Australian group Haka for Life helps Kiwis across the Tasman deal with mental health

Mental health advocates across the Tasman say suicide rates among Kiwis living in Australia are on the rise.

Many New Zealanders work in isolated places like mines and face financial stress because there's no access to social welfare.

But there's an organisation that helps by using haka.

The subtle sound of a haka quietly rehearsed in a park at sunset. To a Kiwi eye, this is Aotearoa. But it's here, in Sydney's CBD where Kiwis gather.

"We actually represent us, proud to be Māori," one person said.

And that comes with responsibility.

"As older people, we are here to support our rangatahi and just knowing that we are here, it just feels that you are being awhi'd," another said.

The group is called Haka for Life. From the heights of Sydney's Harbour Bridge to events all over Australia, they're harnessing the emotional power of haka to help men speak out about anxiety, depression and suicide.

"It's a haka for life, it's a stand for them while they live," said founder Leon Ruri.

If anyone knows how important that is, it's Ruri.

"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."

Like many Kiwis, he now calls Perth home, documenting his journey while founding Haka for Life to help others along the way.

More than half a million Kiwis call Australia home, many of them Māori who have been raised here in Australia. Haka helps connect them to their second home.

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

But he said it's important.

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

A haka for life, which could help save one.