Pacific community combats drowning problem
Mon, 25 Jun 2012 12:14p.m.
By Sanele Chadwick
New Zealand's Pacific community is coming together to combat the fact their community is over represented in drowning statistics.
Among those working to educate about the dangers of the sea is Reverend Ikilifi Lui Pope - a man not only concerned with saving souls, but also saving lives.
Reverend Pope wears a life jacket during his sermons and encourages his congregation to wear them too. He says water safety is a problem for Pacific Islanders living in New Zealand.
"They have to take seriously the context of New Zealand and follow the rules, otherwise they're going to be in trouble - big trouble," he says.
For many Pacific Islanders the ocean is their life, but in New Zealand it also takes life.
Between 2007 and 2011 there were 46 drownings involving Pacific people, and 32 of those were in the Auckland region alone.
Unfamiliarity with local waters, unsafe fishing practices and not using floatation devices are some of the reasons given as to why the Pacific drowning rate is so high.
"You've got the people who have come from the Pacific where the waters are so different," says WaterSafe Auckland chief-executive Sandy Harrop.
WaterSafe Auckland is also working with the community to overcome these issues.
"You don't tie the net to your foot, you use a pole or a post to anchor the net, and you wear your lifejacket, your floatation [device]," says Ms Harrop.
The most recent Pacific Island drownings were 45-year-old So'Saia Pa'asi and his seven year old son Tio, who were found dead after their dinghy capsized in the Manukau Harbour in May.
The Pacific community banded together then and are banding together now to ensure the next generation are well equipped.
"Think you're the head of the house, the head of the family. You're the provider of the family, if you're going to do these activities you want to come home safely, so look after yourself," Ms Harrop says.
Reverend Pope is taking care of his church family too as well as spreading the safety message he has helped to develop a programme called 'Day Skipper'.
"We run the course for their safety and know how to check the boats, make everything right before they leave to their fishing," he says.
Those who take part in the course are recognised with a certificate, and for some it can be a life changing experience.
The water safety message is one catch Pacific people need to get and it is hoped the tide will soon change.
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25/06/2012 4:54:38 p.m.
Umm learning to swim, don't get on da piss,dont take the kids on da boat.Dont take risks.
25/06/2012 1:26:00 p.m.
Good on them! A good idea, especially when the Church stands up alongside their people and say enough is enough.
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