I am Māori. Tuhinga o mua Ngāti Hāmua a Te Hika a Pāpāuma. Ko taku iwi Ngāti Kahungunua a Rangitāne.
I am Scottish, I am English, I am a New Zealander. I am not defined by the colour of my skin.
I am a victim.
I did not choose to be a victim.
I am a victim of my father’s hand. My father was brought up on the Pahiatua Marae. His mother was young, she became a victim of a kaumatua’s violence. He was conceived by violence, a tamaiti (child) of rape. The rapist was a family member.
My father was taken from his mother, away from his whānau, his iwi and his marae after his father was incarcerated. He went on to live in state care until a foster family was found. My father was taught violence by the people who were supposed to protect and nurture him. Anger followed him, the violence forever ingrained in his heart. He knew right from wrong, he had a choice. He did not stop the cycle of abuse, and he punished me for the actions of his past.
I was a child when it started, an adult when it stopped. Like his father, he was incarcerated for crimes of child abuse, violence and rape. I did not choose to be a victim, but I chose not to harm others. I broke the ongoing cycle of generational abuse. The cycle of abuse that was carried through three generations of Māori stopped with me. . .
“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” – These are the words of Viktor Frankl a concentration camp survivor.
Maanki’s abuse wasn’t at the hand of strangers, driven by political ideology but by her own father, carrying on the violence he had been a victim of himself.
She has had the strength and the compassion to end that cycle of abuse.
“Take care of our children. Take care of what they hear, take care of what they feel. For how the children grow, so will be the shape of Aotearoa.” Dame Whina Cooper. Mohio ana ahau ko wai ahau, e mohio ana ahau ki te wahi e tu ana ahau. Me puta te huringa – I know who I am, I know where I stand. Change must happen.
At the recent Justice Summit in Wellington, Cabinet minister Kelvin Davis shared these words: “As Māori we need to take care of our own, rather than closing our doors. We need to face up to and free ourselves from the violence that many of our people, our whānau, struggle with.”
If we want to see fewer Māori in prison, our whānau broken apart because dad is in prison and mum is now in rangi (heaven), we must free ourselves and our whānau from the increasing level of domestic violence and abuse in our homes. The drugs must stop, the high level of drinking and violence among our own must be gone.
How many of our fathers are incarcerated, because their fathers taught them the only way to deal with anger was violence, to punch their way through a situation. How many of our whānau have lost a mother, a child, a brother from our people’s own hand.
We can’t choose our parents and children learn what they live. But they can be like Maanki and choose not to repeat it.
The blame needs to stop. It is not the police, the system, the state, the Government, the justice system or even the Pākehā who made a man beat his wife to death, to rape an innocent stranger, to murder their own child or to sexually abuse a daughter or son.
Blaming doesn’t solve problems. People have to take responsibility for their own behaviour regardless of what has been one to them.
No, it was a choice, a choice made by a perpetrator. Māori make up 51 per cent of the male prison population, and 60 per cent of the female muster.
No child asks to be harmed, nor to watch their dads beating their mums. If we were all true to our Māori traditions, our tikanga respecting the mothers of our children, our whānau, our honour, keeping our whānau safe would be paramount. Māori need to take an honest inward look at their own ongoing behaviours first. Our children need to have the chance to grow up safe, educated and free from violence.
Davis went on to say: “We need to do something together to create a different future for Māori and for their whānau.”
This cycle needs to stop. The men, the fathers, the grandfathers, the elders in prison who have abused their own need to stand up, take ownership and responsibility and say “Enough”. No more blaming everybody and everything for the crimes offenders have chosen to commit.
Prison is a punishment for those who have committed crimes; prison is not based on the colour of your skin. If you are sent to prison it is because you committed a crime, a choice made only by you.
To see a future with fewer Māori men and Māori women in prison will take more than talks and hui. It starts with Māori, rethinking and reteaching the respect, the whakaute, to our children and to one another. It will be a hard, long road but one that will benefit out future generations, to help our tamariki grow not as offenders, but strong, happy iwi that will have a positive influence on future generations to come.
Hapaitia tea ra tika pumua ai te rangatiratanga mo nga uri whakatipu – Foster the pathway of knowledge and strength, independence and growth for future generations.
This reminds me of a story related by Anthony Robins in Awaken the Giant Within.
He told of two men who went through childhood with their father in prison or out committing the crimes which led him back to prison.
One went on to follow his father’s example. The other got an education, had a successful business, married happily and had children and gave back to his community.
Robins asked both men the same question: why did you follow this path?
Both gave the same answer: with a father like mine what else could I do?
It is easy for someone like me, brought up by parents who loved each other and their children, who has a happy marriage with love and support from wider family and friends to talk about making the right choices.
It is so much harder for those who haven’t had good examples to follow and don’t know that love. But Maanki knows how bad the wrong path is, has chosen to take the right one and is providing an example of how to stop the cycle.