E Tū Whānau kahukura, Norm Hewitt has a big heart, a sharp mind and a great deal of faith in the potential within us all for positive change. He says that we all have the power within to make choices that create change, no matter how hard that choice may be.
The former New Zealand Māori Rugby team captain and All Black says his involvement with E Tū Whānau confirms that belief.
“E Tū Whānau invites us to sit down, have a cuppa tea and start an honest conversation. It encourages people on a journey of understanding, forgiveness and healing.
“It doesn’t pretend to have ‘the answers’ or claim that ’we can fix you’. Instead it provides people with tools based on very simple values – whakapapa, aroha, whanaungatanga, tikanga, mana/manaaki and kōrero awhi,” he says.
“And I love the conversations it starts about that journey toward positive change.
“Recently I had the privilege of sitting with a kuia on a marae in Te Kaha and she shared her own and others’ stories of the violence some experienced at the hands of fathers who had returned, traumatised, from war and how that has affected generations of whānau.
“It’s not up to just one person to solve problems of violence and negativity. It’s up to the hapū, iwi and whānau to talk openly, honestly and with aroha about the roots of these issues. That is a good starting point in breaking the cycle of violence and creating hope for the future.”
Making Good Men
Norm knows this from experience. His journey to understand the root of his own anger and violent behaviour as a teenager lead him to uncover patterns of inter-generational violence.
The aroha and strength his parents show in facing up to these hard truths and working through them as a whānau is movingly shown in the documentary, Making Good Men.
Making Good Men is about the violence Norm inflicted on actor Manu Bennett when they were both schoolboys at Te Aute College, and their shared and personal journeys to heal the scars of that encounter.
Norm, who works within the E Tū Whānau kauapapa to support tāne and whānau in their own journey of positive change, has offered the documentary to E Tū Whānau as a tool to support discussion.
“It only takes one person in the whānau to start that conversation. It takes courage but the outcome can be transformational.”
Norm’s induction into the E Tū Whānau kauapapa marks the beginning of another part of his journey to be the best man he can be.
“I stayed on various marae, talked with kuia and kaumātua, listened to people, went to a tangi to honour a man of great stature in his rohe and visited communities where people are working really hard alongside whānau to create hope. I’m very grateful for the way people invited me into their lives, offered me that cuppa tea and a very good kōrero.”
He says that E Tū Whānau has taken him back to grassroots and validated what he was doing in his own whānau.
“I have been able to gather more tools since starting my journey with E Tū Whānau and I just want to share these tools as I know they have helped my whānau and me personally. E Tū Whānau resonates with me. It’s with me. It IS me and what’s happening in my family is awesome.”
Advocate for violence-free Aotearoa
Norm has long been an outspoken advocate for a violence free whānau. After his professional rugby career finished he joined Office of the Commissioner for Children and was exposed for the first time to the horrendous details of some of Aotearoa’s worst cases of child abuse.
“I read the reports, I know their names, I’ve seen their beautiful faces and was appalled. I asked myself, ‘how, in this day and age, can these sort of situations still be happening in our communities?’ I decided then that I wanted to help, I just didn’t know where to start or what I could do so I started asking lots of questions, listening to what was being said and seeking out people who I wanted to be around.”
Norm met people who would become mentors to him, people like the then Child’s Commissioner Roger McClay, Raymond Thompson, Trevor Grice, Herewini Jones and the late Celia Lashlie who did a lot herself to validate the role of good men within our communities. These people have been vital to Norm’s journey. He draws inspiration from their teachings today.
Changing hearts and minds
“They taught me so much about myself and how to be true in this journey. It was from them that I learnt the art of telling stories and how important that skill is in changing hearts and minds.”
He took what he learnt into schools, communities and the corporate sector.
One of his more high profile roles was with the SPCA. From 2005 to 2015 he was the public face of the ‘One of the Family’ campaign which took him into the intermediate schools throughout New Zealand with a simple message – treat your pets as one of the family.
It all comes back to the whānau and Norm believes that changing the world starts with his whānau first and he hopes to be able to influence and help others as they seek their own pathway of change.