"An invaluable kaupapa that is totally engaging at every level."
John Smythe for Theatreview

The Swing is a Theatre Marae project that seeks to unravel the shame and hurt that clouds and distorts the subjects of ngau whiore (sexual abuse) and whakamomori (suicide).


As the creative outcome of a kaupapa Māori community research project hosted by Massey University and Kōkiri Marae, The Swing acts as a therapeutic response to these issues.  

Te Rākau Theatre presented The Swing at Te Whaea, Aotearoa New Zealand from 22 - 24 July 2022 and was also filmed at Avalon Studio. The Swing is being developed as a digital resource to extend the vital conversation to communities in 2023.  



This show came about as a community-led response to current thinking in sexual abuse services and therapy practices — what works and what doesn't.


Writer Helen Pearse-Otene (PhD) is a registered and practising psychologist and Jim Moriarty MNZM is a registered psychiatric nurse.

For the past 20 years Jim and Helen have been working with survivors, perpetrators and family members affected by trauma as a programme facilitators, group therapists, researchers and registered mental health professionals.

Recently they worked with a group of men, women and whānau members who were sexually harmed by family members, in response-based practices, to explore ways of moving forward. Jim and Helen have brought this work to the rehearsal room floor as directors.

Through the story of one whānau dealing with incest and suicide, mirrored by the the pūrakau of Tāne Mahuta and Hine Nui Te Po, The Swing takes a detailed, researched and caring account of one family’s attempt to manage ngau whiore and navigate a process of restoration.


For most Māori drawn to group settings they have worked in, reported experiences of 1:1 talk therapies have been negative, retraumatising, judgmental and culturally irrelevant.


Kaupapa Māori group based therapies and holistic services that are provided in Māori communities – such as Iwi social services – are effective but underfunded (or not funded at all), and do not meet the standards for ACC sensitive claims services.

More recent studies in what works best in trauma therapies complements traditional Māori practices that invoke body-oriented and group-based approaches to healing.


This has informed our current research on applying the healing and educational potential of pūrākau in the context of the whare tapere (traditional house of entertainment).

THE SWING in action

As a play it weaves the pūrākau of Tānemahuta and Hinetītama to portray a whānau struggling to recover from the shadow of ngau whiore and whakamomori.


As a community based rangahau project it brings community members together to process their lived experiences and research the resonance of the pūrākau through a Māori performance practice.


As an event it opens a public space for communities to connect with the wider community, organisations, policy makers and experts tasked with addressing incest, child abuse, family violence and suicide in Aotearoa-NZ.

As a development experience it strengthens participants' understanding of complex issues in our community, creating a safe and enriching space to grow cultural capability and responsiveness.

There is an urgent need for strategies, resources, and hands-on engagement to address these issues. 


We would like to work with communities who need this kōrero brought into the light – prisons, marae, social services, hauora providers, Government agencies and training institutions, mental health hui and regional festivals to name a few.

Get in touch with us now to discuss how The Swing can help open a conversation for your community.


"Yes indeed, it most certainly does cry out to be acknowledged, celebrated and supported – on behalf of all those it seeks to serve... As theatre, The Swing is totally engaging at every level. As a kaupapa for ‘breaking the silence’ it is invaluable. It deserves unstinting support and a long life on marae, in community halls, on campuses – and in theatres and at festivals that see their roles as truly serving the interests of their communities."

John Smythe for Theatreview

"What a magnificent production - filled with wairua, with power and grace and healing and truth."

Katherine Wyeth


"I was really excited by the theatre marae form and how it both challenges and embraces what a theatre space can be. I’ve not felt so involved in theatrical storytelling or felt a theatre space was shared so fully with me as an audience member for a long time." 

Max Kirk

"The Swing is both a powerful work of art and a dialogue New Zealand must have. The Swing not only is a beautiful exploration of Māori, but it has the potential to enable people to have help in both suicide and abuse as it promotes the opportunity for them to connect with support systems. This is the opportunity for Art to exercises a social and therapeutic role that is meaningful and life changing."

Fabiola Haru Stevenson


Te Rākau received funding from Creative New Zealand to develop The Swing for an invited audience of representatives from Government, local councils, health and social service providers, counsellors, psychologists, iwi, Māori community advocates and learning institutes.