Mangaia Island, Cook Islands
I was born on the island of Mangaia in 1961. Now I am 51 years old and getting old. I have three sisters and one brother. Our life in those days revolved around helping our parents and family. I miss my parents; they have both passed away. They fed me, looked after me, raised me.
During my time at school, there were more than 500 school children on Mangaia. Life in school was good. When I was 15 years old, I was selected to go to New Zealand to work there. My parents agreed for me to go and I left for New Zealand in 1977. In New Zealand, I worked in an abattoir. I used to work for six or seven months at a time and then come home for a few months to Mangaia. I took money back each time for my family. This went on until 1990 when the abattoir closed down.
I had no choice but to come home so that year I moved back to live in Mangaia. I stayed with my parents for two years. In 1992, I applied for a job in the police force. I was selected as the 11th recruit out of what was supposed to be a group of ten. My inspector encouraged me to study to help my work. I got my police diploma from Monash University here in Rarotonga. I also studied for my Certificate in Law from the University of the South Pacific.
Two tutors for Monash were really supportive of me, they believed that my diverse life experiences would make a good police officer. At first, I didn’t believe them. Later on, I joined the Criminal Prosecution Service preparing cases for court and then I became a Criminal Investigator looking into the hard cases like rape and murder. I was sent to Mangaia to cover the local officers there. While I was at home, I realised my Mum wasn’t well. I applied to join the Mangaia force but HQ wouldn’t let me. Eventually I resigned to take care of my Mum and nephews on Mangaia.
In 1996, I stayed in Mangaia and I continued my studies at USP. I was approached to take a job with the Internal Affairs Office working for the Government to look after the young and the vulnerable. My work involved working with children, the disabled and the elderly. I was very involved in sports too. I became President of the Sports Club and the Fishing Club. It was through sports that I became aware of the need for gender balance. Especially when I saw how well it worked when men and women played touch rugby together. My other community activities like dancing and farming also showed me how important gender balance was.
I thought all men thought like me. When I was approached to be a male champion of women by the National Council of Women, I agreed. That took me on a tour of the Pa Enua. All the islands were different. I heard important men like Pastors speaking up against women being outside of the home. I felt empowered to say that I disagreed. Everyone here agrees that women do a good job in the home but I say that since we know women do a good job in the home what’s to stop them from doing a good job for the Island too.