World Indigenous Suicide Prevention Conference - Roturua, New Zealand - #WISPC
connection - is the single most significant word that could sum up my time at the #WISPC2016.
A cultural gathering from First Nation, Indigenous peoples from across the globe. I feel extremely honoured to partake in such an important event, as right across the world map, it is our First Nations Indigenous peoples all face high suicide rates with our peoples.
The conference bought together both youth and adults under the one venue roof but in separate sections, in order to open separate conversations as to why our rates are so high & what preventative measures we can collectively put in place to help heal our communities from the hurt n loss of a loved one who has died by way of suicide.
I have always known how musically talented NZ Maori are, but to hear over 500 Individuals sing with the beautiful harmonies was truly spine tingling. A beautiful sight and amazing sound.
The conference speakers bought together a range of statistic based data and lived experience through attempts to bereavement - a massive range of experience.
No matter if the person next to us were a stranger, we would reach out and cuddle an upset person as I mentioned before, a connection that is hard to understand or document as its a feeling rather than an action.
Day 1 - delivered to the youth section, there were a number of students and young ppl. I spoke of many topics, mostly my resilience to stay in the grind when my mind would tell me otherwise. Many students remained bedind to have a chat because of the nature of the speech, especially around this topic of suicide.
There was a fair contingent of our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mob attending so it was great to see and know some familiar faces.
Having touched on the word connection earlier, I found it profound just how spiritually connected our first peoples from around the world are. Having met some of the people for the first time, after a short conversation, you could feel how close, emotionally & spiritually connected we are. Many connections, from our rituals & smoking ceremonies, our belief systems, song & dance ceremonies & connection to the land, our Mother Earth.
The major connection & the main reason we were all bought together was the impact suicides were having on our communities.
The same issues of racism, generational trauma, among many other issues. A common thread was not diagnosed mental illness, but generational oppression from all cultures having our land and culture stolen away and continuous disempowerment by the national governments
In sharing our stories - between our group of First Nation Australians & many peoples from across the globe, they could not believe the treatment that still goes on with many of our communities, & the sad thing is, many non Indigenous Australians have no idea as its not printed in mainstream media or television news outlets - and we are often seen as whinging or crying poor.
We shared how it is our brothers & sisters in Northern Territory are living in a modern apartheid - where blacks are forced to live off basics cards for food and groceries, forced to wait outside licensed establishments not allowed to be served due to colour of skin or because they have met their 'quota' for the day. Our brothers & sisters from across the seas, could not believe our incarceration rates - many locked up for petty crimes on their 1st offence. We even received comment of 'we thought we had it tough, it's disgusting and disrespectful how your people are treated'
Our replies to many empathetic comments was that 'we will continue our fight' as our old people have done for 228 years - one day at a time, we will continue to our fight path back to cultural recognition and representation in communities throughout our country, because it 'Always was; always was - Aboriginal land'
I was lucky enough to be given the opportunity to deliver a 1 hour keynote on the main stage about my story of life, family, sport, our culture & my story of suicide. I was so honoured and grateful to be able to share struggles with people from around the world and being able to light the candle of hope for each and every one of those in the room - & fortunate enough to share my story for many who had no idea of who I am, my background or my story. My keynote was also live streamed and many family & friends were able to view live as many of them have not seen me deliver my messages live to an audience - the feed thus far has had 30 shares & reached over 11,000 people.
Stream can be seen here
As I write this on the plane on my way home to Australia, I get a sense of determination to stay in the fight for our survival every single day, survival of culture and of self - in outing racism, oppression and of course, help to end the pain and sadness of suicide across our communities. One thing that rang loud and clear with me in a conversation with one of the Maori aunties - 'you have to stay at it, stay in that fight for your people today, the youth & elders & most importantly your ancestors who have passed before you - we here (in New Zealand) were in the same position as you guys about 50 years ago, the Pahkia (white man) will soon realise how beautiful your true culture is & your people are, & we will walk as one throughout the world.
The conference was a loving & spiritually powerful few days - I am so grateful to be alive to share my story and as I reflect on my way home, tomorrow I continue my journey of helping others who battle mental illness & the pain of suicide & suicidal ideation across the globe.
Tomorrow I join my close friend Lauren Breen Tolkin (www.laurenbreen.com.au) as we jet off to USA to our join our US family Kevin Hines (www.kevinhinesstory.com) & his very cool wife Margaret on yet another month long speaking tour - bringing people hope; because HopeHelpsHeal!!! #HopeHelpsHealTour