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Gisborne community holds whānau days in first step to turn round violence

A group of tamariki enjoy the whānau day in Gisborne's Atkinson Park.

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A group of tamariki enjoy the Whānau Day in Gisborne’s Atkinson Park.
Photo: RNZ / Tom Kitchin

One solution is what they’re calling a whānau-ki-te-whānau whānau day – a family day by families, for families.

Violent incidents over recent months have included a molotov cocktail being thrown through a window, and several women and children being shot.

Then just over a week ago, a couple were attacked in their home after a group of people demanded alcohol.

So this Whānau Day, a day out at the park, is one of the first steps in turning these problems around.

They are the brainchild of a group formed after the recent surge in violence led to a community protest.

Three have been held over the last few days in the suburbs of Kaiti, Elgin and Mangapapa.

Event organisers, from left, Mark Gray, Coey East, Hope Jones, Tracey Crosbie, Auntie Mez and Mike Timu.

Event organisers, from left, Mark Gray, Coey East, Hope Jones, Tracey Crosbie, Auntie Mez and Mike Timu.
Photo: RNZ / Tom Kitchin

Children at the Mangapapa event on Sunday were there to play with friends and enjoy the bouncy castles, but the adults were there for something a bit more serious.

Event manager Hope Jones said it was about stopping the hurt.

“Our community has gone through a lot of really violent things – we’ve had some losses. So we just want to try and weave a healthy, safe whāriki for the future.”

Whāriki are woven mats – here used as a metaphor about weaving the bonds of whanaungatanga – or family connection.

The organisers wanted people to share ideas around what a safe community looked like.

Event assistant Tracey Crosbie was walking around with an iPad taking a survey.

“The questions are pretty simple – it’s just what is positive in your community, what is negative if there’s anything in your community and what do you want to see improved. But the big question that we’re asking as well is do you feel safe in your community.”

They hope to take these responses to Manaaki Tairāwhiti – a group of local iwi and social service leaders – and urge them to make change.

Locals had some ideas on how to make the community safer.

“Events like this, everyone coming together. I think that’s what we need to do – a lot more togetherness,” Danyon said.

“Good to have a lot more good role models out there for the kids. Younger kids now these days, you don’t have a lot more things for them to do – instead of going to go and steal and smoke cigarettes under the bridge and dope under the bridge, that sort of thing,” Marcus said.

The whānau-ki-te-whānau whānau day at Atkinson Park in Mangapapa, Gisborne.

The whānau-ki-te-whānau whānau day at Atkinson Park in Mangapapa, Gisborne.
Photo: RNZ / Tom Kitchin

Event MC Coey East, a Mongrel Mob member, was hosting the event in Atkinson Park – in a neighbourhood dominated by rival gang Black Power.

He believed that could help with the tension.

“Me, a mobster, in this neighbourhood looking after their kids, the kids of the Black Power, I guess that’s a good start because the kids are our everything. So if you can get to the kids, if I can warm the hearts of the kids, then hopefully I can warm the heart of the gang member whānau.”

Mike Timu led the karakia, walking around the event with his taiaha, or staff.

He said the events had brought out the mauri, or life essence, of the communities.

“Surprisingly, everyone calls them the hoods but it could be named in a positive manner – I’d call it the positive nucleus of Gisborne or Tūranganui-a-Kiwa.”

He said the aim was to stop the gang kōrero and make the streets a safe space for tamariki and mokopuna, children and grandchildren.

Story Credit: rnz.co.nz

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