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A Perspective on Violence in South Auckland

A Perspective on Violence in South Auckland : Future Leaders Have the Answer

by Su’a William Sio

Though crime is prevalent and on the rise throughout New Zealand cities and in other countries, there’s no denying that South Auckland has a serious problem with violence and anti-social behaviour

The mindless bashings and senseless murders on the streets have engulfed many families with shock and disbelief. We’re all asking, ‘what is going on here?’

For those families and friends who have lost loved ones, their pain and suffering is immense and we all feel their anguish.

It’s a natural tendency to point the finger when this happens. We blame the young offenders for their blatant disrespect for life. We blame the police force for not being there when you need them the most. We blame the media for glamorising gangster lifestyles and giving them fame. We blame government departments, politicians, churches, community groups, we even blame ourselves for not doing enough.

It doesn’t help when some parents give up on their responsibility to teach, instruct, and discipline their kids. They allow the streets to do that. It doesn’t help that youth disconnected from families and school are so determined to be rebellious, tough and be gangster. The problems might begin in families and schools but they don’t end there.

It doesn’t help that there are at least 30 tinnie houses that police know about in Otara, and the drug dealers tell me selling hard drugs and P is their ‘bread & butter’. It doesn’t help that drug users become crazed and commit murders & robberies to satisfy their habit.

I’m angry at all this, and I do my share of blaming. I’ve pointed my finger at how socio-economic policies by past governments under Rogernomics in the late 80s and Ruthanasia in the early 90s, have sown the seeds for the social challenges we face today.

I’m angry that thousands of South Auckland men & women lost their jobs and thousands more, without skills, were left unemployed as the manufacturing industry were forced to close during this era. Many of the unemployed sought solace in the pubs. Some caught addictions which had to be fed one way or another, irrespective of the consequences to themselves and their loved ones.

However, the greater number of families in Otara and South Auckland, survived this period, despite all these challenges, and continue to be law abiding citizens who work tirelessly for their families.

I’m angry too that the most significant contributor to our current problems came from when liquor laws were freely loosened up to benefit the liquor industry by allowing alcohol to be sold from stores located in suburban streets where schools and neighbourhoods exist.

That has been a social disaster for communities like Otara and other similar suburbs, reaping severe and tragic consequences. Today, Manukau City liquor outlets have fluctuated between 300-500 across the city. In Otara, there are 50 liquor outlets alone, many strategically located next door to neighbourhood dairies.

Some retailers are unscrupulous and sell alcohol to kids as young as 12 & 13 years old. Yes, it happens.

Some night clubs continue to flout these laws by serving children under the age of 18 and those already intoxicated. And yes there have been uncontrollable brawls afterwards. Yet the process for getting their license suspended or revoked is so frustratingly taxing on people’s time and energy

With all of this in the background of their lives, the vast majority of our young people are focused, studying, participating in culture groups, arts, and sports activities, and doing part-time jobs. They have irrepressible goals and dreams for the future.

I regularly talk to young people in my neighbourhood and I ask them how they have managed to stay out of trouble and still achieve so much considering the environment they live in.

Without hesitation, they respond with praises to God, to their parents, their families and friends. The answer given by these future leaders is so simple and so basic.

The template offered by these young people is a proven remedy; they are living evidence of it. The simple message of having a belief in God, loving parents, caring family and supportive friends, is responsible for the successes of many families and young people in all our communities. These are the fundamental elements essential for this country and any democracy, irrespective of cultural backgrounds, economic situations, social status, and political influences.

When I was asked recently what advise I would give to those who insist that being tough in South Auckland means getting drunk or high on drugs, or ganging up with weapons against anyone, or robbing and vandalising property, let me say this to those individuals:

Show me how tough you really are by doing the right thing even when it means losing so-called friends and being excluded from the ‘cool” wannabe-gangster crowd.

Show me how tough you really are by getting an education and graduating from university with a double degree or finishing a trade certificate even when your friends drop out and it gets hard and stressful.

Show me how tough you really are by working hard to buy a first home for your family even though you have to work long hours, at two jobs, with little break, just to make ends meet.

Show me how tough you really are by writing a novel, writing a feature film, running for public office, starting your own legitimate business, playing for the All Blacks or the Warriors, serving a mission for your church, creating a work of art that the world would buy, or producing music albums before graduating from high school, or forming a dance group that wins medals internationally.

That’s true toughness and something that families and the community can be proud of. And that’s the other side of South Auckland that most people, outside of Otara, don’t get to see.


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