Aka and Tane Pakeha-Heke grew up in a home ravaged by domestic violence but turned the horror into the sweetest sound in tribute to their mother.
The 13-year-old twin brothers sang at the Government's criminal justice summit yesterday, remembering the death of mother Talla Pakeha who died after medical help for an asthma attack was delayed over concerns around the safety of entering the family home.
"We are speaking about violence - against it," said Tane to the NZ Herald before singing. "We want to get our message out there."
The boys, wearing a shirt on which their mum's face was printed, received a standing ovation from those present after a waiata which called for "no more violence, we are children".
"E tu whanau, stand with me - no more violence in the family," they sang.
The incidence of domestic violence has been one of a string of central themes at the summit, which aims to produce ideas to help cut the rate of criminal offending and reducing the prison population.
For Aka and Tane (Ngai Tahu, Ngati Awa, Ngati Porou), the violence of their home ended when their mother died seven years ago. They now live with their maternal grandmother Piwi Beard, who they credit with helping them become survivors.
At that stage, the boys say, violence had become a common feature of their home.
"As little kids we were scared until it got to the point where it got normal."
The day their mother died aged 25, she suffered an asthma attack and an ambulance was called as she didn't have an inhaler.
When the ambulance arrived, concerns over their father's behaviour and the history of domestic violence associated with the home led to ambulance officers retreating until police were able to offer support.
Beard said during that time, Talla fell into a coma and required life support when she reached hospital.
The boys were able to sit with their mother before life support was removed, and later move to live with their grandmother after she was granted custody.
They have not seen their father for years, and are unsure where he is, although maintain contact with his family.
"We became survivors and champions on violence. I speak for the ones that can't in that situation," said Tane.
Aka said: "My one is women and children are treasures and they should be treated that way."
The pair live in Christchurch and sing as Twin Harmony.
If you're in danger now:
• Phone the police on 111 or ask neighbours of friends to ring for you.
• Run outside and head for where there are other people.
• Scream for help so that your neighbours can hear you.
• Take the children with you.
• Don't stop to get anything else.
• If you are being abused, remember it's not your fault. Violence is never okay
Where to go for help or more information:
• Women's Refuge: Free national crisis line operates 24/7 - 0800 refuge or 0800 733 843 www.womensrefuge.org.nz
• Shine, free national helpline 9am- 11pm every day - 0508 744 633 www.2shine.org.nz
• It's Not Ok: Information line 0800 456 450 www.areyouok.org.nz
• Shakti: Providing specialist cultural services for African, Asian and middle eastern women and their children. Crisis line 24/7 0800 742 584
• Ministry of Justice: www.justice.govt.nz/family-justice/domestic-violence
• National Network of Stopping Violence: www.nnsvs.org.nz
• White Ribbon: Aiming to eliminate men's violence towards women, focusing this year on sexual violence and the issue of consent. www.whiteribbon.org.nz
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