White Ribbon Hui



A DIVERSE group of men took part in the White Ribbon Men’s Hui recently. Over 40 men, from a variety of roles and experiences connected to family violence, travelling from all over the north island, to meet and discuss ways to build a more connected approach to engaging men as part of the solution.

The weekend began with a White Ribbon breakfast, featuring speeches from ambassadors Alfred Ngaro and retiring Chief Family Court Judge Peter Boshier. The 50 breakfast guests were also treated to entertainment from the Gisborne Boys High School choir.

In his welcome, Mayor Meng Foon congratulated the white ribbon message. It was a necessary thing for men across the region, country and world to stand up together and admit first of all that there was a problem, he said. “And secondly to do something about it. It’s not OK to you know what. I’ll say it — it’s not OK to hit our women.”

“DAD, it’s me”, were three words that stopped Alfred Ngaro from hitting his eldest son over the loss of a pair of shoes. As a graduate of Bible College, Mr Ngaro said his reaction to the situation was a shock as he was supposed to be “one of the good guys”.

Many men had not had the positive male role model of a father in their lives but that did not stop them from being one themselves, said Mr Ngaro as he recounted the story of pinning his son up against a wall.

“Something was wrong with that picture. I was a contributing citizen, I had been an electrician, I had even gone to Bible College where supposedly you were meant to learn about giving people good news.
“Yet to my own son, instead of giving him love and care and a sense of discernment, I gave him my judgement and was about to give him my pain.” The first thing his wife said to him after the incident was, “you need to go back and see your dad”.

That began his journey to restore the relationship with his father. “I had to forgive my dad because he didn’t have what he could give to me. His dad died when he was young so he didn’t have a father figure.”

Although it was like “preaching to the converted”, he wanted to share the message with the practitioners who did the mahi, that to be champions of change the challenge was you had to be a champion of change yourself.

Introduced as a dad, a “sparky” and a Member of Parliament, Mr Ngaro was a handy man who knew how to make a difference and the power of change when people got together. Family violence had been around since the world began and human beings were there, he said.

“This is nothing new, but what are we going to do about this issue?” A face of the It’s not OK family violence campaign and a White Ribbon Ambassador, Alfred is spreading the message in Parliament as a National Party list MP.

The Gisborne Boys’ High School choir sang three songs and were acknowledged by the speakers as the future generation to carry on the message of anti-violence.

New White Ribbon ambassador, Gisborne District Councillor and TMAV co-founder Manu Caddie, with Judge Boshier, Alfred Ngaro and Brian Gardner 

Former Boys’ High student, Judge Peter Boshier, said he was always very proud to return home. Pausing before you engaged was the simple message the Principal Family Court Judge wanted the participants at the men’s hui to take back to their communities.

Judge Boshier said New Zealand was still too much of an impulsive nation for contact. Combining the recent re-think of how the rugby scrum was played was a useful analogy that could be applied to road rage and family violence, he said.

“One of the huge powerful forces of any rugby team is that scrum. And yet things have changed a bit with the concept of what a scrum is and what its purpose is.”
It had moved from the “crunching terrible exercise” to “crouch, pause and engage”.

“I want to seize on that. Why we wanted to change that part of the scrum is because it pays to settle what it is that you are going to do before you do it. “I would like us to pause before we engage and it’s my sort of rearrangement of the new scrum.”

New Zealand’s attitude had changed with smoking and drink-driving but there was still too much violence, he said.

“There’s still too much of an impulsive nature;  we are still going for contact before we think. “What if in all the instances of family violence someone had just paused and thought before they engaged. A split second later it might not have seemed like a good idea.

“I would really like us men in Gisborne, which is a leader in this field, to begin the attitude to change.”

A slight change in the programme, resulting from the unavailability of Whānau of the late Dr Pat Ngata, saw the hui move to Tauawhi Men’s Centre for a presentation from counsellor Tangi Hepi. It was also an opportunity for Co-ordinator Tim Marshall to share the journey that had resulted in the establishment of Tauawhi.

Tangi presented a simplified form of transactional analysis he uses, in which each person is made to act out of either the role of parent, adult or child. The behaviour of a drunk man can be likened to a child, therefore bringing “parent” out in his partner who may have to look after him. The key is about them relating as adult to adult. This simplified approach to the dynamics of family relationships, is regularly used in the weekly Tauawhi men’s group – which often involves conversations about family violence.

Tangi Hepi explains his models to a group participants at Tauawhi.

The hui continued at Rahui marae in Tikitiki where the first speaker was Kristin Dunne-Powell, a trustee of the Sophie Elliot Foundation and victim of family violence. Mrs Dunne-Powell told the room full of men – many of whom had perpetrated abuse themselves — of her own experience.

Before telling her story, Mrs Dunne-Powell asked the room of men in the wharenui to think of her as their daughter or niece. “By pledging to the white ribbon, you stand up for me and for women like me. Whatever role you take, you are protecting your daughter, wife, mother. By pledging, you educate others. “You are brave to stand up and say ‘it’s not OK’.
“You will not only not commit violence against women, but you will also not condone, or stay silent, about it.”

The hui participants were inspired and enlightened by her story and courage to share her experience. This also encouraged one of the local women to share her own story and Dale Ferris, from the National Network, to talk about women taking a stand.

Vic Tamati then led his “roll call” activity, talked about his violent past and his involvement with the “it’s not OK” campaign. The contrast between Vic’s background and upbringing couldn’t be more different from Kristin’s and was a clear reminder that family violence knows no boundaries in terms of ethnicity, background or social standing.

Mr Tamati also promoted the “Safe man, Safe family” project he has initiated. It is about supporting men and their families and long-term intervention and an alternative to spending huge amounts of money on putting men in prison. Safe man, Safe family is a comprehensive, community-based, prevention strategy that holds men accountable and works to keep them and their families safe.”

The guys prepare for the morning’s activities

On Saturday, group activities included a trip up Ngati Porou’s sacred maunga, Mount Hikurangi, fishing at Hicks Bay and learning about Maara Kai – traditional food cultivation and preparation. Strangely enough, no fish were caught, but the men attending the Maara Kai session, dined out on crayfish, kina and smoked fish!

These activities and the time we spent together allowed for a significant amount of space to connect and share experiences, stories and knowledge about the kaupapa. One man with links to the Coast plans to bring his boys back to climb the mountain and another man plans to return to the Coast to live after his experience over the weekend.

The activities were supported by the Ruatoria and Tikitiki-based Mana Tane groups, who are examples of a positive and proactive way for men to engage with each other in the context of activity.

The Hikurangi Maunga men, standing beneath the carved pou o Maui-tikitiki-a-Taranga, te Takapau – o – Maui, Mt Hikurangi.     

Awhi Foundation co-founder Sam Chapman told the men his philosophy was not about change, it was about exchange. He made a connection with many of the men because of his background. His message was that in terms of change, we need to support men and their whānau to focus on what is OK, not just what’s not OK’.

The remainder of the weekend was spent sharing stories and experiences, some of which were extremely personal and recounted difficult life-experiences. It was testimony to the atmosphere, environment and the trust established in the group, that men felt safe to share

There was also discussion of next steps as the question was asked, where to from here? It was agreed that while the experience of coming together was a positive one, that we needed to make use of the opportunity and build on these connections. Most of the men agreed that it would be good to come together again and encourage other men to join in.

It was hoped that the weekend was a good starting point from wich these conversations and networking will continue. We have received great feedback from the men on their experiences and already we have set up an email network and ideas are being shared about possible ways forward.

“By our powers combined!” – It’s not OK and White Ribbon Champions re-group for the kaupapa.

About whiteribbonnz
White Ribbon is a community led campaign to end men's violence towards women

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