Passion for workers’ wellbeing

Serena Lyders, of Te Puta­hitanga o Te Waipounamu. Photo: Yvonne O'Hara
Serena Lyders, of Te Puta­hitanga o Te Waipounamu. Photo: Yvonne O'Hara
Serena Lyders, of Tokanui, comes from five generations of shearers, grew up among shearers, is married to a sheep and beef farmer, her three sons are shearers and her 2-year-old granddaughter already has her own miniature woolshed broom.

As a result, Mrs Lyders is passionate about the wool­harvesting industry and the health and wellbeing of its workers.

She is a Manukura navigator leader and mentor, working for Te Putahitanga o Te Waipounamu, which is the Whanau Ora commissioning agency for the South Island.

She said it was run by the nine iwi in the South Island and received funding from Te Puni Kokiri from Vote Whanau Ora.

Mrs Lyders intends to develop a proposal for an online digital platform service, which wool harvesters can access 24 hours a day for health, social, welfare, addiction, counselling, governmental and financial literacy services.

She was at the New Zealand Merino Shearing competition in Alexandra earlier this month to talk to shearers about their views and experiences around accessing those services, which can be difficult for them as they frequently work long hours in isolated areas.

‘‘I was doing research about social and health support for the shearing industry workers, and about what the workers need because of the hours they do,’’ she said.

‘‘Industry workers are transient, with a high Maori population, and there are a lot of contributing factors, which make it difficult for them to access health and social support.

‘‘I grew up in the industry and have been in shearing sheds all my working life.

‘‘I went to university when I was 30 but I know how difficult it is for people [to access health services].’’

The research will contribute to her proposal, which she wants to present to her board in about six months’ time.

Mrs Lyders said feedback from shearers and woolhandlers included difficulties accessing counselling and addiction support, the need for parenting information, as well as questions around IRD, child support, family entitlement payments.

She has identified gaps within the industry with financial literacy, family violence and mental health issues. 

‘‘Whanau Ora is about enabling them to work on their strengths and develop confidence to build positive pathways to improve their situation, including budgeting, financial literacy and long term financial planning.’’ 

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