Did you know it has been nearly seven years since the Tūramarama Declaration was endorsed at the World Indigenous Suicide Prevention Conference in Rotorua? It was a momentous occasion in history, with Emeritus Professor Sir Mason Durie delivering his keynote to 600 participants on preventing Māori and indigenous suicide. He then presented a 14 point document that acknowledge bereaved whānau, historical trauma, community leadership, challenging structural barriers, creating inclusive policy and programmes, delivering health promotion and primary health initiatives, practising traditional ways of healing and promoting the indigenous suicide prevention at the United Nations and World Health Organisation.
The document has travelled the globe and many nations continue to refer to it today. Presentations at the 2nd and 3rd World Indigenous Suicide Prevention Conference in Australia and Canada including the 15th World Congress on Public Health in Melbourne, Toitū Hauora Leadership Conference 2022, Iwi Chairs Forum, and at the Poukai of Kingi Tūheitia Potatau Te Wherowhero VII (Māori King) held at Pounamu Marae in Rotorua. These are but a few of the many places it has touched.
My tribe, Ngāti Pikiao, continue to promote the Declaration through their health centre by operationalising the Declaration’s key points across their wellbeing programmes, including holding traditional Māori healing days and delivering youth leadership programmes, as well as presenting it at the 2022 Indigenous Wellbeing Conference in Canberra, Australia.
Is it enough? It is not, as buy-in to indigenous and Māori knowledge bases is very sparse and infrequent. Whilst the activity ebbs and flows, consistently promoting the Declaration is somewhat of an issue due to resourcing, leadership and the lack of supportive policy. The question we should be asking is: Are we a reactive nation as opposed to a proactive country when it comes to Māori and indigenous suicide prevention? Sir Mason Durie talks about working across a number of activities, not singling out actions perceived to be the right ones, but as contributors to the whole kaupapa. In other words, the complexity makes it difficult to determine what works.
Looking ahead, the Declaration needs to be reviewed to keep up with the ever-changing world. Now that COVID-19 and climate change are upon us, does that mean the Declaration is outdated? Especially when the country is in lockdown and experiencing daily crises, we need to ask if the drop in suicides is related to communities rallying together. Will that mean the words “unity and purpose” should be inserted into the document as the 15th point? What I do know is that Māori and indigenous nations determine what the Declaration means to them and their approaches. It is a guide and a timeless document; if it were to be changed then it would need to be returned to a global suicide prevention conference for indigenous peoples to allow this to happen. However, governments should not interfere with the document and the spirit that Sir Mason wrote it in and that the people endorsed.
Michael is in his final year of completing his PhD in Philosophy – Māori Studies. The title of his thesis is Kia Taupā te Whakamomori: Preventing Māori Suicide. Alongside this, he is the Chair of Te Mana Hauora o Te Arawa, a Trust that has been in existence since 1994. The tribal health authority covers the confederation of Te Arawa tribes within the central North Island of Aotearoa New Zealand.
100 Māori Leaders bio https://100maorileaders.com/michael-naera
Durie, Mason. (2017). Indigenous suicide: The Turamarama Declaration. Journal of Indigenous Wellbeing: Te Mauri – Pimatisiwin, 2(2), article 5. https://journalindigenouswellbeing.co.nz/media/2022/01/73.69.Indigenous-suicide-The-Turamarama-Declaration.pdf
Ngāti Pikiao and the Tūramarama journey, webinar presented at 2022 Toitū Hauora by Michael Naera https://terauora.com/the-turamarama-declaration-michael-naera/
First Nations Wellbeing Statement 2017 World Congress on Public Health https://www.phaa.net.au/documents/item/2320