Concert unites whānau in Te Tairāwhiti affected by suicide

By Kimiora Kaire-Melbourne

Whānau within Te Tairāwhiti will come together for the Lean On Me concert to raise awareness around suicide. Suicide has been a pressing issue in the region this year.

Event organiser Tuta Ngarimu says, “The national (suicide) figure is over 500 a year and Māori factor in the highest of that, especially Māori males.  In the Tairāwhiti alone, just in Gisborne to Pōtaka, I think we’re looking at about five, with the youngest being 16.”

The concert is a family event and will be held at Whakarua Park in Ruatōrea on Saturday 5 December.  The smokefree and drug-free event will kick off at 9am, with live music, kai stalls and health service provider stalls on site.

The event aims to engage whānau during the day with guest speakers and activities that will educate people on services and health providers available to them.

“The green ribbon riders specialise in going around to schools and speaking to our kids about anti-bullying, domestic violence and suicide.  The RATS riders, which stands for Riders Against Teen Suicide, they also do the same kaupapa.  One representative from each is going to be talking on the stage on Saturday.  So in between all the acts we’ve got people doing kōrero,” Ngarimu adds.

Chad Chambers is just one of the many musical acts throwing his support behind the kaupapa, with whānau and rangatahi doing what they can to help.

Ngarimu says, “There are 40-50 people on the trust that have helped put this together.  And we’ve got Te Waiū and Kawakawa Mai Tawhiti are full on with us so a lot of the rangatahi will be volunteering during the day.”

The idea for the concert stemmed from those closely affected by suicide.

“I got approached by my cousin Vanessa Ngarimu because we lost her brother February this year.  She approached me on behalf of the whānau and just said they’re all lost you know and they just have no direction on how they can deal with that.  She suggested that maybe if we get a concert just to drive that awareness out there through that,” says Ngarimu.

There is a special reason why organisers chose music as an outlet to convey their message of suicide prevention.  Two local boys, Perohuka (Pero) Melbourne and Hamuera (Haami) Ngarimu, formed a friendship through their mutual passion for music.  Sadly Pero and Haami ended their own lives earlier this year.

“The reason why we decided to put a big concert on, initially it was all about Haami and then we lost Pero along the way, well then that made it more appropriate for us, especially when you’re listening to a waiata that both Haami and Pero wrote and they’re singing together so that’s the big reason why we chose music.”

The Lean On Me concert is just the beginning in the communities fight against suicide.

“Though the concert is big, in the kaupapa to us the concert is pretty small, it’s a small part of this but its starting that awareness out there, it's starting the kōrero out in our communities because what we’re trying to set up from the post-concert is we’ve looked at the model in Kawerau, because Kawerau had a really bad run there, I think it was one a week for 18 weeks and now the numbers have gone right down so we went over there and had a look.”

It is a koha entry for the event which will be livestreamed by Radio Ngāti Porou.

If you or anyone you know is in need of assistance there are a range of services available, there is a free resource and information service under the Mental Health Foundation on (09) 623 4812.

• Lifeline - 0800 543 354 

• Depression Helpline (8 am to 12 midnight) - 0800 111 757 

• Healthline - 0800 611 116 

• Suicide Crisis Helpline  0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO) 

• Youthline - 0800 376 633, free text 234 or email