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Learning to dive in order to rise

Tu Ora Compass Health has launched a new programme called Hi Ika to support local rangatahi [youth] in their transition to adulthood, with a focus on diving.

Local diver Dalkeith Matiaha, who is part of the Tu Ora Maori and population health team, developed the programme to teach leadership and diving skills to young people as a means to improve their health and wellbeing.

Matiaha said Hi Ika was based on the core values of his dive crew, The Brothaz of Tangaroa, which he founded in 2015.

The initial group of six to eight boys are learning about traditional fishing and kai [food] gathering practices as well as learning about tikanga [Maori customs], te taiao [nature], and whakapapa [lineage].

The 12-week programme started last week with a formal welcome, followed by a session at the Masterton pool, with lessons on water safety and breathing techniques.

Matiaha said it was important to get the basics correct before heading out to the coastline.

“We never had that growing up; we were just thrown in the water and told to hold the bag, and if you didn’t, you got in trouble, either from your elders or from the sea.

“The start-to-finish process isn’t just getting in the car going to get the kai and then that’s it; there’s so much more depth to that which needs to be expressed and taught,” he said.

“With the amount of water-related incidents happening today, it’s clear there are areas that need to be addressed. The focus seems to be more about getting the biggest and best catch, pushing our limits, and taking unnecessary risks.

“We need to channel that focus to the things that are important, like doing our part to protect and sustain our resources and making sure getting home safely is the priority of our dive.”

Matiaha said the programme Hi Ika is about creating great leaders, not great divers.

“The guts of Hi Ika and the Brothaz of Tangaroa kaupapa [mission] is built around the very first practice known to mankind – to hunt, gather, and provide – not because of what it is, but because of the values that come from that.”

Tu Ora population health manager Rawiri Blundell said the mainstream education system has “not always been conducive to how our rangatahi learn” and that Hi Ika “is addressing some of those issues”.

“To place them into a learning environment they feel connected to and feel confident in contributing, that is success,” Blundell said.

“Our rangatahi want to be heard and be listened to in their daily lives. Hi Ika ensures their feelings, thoughts, and views are valued and that their input is celebrated.

“When we have Maori mentors that actually have skin in the game and understand some of the challenges that our rangatahi Maori are having, it helps to ensure that the environment is safe for them.”

At the recent programme launch in Carterton, Matiaha said Hi Ika aims to empower young people to find their full potential in every aspect of life.

“It’s about ensuring the knowledge and tikanga of our tipuna [ancestors] continues to flourish in future generations.

“Our future leaders won’t always come with a clean slate and the best grades, some will come with battle wounds and a lifetime of disappointment, we need to invest in them too.”

Flynn Nicholls
Flynn Nicholls
Flynn Nicholls is a reporter at the Wairarapa Times-Age who regularly writes about education. He is originally from Wellington and is interested in environmental issues and public transport.

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