mataku-Ariki says, “Definitely led by the bereaved, for the bereaved. We’re not clinicians or counsellors, we’re real people with real losses, who’ve learnt from them, and we’re more than happy to give advice and support and navigate whānau to supports that are actually effective and beneficial. Our Trust is a whānau, we have rongoā available, a wairua space, and mirimiri at Waiata at the Pā and our healing wānanga. We incorporate that into our kaupapa, so its not just sit there and listen. It opens up all your senses, it’s about connecting our whānau with each other and themselves.”
To those who feel the call to work in this field, Mataku-Ariki says “Think from the heart, not the mind. With the Trust, we’ve been a more do-ey than hui. We’re trying to flip the script with suicide awareness - don’t just talk about it, do it - in a safe manner, in a safe space. Safety is always paramount. Keep it real and realistic.”