Award for 20-year service to refuge
It’s stinking hot in Caroline Herewini’s tiny office, because there aren’t any curtains to keep the sun out.
‘‘We can’t afford curtains – we can’t afford anything, really.
‘‘There’s not one thing here that’s brand new.’’
Herewini has been made a member of the NZ Order of Merit, an award that recognises 18 years of work for Women’s Refuge.
‘‘It’s actually 20 years. They got that wrong,’’ she laughs.
The driving force behind Te Whare Tiaki Wahine Refuge, Herewini led a team that provided help for Maori women and their families affected by abuse.
Responsible for both the Porirua and Kapiti refuges, she has represented New Zealand at a United Nations conference in New York annually for the past three years.
She fundraised herself to be able to attend.
‘‘I am getting it paid for next year, though. That might be because of the award.’’
The honour meant some recognition for a job that was largely invisible in the community, the grandmother said.
‘‘It’s a bit of thanks for me, my team, the women who came before me and the ones who will come after.’’
On Friday morning she was working the crisis line, waiting for calls from women in desperate need of help.
‘‘We’re old, we’re tired, we’re dying and we still keep working. ‘‘There’s too much to be done.’’ For all the refuge’s work with women, Herewini said men were always welcome to come to her for support.
‘‘How do you turn away a man when he has daughters? By helping him you’re helping everybody, that’s the key.
‘‘I saw that growing up, our men were loving and kind and
‘‘It's a bit of thanks for me, my team, the women who came before me and the ones who will come after.’’
violent. ‘‘All of those things.’’ Her three children were proud of her work, but she wouldn’t talk about the prospect of retirement, or the future. Not yet, anyway. ‘‘Who knows how much longer the refuge will last?
‘‘We have everything above us and the only thing below us are the children and women we work with.
‘‘Domestic violence is meant to be a priority in this country?
‘‘Tell that to us, we get 22 per cent funding here.’’
Caroline Herewini, Kaiwhakahaere of Te Whare Tiaki Wahine Refuge in Porirua and Kapiti, got her moko at 50 years old, ‘‘when I felt maybe I had done enough to earn it.’’