Award for 20-year ser­vice to refuge

Kapi-Mana News - - FRONT PAGE - VIR­GINIA FAL­LON

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.’’

PHOTO: VIR­GINIA FAL­LON/FAIRFAXNZ

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.’’

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