Mauke: Local NGOs and Government deliver second round of MH training

Punanga Tauturu Inc. VAWCC Rebeka Buchanan (top right) with Mauke au mama enjoying a taste of what Te Kainga’s Psychosocial Rehabilitation Programme for the elderly, mentally ill and disabled.

Empowering changes in attitudes towards mental health, disabilities and gender-based violence was the aim of a recent follow-up trip to Mauke by NGOs Te Kainga o Pa Taunga, Punanga Tauturu Women’s Counselling Centre and the Disability and Child and Family Division of the Ministry of Internal Affairs.

Around 70 people attended the four day programme that focused on fostering positive communication and action to help lift the burdens facing people with mental illness, disability, old age and living with violence.

Te Kainga Mental Health and Wellbeing Centre Co-ordinator Mereana Taikoko, who organised the programme, said the workshop was based on a previous programme implemented in 2014 which Mauke residents wanted to host again with topics on Alcohol and Substance Abuse, Gender-based Violence and training for elderly and people with disability carers.

“This time we had to partner with Punanga Tauturu and the Ministry of Internal¬† Affairs, we were able to deliver a wider range of topics based around the same social issues,” said Taikoko, “one of our issues in the Pa Enua is community-wide communication and initiative on what to do to alleviate the burden of living with mental illness, and lack of resources adds to the problem. The topics we presented centred around effective and non-violent communication in family relationships, and the values of respect and patience.”

Ministry of Internal Affaris’ Lanieta Matanatabu (top) and Annafaye Newbigging (right) with mama Irene Tuara of Mauke.


Five trainers flew to Mauke to deliver the programme, which was funded by Australia Aid and Social Impact Fund, with sponsorship from Air Raro, The Sterling Foundation Fund and Ministry of Marine Resources. Trainers included Mereana Taikoko, Mangaia Fisheries Officer Tua Matepi, Punanga Tauturu VAWCC Rebeka Buchanan, Ministry of Internal Affairs’ Lanieta Matanatabu and Annafaye Newbigging.

The target participants for the programme were Mauke youth and senior school students, however young and old attended the workshop. The team reported the participants enjoyed the workshop, and while for many the topics discussed were a refresher, for some it was an eye-opener.

Taikoko delivered training on suicide prevention, the ageing process and basic care skills for parents and caregivers of those with disabilities or mental illness and caregivers of the elderly. She also helped establish a Psychosocial Rehabilitation Programme for Mauke residents similar to the one offered at their Centre in Rarotonga.

Tua Matepi of Ministry of Marine Resources presenting to Mauke School senior students about Acohol and Drug Abuse. In the past, Matepi has been an active supporter of Alcoholics Anonymous and education on responsible drinking in the Cook Islands.


Fisheries Officer Tua Matepi, on behalf of Te Kainga, presented on Alcohol and Substance addiction, while Rebeka Buchanan of Punanga Tauturu presented on Gender-based violence, effective parenting and communication in family relationships.

“The baseline reasons for gender-based violence is power imbalance in relationships, instigated by the old social belief that women are not equal to men,” said Buchanan, “it is important to have our people be aware of the reasons domestic violence happens rather than blaming surface issues such as drinking too much alcohol.”

Ministry of Internal Affairs Child & Family Division’s Annafaye Newbigging spoke about the Convention on the Rights of the Child, children and families at risk and roles and responsibilities in the family. The general awareness and focus in her sessions comprised of both Care and Protection matters and Juvenile Justice issues.

“It is important that families and the communities get involved in finding solutions or alternative care for our children.” said Newbigging.

“Our children have been victims of neglect, abuse, truancy and other criminal activities. Adoption and other matters of custody and access of children, child support arrangements have also been seen at the Division and this can be dealt with between the parties involved, without any court proceedings, should they find the best, fairest and safe solutions suitable and in line with the best interests of the child,” she added.

Disability Division’s Lanieta Matanatabu presented on Early Identification and Intervention for people with disabilities, Understanding Persons with Disabilities, Caring for Persons with Disabilities and Basic Communication Skills with Persons with disabilities.

“The highlight of the workshop was the review of the Disability Action Plan for Mauke, which was developed around the same time last year as part of the Disability Inclusive Development Project, and although gradual changes have been identified, there is still alot of work to be done in the areas of accessibility and the elimination of stigma towards persons with disabilities,” said Matanatabu.

“Most of the challenges hindering the implementation of this Action Plan was due to the limited resources available on the island to cater for the specific needs of persons with disabilities” she added.

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