The Breakthrough Leaders programme launched a new concept this year entitled the “visibility challenge” where each participant must raise their profile against an issue or cause of importance to them. This is an exercise outside their comfort zone – resulting in an array of different responses to this challenge – public speaking engagements, new initiatives launched and active participation in external groups.
2015 Breakthrough Leaders participant Marae Tukere’s visibility challenge was to take a stance against domestic violence, spurred by the recent tragic death of Tara Brown. Below is Tukere’s story.
On Thursday 10 September, I watched a horrible news broadcast from the Gold Coast showing a young woman being forced off the road in her car. The broadcast stated that the person in the other car was her ex-partner, that after the car crashed he jumped out of his vehicle and proceeded to bash the young woman with a metal object while she was trapped in her car. He then stole a car and drove away. Even more horrible, a phone call from my friend to say that the woman in the car was my childhood friends daughter, and that she was critically ill.
By the weekend the decision had been made to turn off her life support, as nothing could be done for her. Her ex-partner, the father of her three year old daughter had been arrested for her attempted murder. Her mother and extended whanau kept a vigil at her bedside and social media had post after post extending sympathy to the family and horror at what had happened. Tara Brown passed away on 11 September, leaving behind her three year old daughter, Aria, her mum Natalie, and brother Ricky.
Natalie Hinton and I grew up together. We went to Waipa Primary School in Ngaruawahia, stayed at each other’s house, shared lunch and grazed knees and a heck of a lot of laughs. We went on to Ngaruawahia High School and together with 3 other mates, had our own “crew”. Natalie was “Ngati Pakeha” but all her mates were the Māori girls and she liked the Māori boys! We flatted together and when she moved to the Gold Coast with Tara as a four-year-old (and her late partner, Pat), we kept in touch.
We wanted to go to Tara’s tangi, but one of our mates couldn’t face it, so we decided if we couldn’t all go, we would send my friends daughter, who was the same age as Tara.
But I felt helpless and useless. I posted up “Stop Domestic Violence” posts on Facebook but still felt helpless. I decided that we had to DO something, apart from messages to Natalie, and Facebook posts. So I decided to organise a March to Remember Tara Brown.
I talked to the other members of Nat’s “crew” and they agreed. We would do it a week after Tara’s death, so it was still fresh in everyone’s mind. So the date was set for Friday 18 September.
After the decision was made, it quite quickly fell into place. Facebook made sure everyone knew, my media contacts meant we had a sound system, my tribal contacts offered to do the programmes up and sponsor the candles, one of my Kaumatua (and dad of one of the crew) said he would lead the service and my mum and dad offered to decorate the venue with white ribbons and flowers.
Over 200 people came to the March. I spoke to Māori TV, the Waikato Times and the National Radio programme and articles appeared on Te Kaea and in Stuff. The “Its Not OK’ people from Huntly spoke at the service as did Māori Womens Refuge staff. We sang, we cried, we remembered Tara. We did something.
The photos and videos on social media and associated commentary attest to an event that moved people, and also to the fact that I wasn’t the only one feeling helpless – everyone wanted an outlet to show support to the whanau.
One of the speakers during the service was Destry Murphy from the Its Not OK org, who said “We can’t show up today and then walk away and do nothing”. And he is right. He has my contact details and I am going to help him start up a branch of the “It’s Not OK” group in Ngaruawahia.
In my life, I have witnessed domestic violence and experienced it as well. But I have done nothing to raise awareness or reach out to support anyone going through it. After Tara’s death, this is not an option for me. I will continue to do what I can, so if I can help it, I don’t lose anyone else I love.
Marae Tukere’s speech from Tara’s service:
Tena koutou katoa.
Thank you all for coming along today to hikoi to remember this beautiful young woman Tara Brown, whose life was taken from her in such an ugly and brutal way.
For those I don’t know, my name is Marae Tukere and together with Angela Nepia and Wynae Tukere, we organised this hikoi because Tara’s mum, Natalie Hinton is our good friend.
I want to acknowledge the Hinton and Brown whanau at this time.
I hope this hikoi and service today demonstrates to them that they have our aroha, our love, our tautoko, support and that they are close to all of our hearts and minds at this sad and tragic time.
We hope also that this hikoi demonstrates to other victims and perpetrators of domestic violence that we have had enough because it is definitely not okay.
We hope that people here will take a stand against domestic violence in the future so that there are no more victims like poor Tara.
We hope that through this hikoi, healing begins for the whanau and for all of us.
Nat, we love you mate. Kia kaha for baby and know we are all here if you need us.
Thank you to everyone who has helped us to organise this hikoi today, and I want to hand over now to my cousin Ku who is going to share some memories.
Media coverage of hikoi: