This story is one in a series profiling the eleven finalists in the inaugural E Tū Whānau Ann Dysart Kahukura Award 2022 which recognises and celebrates inspirational community leadership.
E Tū Whānau kahukura are those people who support, encourage and strengthen whānau by modelling values, behaviours and actions that are positive ‘footprints’ that can be followed.
Community worker/kaimahi hapori, Eugene Ryder’s personal journey took him through a challenging childhood, state care and prison onto E Tū Whānau-aligned social worker, legal student, kapa haka stalwart and dedicated husband and father. His journey is proof that the moemoeā of a better life is always achievable.
Eugene has spoken publicly about the abuse he suffered as a child in state care and the sense of belonging he found in joining the Black Power gang as a teenager. As a young parent, he came to question the gap between his own behaviour and the rules he was laying down for his tamariki, and he began to turn his dream of a better life for his whānau into reality. Despite having left school at 13, he began studying as an adult, successfully graduating with a social work degree. Eugene then began the mahi he does to this day: encouraging, supporting and advocating for gang whānau and others in communities on the margins of mainstream society
The bulk of his knowledge and expertise, however, comes from lived experience and this is what he brings to the other vital part of his mahi — encouraging pro-social behaviours that prevent inter-community conflict. Many lives, he says, have been saved and many challenges resolved through sound communication.
Eugene Ryder – inspirational kahukura
Eugene is currently studying law at Victoria University so that he can be even more effective in ensuring that those whānau he lives and works with are accorded their rights and treated with dignity. He is also currently focused on leadership development within whānau, and in the more male-dominated parts of these communities, through his role as kaimahi hapori with the He Kuaka Trust. Eugene is a truly inspirational kahukura. He lives and breathes the E Tū Whānau values, he challenges what he knows to be wrong or unjust, and he stands strong and with courage within his community and outside of it.
Eugene’s personal mahi is a living example to those around him. It inspires them to know that their hopes and dreams for themselves, their tamariki and mokopuna are achievable; that the positive parts of their lives and their communities should be acknowledged and as respected as those in any other group in society.
He aha te kai o te Rangatira? (What is the sustenance of chiefs)
He kōrero, he kōrero, he kōrero! (It is communication, it is engagement, it is talking!)