Family violence and violence among young people - Norm Hewitt is no stranger on this one.

He has seen it and he has experienced it - and he has dealt it out.

Now he is putting his heart and soul into working to see it reduced.

The Hastings-born 48-year-old has, simply, turned his life around and become a champion in building bridges of leadership and focus, and getting the anti-violence message out there to all parts of the land.


Cutting straight to the chase, what is the answer to this terrible, often hushed yet very evident ingredient of New Zealand life?

"It is really complex and there is no one single answer," Norm said.

But he said there were strong and focused paths that could be encouraged and taken, and if there were one strong ingredient to the whole prevention mix it was that of guidance.

"We need to start conversations and support conversations - we need to be able to tell people there are guides to help them."

That brought through a term Norm used several times.

The "navigator".

In the way his ancestors used skilled, inspired and thoughtful navigators to sail, what we need today are navigators to work through the paths of people's hearts and souls.

"I have met people who have changed - people need to discover the path and they have to be willing to take it, that is the key."

He works in with groups like E Tu Whanau which was developed by Maori to create positive change for Maori, as well as the Taking Wings Eagle Foundation and numerous other groups devoted to sparking change in hearts, minds and souls.

He has seen the troubled minds and souls close hand, but was able to break the cycle and make the change himself.

His uncompromising and gritty All Black career was sadly blighted by controversy - with alcohol and blood to the fore.

In 1999, after a bout of heavy drinking, he smashed his way through a glass door at a hotel in Queenstown and the headlines erupted - many likening the incident to a case of a rugby hero going from hero to zero in a few drink-addled seconds.

There was the tearful apology he delivered but like any dark cloud there was a silver lining to it.

It was the point of no return.

He got down on his knees for the first time in his life and he began to pray.
His life changed.

His attitudes changed and he set out on a new path, and has not looked back.

What happened early in his life, and the things he saw and did, he has been open about - part of the whole cleansing system and facing up to the wrongs.

Like when he turned five and part of his party duties were opening the beers for his whanau and sucking the froth off the top.

He saw his dad beat his mum and then he started getting it - at one stage he feared he would die.

"My father told me once his father had beat him so bad he thought he was going to die, and I said 'Dad when I was nine I felt the same thing'."

As a teenager he was a very angry young man.

On day at Te Aute College he confronted a new kid who arrived at school - a good-looking young guy called Manu Bennett who had scored an immediate place in the school's first XV.

Norm was angry and figured he had to teach this newcomer who was boss - and he gave him a savage beating.


They are best of friends after an unintentional but ultimately emotional meeting at an airport.

They embraced, with Norm simply telling Manu "I am sorry I hurt you."

Their families both met, and later down the track both went back to Te Aute ... to the classroom where the terrible attack had taken place.

For both, the wounds had healed.

Talk and recognition of what had been done was crucial.

He said he worked through the whole process with his father, and one of his main focuses today, and it will likely result in a thesis, is going back to the roots of trauma which can cross through generations.

Norm said he had identified some of the traumas families went through when a husband or father returned home from war.

For many it shattered them - during times before post-traumatic stress was recognised.

"Since the time of the Boer War significant numbers of men have been taken off to war - taken out of their communities."

He said the terror of combat and the stark and violent memories many of the returning men suffered from was a major component of binge drinking.

And there was violence within families.

"You beat a generation long enough they become resistant - and that becomes anger."

Having programmes and guidance - a navigator to help find the pathway - was everything, and Norm was buoyed to hear of the launch of the Tu Mai Awa programme being launched in the Bay.

"I wish this new organisation well," he said, adding that he hoped they would retain all the funding they needed to sustain it.

"If society wants to change the DNA of this violence - the psychological, emotional, sexual, verbal violence - then there has to be a conscious effort to completely fund the work of change."

Norm said in his years working within such programmes he had seen the changes - seen people listening, talking and grasping the ways to change their lives.

"And it is a privilege to be part of that."