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Atiu visit highlights serious social issues

Wednesday October 11, 2017 Written by Published in Outer Islands

Punanga Tauturu coordinator Rebeka Buchanan has visited Atiu in a bid to address social issues including domestic violence, family disputes, depression, youth offending, and mental health.


Buchanan says the trip was an opportunity for herself and Mereana Taikoko from Te Kainga to understand the extent of social problems on the island.

The pair conducted a workshop with around 30 male government workers and addressed topics which would normally be considered “off-limits”.

“All the male government workers were asked to come and listen to us,” said Buchanan.

“We spoke about depression, parenting skills, relationship issues, communication, the need to teach kids (about issues) early, and we touched on the issue of alcohol on the island.

“We also looked at suicide, ways to prevent suicide and how to avoid and address other factors.

“It was a bit different, especially going in and speaking to a large group of males. We were unsure how strong the communication and discussion would be.

“We felt positive afterwards, in that each participant would have taken at least something away from everything we spoke about.”

Buchanan said youth, youth offending, and relationships were key concerns for local leaders and parents on the island.

“The biggest issue for parents and people on Atiu is youth misbehaviour, and young people getting involved in serious relationships at a young age.

“From issues like this numerous other problems can surface, such as youth offending, recidivist offending, teen pregnancy and unhealthy relationships.

“Parents don’t know how to cope with this, or confront their children about these issues.

“Often they are worried about ‘losing’ them and opt to do nothing rather than cause further disagreements.

“We use our workshops and discussions as a way of early intervention, because the last thing we want is numerous youngsters ending up getting into trouble further down the track. Especially when it is avoidable.”

Following their discussion with government workers, Buchanan and Taikoko conducted a public forum, inviting individuals to discuss mental health and other issues.

Buchanan said that since her visit she had nominated a Punanga Tauturu liaison person who will remain on Atiu and offer support to families and individuals.

“The idea is to teach her everything I do, so she can be the Atiu coordinator.

“An appointment like this will offer Atiu and close outer islands another point of contact when battling with family disputes and other issues.

“This will also take extra pressure of police officers.”

Buchanan plans to visit another outer island in the near future.

“I’m looking to visiting Aitutaki next and I will offer support and advice to those who need it.

“There are numerous issues that dominate in the outer islands, such as domestic violence and alcohol abuse. We can change attitudes and behaviour surrounding these (issues) by using education and an open discussion platform.”

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