Five meaningful and thought-provoking documentaries were shown at an event to encourage more Māori wahine to join the police force.
On Thursday evening, a crowd gathered at the TSB Hub in Hāwera to listen to speakers tell their stories of being in the workforce, and watch a series of documentaries following five wahine as they go through the process of joining the police force.
The session was opened by kaumātua Turangapito Parata of Ngāti Ruanui.
The event was one of many held across the country in the police's Puhikura Wahine Māori Recruitment programme, which aims to promote the police force and also increase the representation of female Māori in the police force.
Puhikura is a candid documentary series capturing the power of wahine Māori through the gift of stories such as taonga.
Pouwakataki (Māori liaison for Taranaki) Kayanna Holley says the police aim to reflect the community they serve and at the moment, there is an underrepresentation of female Māori.
"It's important for us to have that representation, but at the moment we don't have it. We've created the Puhikura programme to follow five wahines on their journey to applying for the police and some of the challenges they've faced and what they've done to overcome them."
Kayanna says the videos are thought-provoking and hopes they resonate with other female Māori who wish to join the police.
"We hope some people find meaning in these videos and if they're dealing with a similar situation, it gives them hope and faith to join."
One of the documentaries follows Iritana Hohaia, a former Black Ferns rugby player and her journey in joining the police.
Iritana is from Ōpunake and began playing club rugby at Coastal as a child. She was a member of the gold-medal-winning New Zealand sevens team at the Youth Olympics in 2018, scoring a try in the final victory over France.
She was Taranaki Whio's Player of the Year in 2019.
After suffering an injury last year, she had to look at another career besides rugby.
"I was high-tackled, which compressed my kidneys and resulted in renal failure. After that, I had to really consider what I would do next."
She says she is passionate about working for people, and joining the police force is a way she could do that.
"I'm in the early stages of joining the police force and am heading away to Police College on August 1 to complete four months of training in Wellington."
She says filming the documentary was a journey and feels lucky to show people how supportive her family are.
"They've always supported me in everything I do and that support is something I cherish dearly.
Iritana hopes her story resonates with others and encourages them to join the police.
"It shows the obstacles I've faced and what I had to do to overcome them. Everyone has faced challenges in their life and these videos show different challenges some of us have faced and how we were able to join the force."
As well as capturing Iritana's story, viewers also learnt about four other wahine who have faced challenges such as mental health, upbringing and gang association.
Māori responsiveness manager for Central Districts Clifford Brown also spoke at the event.
"These videos share the stories of wahine who have overcome challenges and joined the force."
He says a Māori world view is important if the police want to transform as an organisation.
"What better person to help Māori than Māori? Only 25 per cent of the workforce is female and we want to bump that up to 50 per cent as we as an organisation want a fair representation. As wahine Māori are underrepresented, we want more to join our police force."
He says to do this, the organisation has to work in partnership with both the community and government.
"We're committed to working towards better circumstances for māori and changing the mindset of the organisation. We want effective change and initiatives and one way to do that is to recruit more māori women who understand the needs of māori."
Clifford says a question that is often asked is 'What is the matter with māori?' when it should be 'What matters to māori?'
"Who is better to answer that question than māori. We need to change our thinking as an organisation."
He says having more female māori would be an asset to the police.
"Māori wahine are compassionate and can speak to people and understand their situation which we need."