More support needed for Maori men struggling in Australia

The number of Māori men living in Australia and taking their own lives is increasing.

Suicide Prevention Australia chairman Mathew Tukaki says that for every Māori man who takes his own life, 20 more attempt suicide.

“The suicide rate amongst the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population is quite high and so when you have a look at the break down of ethnic groups across Australia, you see the 'creepage' or the growing number of Māori particularly in the state of Queensland and New South Wales.”

Contributing factors impacting Māori men working in Australia’s mining and construction industries include absence from families and financial stress, as well as workplace bullying, and access to drugs and alcohol.

In an interview with Te Ao Māori News, he says that there is more support for Indigenous Australians, citing men’s groups that meet once a month to talk about what was going on in their lives. 

“That has a massive amount of impact and it's only a very simple thing to do," he says.

“When you come to New Zealand there's not the breadth or depth of services available for Māori men.”

Mental health advocate Ezekiel Raui said Māori services available in New Zealand did not necessarily connect with Māori families living in Australia.

“When you grow up from te ao Māori view, the idea of stepping into a generic service, into a system that wasn't necessarily built to cater or speak to our needs can become quite difficult," he says.

Tukaki said tailored solutions needed to be developed for people in Māori communities, wherever those communities were.

Last August, New Zealand’s Ministry of Justice reported an escalation in Māori suicide, the highest levels since records began.

There were a reported 142 Māori deaths from July 2018-June 2018 and 97 were men, a 12 per cent rise on the previous year (overall, 668 New Zealanders died by suicide).

A 2017 report from UNICEF listed New Zealand as having the highest teen suicide rate in the developed world – more than double that of Australia. The youth suicide rate among the community was 84 per cent greater than for those who were non-Māori.

Further Reading

Stuff: New Zealander Suicide Records highest since records began 

SBS News: Maori boys trying to defy the statistics.

Culture key to suicide prevention among Indigenous Australians, experts say, ahead of global discussion- ABC News (2017)

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