Hohipere | Tautoro, Northland

“Just a few days ago I had a heart-to-heart conversation with someone, but that’s confidential, if it’s going to be a heart-to-heart. That’s personal. That was a personal conversation. It was something this person wanted to discuss, and so we discussed it, and yeah, it was like a sounding-board. 

The thing is with these heart-to-heart talks, you need to pick the people that you can trust, that you know it won’t get any further than that, that’s what I call heart-to-heart. It’s trusting in somebody, and trusting that they won’t go and blah-blah. That’s what I would call a mentor, it’s somebody that can come to you, knowing they can come to you freely and discuss whatever it is that’s upsetting them, or things like that. 

I grew up in Tautoro. I come from a family of 11. Seven brothers, four sisters, and we’re all just about dwindling away. Now we’re down to number five. There’s five of us left out of all our whānau, but in saying that, we also had foster brothers and sisters, or whāngai. I was born in Tautoro in a two little bedroom house, I don’t know how the hell we all fit into it, but I had a nice, happy childhood. It was lovely growing up there. I had food. I had shelter. I had love, because I grew up in this community. I always use the umbrella effect. I was surrounded by my elders, by my kuia and kaumātua, and all my older cousins, and we had plenty of mates and, and you just didn’t belong to one set of parents. You belonged to the community. So, I was a child of the community. I’m that type of person. I had a wonderful background of being born in the world of Māori, because from zero to five, that was all I knew. I had my culture. I spoke it. I slept it. I ate it until I was aged five, and I nearly died, because on the first day at school I saw this white person, and I was terrified. I’d never seen a Pākehā before. I thought this person was a ghost. So, I went home and I told my mother, I’m not going back to that school, there’s a ghost there, and this person, from a child of five, all I saw were the blue eyes, the white skin and the white hair, and she looked like a witch, and I was scared of her. I’d never seen it. I didn’t even know what it was. At that time, we were in the era where we were never allowed to speak Māori at school. You got rapped across the knuckles, and I remember being rapped across the knuckle. It was a long thing, it was flat, and she turned it over on the sharp side and whacked me right across the knuckles. Ouch, exactly. So, when I went home, I spoke Pākehā at home. Got another clunk. It taught us a lesson, we had to be bi-lingual. You knew that if you stepped over that side and spoke that, you got clunked, and this side, you got the same thing. So, what my dad did, bless him, he went to the school and he said to the teacher, your job is to teach my children English, my job is to retain their taha Māori. Then, he called all us kids and he said, this side of the fence you will speak Māori, the other side of the fence you will speak Pākehā, okay? I went to Northland college and it was great, but I loved my childhood. I’ve got nothing to complain about. I had strict parents. Jesus, and my father, by the time we got to high school, we had to know what job we were going to do when we left school. My dad was a person that believed in education, pushed for us. You will be this, you will do this, you will do that, this is your job. He came to me and he said to me, ‘you will be a shorthand typist’, and then I took the commercial course at college, because he was on the school boards at the college, so he knew all the different courses. 

I’m now happily retired. Love it. Should have done it years ago, but at the moment I’m with the rūnanga up there, so we have a group up there of kuia and kaumātua. So, I still do voluntary work. With this Covid-19, I’ve been doing pick-up and drop-off. I still keep myself busy. I’ve got things at home I do. I’m doing Korowai and I’m doing other things. I’m doing online business, and I’m trying to get that off the ground. I like the library, and I’m disappointed that it’s closed, because I spent a lot of time there. I’m to be seen as the bossy aunty, or the grumpy aunty, from my nieces and nephews. I’m the key person for my whole wider whānau. So, if anything goes on I let the key people know of each of those families, and this is how we operate. I’m the key. So, if somebody drops dead up here that’s closely related, or a blood rellie, I zoom into those people, and it’s up to those people that let the wider ones know. So, if I need any discussions, like for instance, we have what we call a ‘family fund’, that only covers siblings. When I say siblings, just my siblings. Not our children. Not our grandchildren. Just us. When we die, our funeral, that one part of it is covered, and that’s the food to feed the multitude, because you know, these tangis, hell they get them from far and wide. So, I’m in charge of that, and I look after the finances.

That’s the funny part about it. Because people say we feel safe around you, and I know I generate that. I can feel it. I can come up and stand next to a person and I can feel their wairua straight away. 

I’m trained to be a good listener. My background was health, I was in the nursing field for 60+ years. I’ve only just finished general, because I got sick and tired of where nursing was going, and it was changing. It wasn’t a people-to-people thing. It was more about machines. I didn’t like that, I hated that. You talk to anybody that trained the way I did, because I’m old school where we trained in the hospitals. That was our training. Nowadays, they’re training them in varsities. They haven’t got that same contact. They haven’t got that same warmth, and they don’t generate that. It’s quite mechanical. I like the touch part, or I used to get into the habit of calling everybody Sweetie or Darling and Sweetheart, and we were open and generous with our affections for our patients. We loved our patients. When I’m getting into that mood, I’ll know when I need someone to talk to. If I don’t and, and something is getting me down, what I do to relieve a lot of it is I go home, and I scream. I just go, aaaargh into a pillow, and I’ve always done that. Do some quick deep breaths, and then I scream again. I’ve always done that, and that’s my way of dealing with it. But sometimes ’ll need wairua cleansing. So, I’ll look for somebody that can do that.

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