Billboards featuring members of E Tū Wairoa, the home grown, whānau-first movement to rid Wairoa of violence, have sprung up at either end of the town’s famous bridge.
Flags promoting the E Tū Whānau values will also be hung from lamp posts along the bridge.
Wairoa is a local network of whānau, community leaders, kuia and kaumātua which encourages and supports whānau from all backgrounds to live violence free lives.
Building on cultural strengths
Members came together two years ago, inspired by the E Tū Whānau movement’s kaupapa encouraging a collective stance against violence based on the unique cultural strengths of Te Ao Māori.
Since then they’ve established separate support groups for tāne and wāhine, held community events and have actively promoted the E Tū Whānau Charter of Commitment. The Charter and information on the group’s kauapapa is currently on display at the Wairoa Council offices and has resulted in scores of new signatories.
E Tū Wairoa spokesperson, Te Pare Meihana says members of the group could see for themselves the problems violence was creating within families and decided to take action.
“We want our tamariki and mokopuna to grow up in violence free whānau because we believe that everyone deserves a safe and happy life.”
Te Pare says she took part in the billboard campaign to make sure women had a voice.
“I want to encourage women who are in abusive relationships to seek change for themselves as well as for their children and their partners.”
Social worker, Tevita Pasikala also appears on the billboard holding his baby daughter Mereana Pasikala and standing alongside his eldest son Kaihau Pasikala.
Tevita says his passion for helping men understand and manage their anger and take responsibility for their behaviour, stems from his childhood experience of domestic violence.
“Dad would bash mum every weekend, after a few beers. I always knew that was wrong and that I would never be like him. That’s why I want to stand up next to my eldest son, a future leader in our family, and declare publicly that whānau violence is unacceptable.”
Although he believes there is a lot of work to do, Tevita is heartened by signs of positive changes in many of the men he works with.
“I see more people walking away from conflict and, increasingly, I see men who are open to a conversation about changing their behaviour. That’s a positive shift.”
Dealing with addiction
Smoke-Free advocate, Anton Fasso is also taking part in the billboard campaign.
“There is always a story behind addiction. For many of the people I work with the story is not a good one. Anger against their families is a common theme. I’ve observed the impact abusive behaviour of all kinds has on people. It’s not just the physical violence. The yelling and intimidation have negative effects as well.”
Well-known kuia, Nina Buxton is another familiar face on the billboards. Now in her early 80s, Nina is a native speaker of te reo Māori and widely respected for her knowledge of tikanga Māori.
“These days, people forget that it was the men who looked after the babies, particularly the older men. They would wrap them in a blanket and carry them, papoose-style, on their backs so they could continue working. That’s what I saw as a child. Tamariki were precious and they were respected and cared for accordingly.”
A staunch supporter of the E Tū Wairoa kaupapa from its inception, ‘Aunty Nina’ came up with E Tū Wairoa’s whakatauki, ‘Te tuku tuku o te mahi tahi’, which roughly translates as, ‘It’s never too late to fix your mistakes’.
Locals passionate about change
Constable Nicki Davies, and E Tū Wairoa’s youngest enthusiast, 9-year-old Jacq Dougherty, also feature on the billboard.
E Tū Wairoa co-ordinator, Ngaire Sparkes says that everyone on the billboards either works in the field of violence prevention or are avid supporters of the E Tū Wairoa kaupapa.
“Most importantly, they’re locals who have strong personal connections to the people of Wairoa. We hope that anyone who is affected in any way by family violence will feel able to contact one of them and get the help they need.”
To contact the E Tū Wairoa network phone Ngaire Sparkes on 027 8142 249 or email firstname.lastname@example.org