Australian group Haka For Life uses Māori culture to empower young men above their depression

Australian group 'Haka For Life' uses Māori culture to empower young men above their depression

"Silence does not exist when Haka is performed"

A group in Australia have been using the haka to help rangatahi, specifically young men, overcome their depression and other mental health issues. 

'Haka For Life', founded by New Zealander Leon Ruri, specifically aim to help out Kiwis living in Australia and they use Māori culture to do it.

“Many men live in silence, struggling to communicate with those around them. This struggle often challenges them to understand the positive meaning of life. Silence does not exist when Haka is performed,” Leon said on the day.

“It requires a man’s vulnerability to truly express himself, but in doing so, makes him incredibly powerful in his communication to others.”

Leon believes connecting with his heritage helped him overcome his demons, so started 'Haka For Life' back in 2017 in the hope others could do the same. Within just four weeks he had managed to organise 200 people for an ANZAC day haka that raised awareness for men’s mental health issues. 

"I don't want to haka for them when they're gone. I want to haka for them when they're alive,” Leon told Newshub. 

"My story had a lot of mistakes. Years and years of mental turmoil, not knowing the impact of mental and sexual abuse and physical abuse as a young kid in New Zealand. Connecting to culture and medicines of my culture has transformed my life,” he shared. 

There are around 500,000 New Zealanders living across the Tasman, many of which are Māori, and the events the group run are aimed at helping people connect to their culture by showing them the beauty of it. 

“We're aware people might be a bit whakama and embarrassed they don't connect to their culture," Leon said.

“It’s a haka for life, it’s a stand for them while they live.”