Iwi could do well to follow Apiata, Glenn

Corporal Willie Apiata.
Corporal Willie Apiata.

This week a couple of things have happened that have caused me to question my priorities and community values.

The actions of two high profile New Zealanders have effectively shown a spirit of great generosity and aroha for their fellow Kiwis.

Firstly, Willie Apiata has again captured the attention of the nation with the announcement that he is to resign from the SAS and take on a civilian role. I understand such transitions can be problematic for someone exiting an intensive military life and back to a "normal" one, but the particular organisation he has chosen to work for appears to be well suited to him and his background.

The High Wire Charitable Trust has existing connections to the Armed Forces and targets youth who might ultimately be suited to a military career themselves, and there are other ex- soldiers working for the trust who will provide support best suited to Apiata.

I have no idea what other prospects Apiata had as a career soldier, but one cannot help but find further admiration for the man for choosing to work with at-risk youth. He already carries the uncomfortable burden of being our best known living legend and hero, and the kids will, no doubt, be familiar with details of his Victoria Cross earning exploits, so he takes the greatest amount of mana one possibly could into such a role.

But at the end of the day it is a choice made to go and work with, amongst other young people, troubled teens who are in the early stages of contact with the courts and justice system.

In an attempt to break what could become a long- term negative cycle culminating in jail or worse, Apiata and others will expose the kids to some military-type training and discipline with rewards offered for the best achievers.

Apiata committing to a project such as this is a measure of where his values lie and further increases his mana as a role model.

Also this week I was staggered to learn of the $80 million donation made by Owen Glenn to assist in the battle against the social malady that is domestic violence in New Zealand.

He has already proven his generosity by donating to worthy causes and projects, but this surely stands out as the single most generous personal donation to a single community issue such as this in New Zealand's history.

The violence and abuse that occurs within New Zealand homes is a national shame and most of us realise that, but we generally struggle to know what to do.

Some 15 to 20 years ago I worked with men and couples who were in the midst of trying to cope with their own domestic violence issues and it was most demoralising and very difficult to create what we might consider successful outcomes.

A glimmer of light might be having one man acknowledge that violent behaviour is wrong and even show genuine remorse for his previous abuse of his partner and then, if that is built on by a conscious decision to not act on a violent impulse, real progress was seen to be made. But all too often such lessons would be forgotten, old behaviours return or exactly the same ugliness is seen in the next guy who walks through your door.

I truly admire those that commit to working with the perpetrators and victims of domestic violence as the rewards are few and far between. One must truly believe in transformational change and the promise of that being sustainable for the long term to hang in there day to day. So the gesture from Owen Glenn will be a welcome boost for many.

The challenge for me comes in the form of values. There is some contrast to the big political headlines of the past week or so and this question of water ownership and state-owned asset sales. Over the past 20 years I have been involved in several interesting and exciting discussions and developments amongst iwi planning for their futures in a post- settlement world. In many, if not most, instances when the question of iwi investment in social issues that impact upon Maori arises the expectation is on the government to resolve the problems.

In theory I agree that the government has the primary responsibility to address these matters, but maybe social policy from an iwi perspective requires revisiting.

I could tell you for a fact that Ngai Tahu has spent more than $80m since settlement on bureaucracy, political manoeuvring, governance and public relations.

They have spent nothing like that on housing, health, welfare and domestic safety of their tribal members.

Owen Glenn and Willie Apiata have shown an admirable character that deserves consideration.

With so many choices before them, they chose the people.

The Press