A potential to be realised
As a first generation New Zealand-born Cook Islander, Minister for Pacific Peoples and former pastor at the Tamaki Community Church, Hon. Alfred Ngaro recalls growing up in the Auckland inner-city suburb of Ponsonby in the 1970s.
“We had a three-bedroom house that was full of family, between 12-15 people, no insulation, no running water and an outside toilet,” he recalls.
“But living in that house, I never had the sense that we were impoverished. We saw this country as the land of opportunity and lived and breathed it.”
Not that young Alfred was seen as a model child. Far from it.
“My parents would see me as a problem child. Mum would speak to me in the Cook Islands language, with words to the effect, ‘You stupid little boy. Come here, I’m going to smack your ear!’”
Alfred’s salvation was in the form of his loving grandmother, who he would turn to.
“My grandmother would say to me, ‘You’re not a problem to be solved. You’re a potential to be realised’.”
He believes the enormous potential of Pacific youth isn’t being realised. The evidence, he points out, is in the statistics. From those statistics, serious questions need to be asked.
More importantly, Alfred adds, they also need to be answered to address family violence.
“Sure, there are parts of being Pacific which we can celebrate, but there are also parts that should make us cry,” he says.
“Why is it that we’re two times more likely to cause serious harm to a family member than others? Three times more likely to report adults abusing their children? Five times more likely for our children to die from child abuse or neglect?”
What is needed, Alfred insists, is courage.
“We’re not problems to be solved by the government. We are a potential to be realised,” he says.
“But if we don’t have the courage to step up and speak out, then what are we doing here? We can talk all we like about what we need and from whom, but we are the ones that need to change.”