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Brash: Time to Stop Failing our Boys

Don Brash MP
National Party Leader

28 October 2006
From the Cradle to the Jail: It’s Time to Stop Failing our Boys

Speech to National Party Northern Region Mini-conference, Auckland, 2pm
Ladies and gentlemen, a National Government is going to fix the roads of Auckland.

We’re going to complete the Western ring road. And expand the Bridge to City link.

We’re going to prepare for the day the Newmarket Viaduct needs replacement.

And for the day we need another harbour crossing.

National understands how crucially important to our future modern roads are.

But there’s one road we need to do away with as fast as we can.

That’s the road that’s leading too many good Auckland kids from the cradle to the jail.

From here in Ellerslie, it’s only a short hop down the Ellerslie-Panmure Highway to the Mt. Wellington-Panmure RSA.

All of New Zealand knows what happened there.

And down the Southern Motorway is the Otahuhu over-bridge.

All of New Zealand knows what happened there.

South Auckland.

Bashings.

Shootings.

Draggings.

Stabbings.

A chunk of concrete hurled at a moving car.

Tiny twin babies bashed.

Bashed to death.

And people say the causes of crime are complex.

Well, they may be. There are many contributing factors.

But one fact is clear.

Most crime is caused by men who’ve never learnt to be men.

And by boys who’ve never in their lives known a good male role model.

This is certainly not to say mums can’t raise good boys.

Lots of them do, often with heroic dedication.

But the evidence is overwhelming that most boys who go bad had no dad – or no positive father figure in their lives.

Ian Grant from Parents Inc. here in Auckland says it best:

“A little time with a good man each week is all a boy needs to download the software to be a man.”

The recent epidemic of violent crime shows that too many boys aren’t getting that time.

And good people in places like South Auckland are paying the highest price.

Vicious assaults. Up 54% since Helen Clark took office.

Homicides. Up 31%, just in the last year.

Drug busts for P. Up 50%. Just in the last year.

Violent youth crime.

It’s exploded since 1999. The year Helen Clark pledged to “crack down on youth crime.”

We now know you paid dearly for that card.

But even more dearly for that broken promise.

She did what she always does. Threw lots of your money at it.

$12 million on Labour’s flagship Reducing Youth Offending Programme.

Three years later, how much impact had it had on the rate of re-offending?

Absolutely none.

For three elections in a row, she promised a student database to combat truancy.

Seven years later, Nanny State still can’t tell us how many kids go missing in her care every day.

A National Government will tell you, and I’m determined it won’t be many.

Boys need boundaries.

Boys need good male role models to show them what they can become.

And boys need respect.

If a boy doesn’t get the respect he needs in his own family, the danger is he’ll find it in another kind of family.

Called a gang.

No Government of mine is going to surrender the souls of our children to gangs!

This week, I’m going to talk to Aucklanders like Ian Grant about how we can get more fathers and father figures into our sons’ lives.

Ian’s building a parenting centre on the other side of the motorway there in Greenlane.

He’s calling it the Growing Great Kids Centre.

It’s costing him 8 million.

He’s got less than a million to go.

There’s only one certainty.

He won’t be getting a cent of it from the family-friendly Clark Labour Government.

Why?

Because Ian’s programmes are based on virtues. Like honesty. And courage. And integrity.

And if there’s one thing the Clark Labour Government won’t spend your taxes on, its programmes based on virtues like that.

Ian said recently, “I’m coming to the view that this Government doesn’t want organisations like ours to succeed in solving the problems of New Zealand families, because it would take away their power.”

I assure Ian Grant that his organisation won’t take away the Government’s power.

Because the National Party’s going to do it for him!

Fortunately for our country, Ian Grant is not alone.

Three days ago, I met another man who’s dedicated his life to growing great kids.

I went to his boxing gym in Naenae, in the Hutt Valley.

I was there to see the work this man is doing to transform the lives of hundreds of local boys.

His name is Billy Graham.

To many older people, that’s the name of a great American evangelist.

Well, this is a different Billy Graham.

But not that different.

Turns out our Billy’s a great motivational speaker too.

And he’s pouring the earnings from his speeches into a centre that’s doing a power of good.

A boxing gym.

In the old Salvation Army food-bank, opposite the Naenae Police Station.

Billy’s no stranger to the Naenae Police.

He grew up in Naenae back in the 50s.

He had energy to burn. So he’d set fire to the local hills.

He also had a knack – as he puts it – of “finding things before they were lost.”

Like the trolley-full of Mallowpuffs he found at the Griffin’s biscuit factory at three o’clock one morning.

Which, as luck would have it, was the same time the local cop, Hoppy Hodges, found him.

Billy wasn’t long out of the cradle, and he was fast heading to the jail.

But luckily, it wasn’t the jail that Hoppy took him to.

It was the gym.

A boxing gym. Run by an inspirational coach called Dick Dunn.

Dick Dunn could see Billy had potential.

Not just to be a champion boxer – though he did turn Billy into the New Zealand senior light welterweight champion at the age of sixteen.

But also to be a champion person.

He became a father figure to Billy. Instilled in him the values of hard work, self-respect, and respect for others.

Billy never looked back.

He became a butcher. A schoolteacher. A master salesman of his own fitness equipment.

And eventually a highly-paid international speaker.

In May this year, he finally had the money to do the thing he’d dreamed of doing for fifty years.

He set up his own gym. For the boys of Naenae.

I want to tell you about one of those boys.

I met him at Billy’s gym on Wednesday.

I’ll call him Sammy.

Sammy’s grown up without a father. His dad died ten years ago, when Sammy was two.

Sammy’s mum told me that her son had never really got over his dad’s death.

He couldn’t remember him. And he’d never grieved for him.

Yet in many ways he was locked in grief every moment of every day.

One day when he was seven, some kids at school were saying they were going to play with their dads.

And they asked Sammy where his dad was.

Sammy replied that the only way he could be with his dad was if he went to the cemetery.

The boys didn’t believe him. Everyone had a dad. So they called him a liar.

His mum told me that really got to Sammy.

From that moment on, he started to become more aggressive.

She took him to six different counsellors.

They all did their best. But no one could get through to him.

He became increasingly withdrawn. Sadder.

Angrier.

Before long, his anger turned to retaliation – just as it had with Billy half a century earlier.

The counsellors could do no more.

But his mum refused to give up.

Then a friend told her about this Billy Graham and his new gym. The gym’s official name is the Naenae Boxing Academy.

Billy called it that because an Academy is a place of learning.

The first thing his boys learn is not to swear – or they’re out.

The second thing they learn is that they’re not allowed to wear caps or beanies.

Billy wants to see their eyes.

That’s Rule 3: look people in the eye. Something Sammy had never done in his life.

In that first session at the gym, Sammy’s mum’s prayers were answered. She saw the light go on in her son’s eyes.

In just a few short weeks, he was a different boy.

Talking. In more than just grunts.

Smiling and laughing.

Making friends.

He was confident.

His school grades went up.

At the end of term, he got a certificate.

“For Excellent Effort and Outstanding Attitude.”

Until he met Billy, Sammy had never cried about the death of his dad.

But in the car going home after that first session, he broke down.

“Mum,” he said softly, “that man understands.”

In September, Billy took the boys on a road trip to watch the New Zealand boxing champs in Rotorua.

When he got home, Sammy broke down again. For half an hour he cried himself raw.

Then he said the words his mum will never forget:

“Mum, it’s just like having a dad.”

And then he apologised for all his misbehaviour.

Back at the police station, the man in Hoppy Hodges’ shoes today is Constable Ross Kalivati.

It’s one of Ross’s jobs to deal with taggers.

Before Billy’s gym opened, there were about 30 sites in Naenae being defaced every week. Now there’s hardly any graffiti at all.

Naenae shopkeepers say they no longer have school kids hanging round the town centre during school hours.

Nanny State didn’t do that.

One good man did it.

One father figure they call Billy the Kid.

The counsellors heard about Sammy’s progress.

Last week, one of them got back in touch with Sammy’s mum.

She had another boy. Another Sammy.

And there was something she needed to know:

“How do we contact Billy Graham?”

Ladies and gentlemen, there are thousands of Sammys out there.

Every one of them needs a Billy if we’re to keep them off that road from the cradle to the jail.

When I’m prime minister of this country, one of my highest priorities will be to empower and encourage more Billys.

More Ian Grants.

More inspirational private providers, who know how to stop crime before it starts.

We may not choose to spend $11 million landscaping four new prisons.

We may not choose to afford under-floor heating to keep criminals’ feet warm on winter mornings.

We will instead choose to spend your money keeping good kids, good.

And good people, safe.

Ends

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