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Slade McFarland has become a dedicated field officer with MATES In Construction, leading the charity’s new work with Kainga Ora

Former Maori All Black Slade McFarland joins MATES In Construction

Slade McFarland, stalwart of North Harbour, Chiefs, Blues, Crusaders and Maori All Blacks rugby teams, is pulling on a new jersey as he joins MATES In Construction as a dedicated field officer to help with their new work with Kainga Ora.


After launching in October 2019, MATES In Construction is now engaging with Kainga Ora to provide its suicide prevention programme to build partners and also a key site in Auckland ahead of rolling out nationwide. Initially, three Kainga Ora build partners – Miles Construction, Signature Homes and Property Partners Group and Home – will provide the MATES training to hundreds of workers at building sites across Auckland. Workers at Kainga Ora’s major Greys Avenue development project in central Auckland will also engage in the MATES programme.

The former hooker knows all about putting his head down and getting stuck in, he says. “After playing professional rugby for 16 years, including three years in France, I joined the real world of 6am–5pm working life. I started labouring and laying concrete, and have been active as a youth worker, workplace drug tester and a health and safety officer. Now a suicide prevention educator with MATES, I can’t think of anything as useful as helping our Kiwi men and women in the construction industry,” Mr McFarland says.

“It hasn’t been an easy transition with a young family and the workplace stresses, let alone life stresses that we all experience, but to have this job, to educate people that there is a serious issue in our community, is really important to me. Change can only happen when the gift of knowledge around suicide is shared, not just for ourselves, but the wider community, through each participant involved with Kainga Ora.

“I am looking forward to working with Kainga Ora as one of the MATES partners, bringing awareness about suicide to all who are involved with their projects nationwide. I’m hoping to spread the knowledge that suicide affects our community. To be involved in suicide prevention is to share the skills to reduce the statistics, because to save one life, is one life we don’t lose through suicide. Like our slogan says, it’s about ‘mates helping mates’.”

Significant strides forward

Following the successful launch of MATES In Construction last year, the charitable initiative has made a number of significant strides forward. MATES In Construction is already active across numerous construction sites in Auckland, including Commercial Bay, Pacifica, Westfield Newmarket, 10 Madden Street, the Sylvia Park expansion and the Auckland City Mission redevelopment. MATES is also working alongside a rapidly growing number of organisations to deliver the programme.

MATES In Construction NZ CEO Victoria McArthur: “Working with Kainga Ora is a major step for MATES In Construction”

Victoria McArthur, CEO of MATES In Construction NZ, says: “Working with Kainga Ora is a major step for MATES In Construction. Kainga Ora is an organisation that involves and supports so many people nationwide, and their engagement shows how seriously we need to work together to reduce our significant suicide numbers.

“Slade is a brilliant person to lead our work with Kainga Ora. Not only has he spent time on construction sites, but his mana is such that he will make a tremendous difference to people across Aotearoa. In his role Slade will not only deliver training, but he will also create the valuable community aspect to Kainga Ora that we talk about. He will become known on the sites around the country which will enable a trusted relationship to develop,” Ms McArthur says.

“Our industry is really getting behind this programme. There has been so much positive reaction to the help that we are bringing to sites, but there is still a long way to go. We need many more organisations to partner with us so we can deliver our programme more widely and spread our message – be a mate to help a mate – that everyone can do something about this.”

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