Mo­tor­cy­cling fundrais­ers

Tribal Na­tions’ mem­bers ride mo­tor­cy­cles, wear a lot of leather and de­vote their time to bust­ing stereo­types while fundrais­ing for char­ity. Vicki An­der­son re­ports.

Waikato Times - - News -

The leather jacket of­fers a weighty em­brace. It is all a part of the nec­es­sary rit­ual. Lynda Byrnes tucks her blonde hair into her hel­met. Nearby, Mita Ja­cobs of­fers up a cheeky grin be­side his gleam­ing mo­tor­cy­cle.

In the car park, peo­ple of­fer furtive glances and hurry into their cars as the Can­ter­bury mem­bers of Tribal Na­tions Mo­tor­cy­cle Club pre­pare to ride off on to the dusty plains.

The en­gine of Byrnes’ mo­tor­cy­cle of­fers a first pri­mal roar to life and is soon joined by a cho­rus of Har­ley-David­sons and Tri­umphs. In a leather-clad pack, the club in­signia vis­i­ble on their backs, they roar out on to the high­way.

A man cross­ing the car park, who has im­mac­u­lately coiffed grey hair, catches my eye. ‘‘You couldn’t hope to meet a nicer bunch,’’ he says, wav­ing his walk­ing stick in the di­rec­tion of the de­part­ing bik­ers.

It’s not the stereo­typ­i­cal re­ac­tion but then Tribal Na­tions isn’t a typ­i­cal mo­tor­cy­cle club.

A reg­is­tered spon­sor of Life­line, its mem­bers own Bri­tish, Eu­ro­pean and Amer­i­can mo­tor­cy­cles and or­gan­ise so­cial rides and mo­tor­cy­cle events to help raise aware­ness around all forms of vi­o­lence, abuse and sui­cide.

Each year it raises tens of thou­sands of dol­lars for char­ity.

Ear­lier, Atama Moore had po­litely pressed an or­ange juice into my hand and urged me to take a seat be­side a huge pile of leather jack­ets while Ja­cobs, a tall man with a long white beard, and his friend leaned in for a hongi.

As she pulls up a seat next to me, Byrnes jokes she’s had enough me­dia at­ten­tion in re­cent times af­ter tak­ing a con­trac­tor to task for en­cas­ing a Christchurch tree in con­crete.

‘‘Not many peo­ple know about this side of me . . . the bikes and Tribal Na­tions.’’

I’ve been of­fered a rare op­por­tu­nity to sit in on one of the mo­tor­cy­cle club’s gath­er­ings.

Lesa Clarke sits across from me at a long ta­ble. We’re sur­rounded by hel­mets and in the back­ground AC/DC is play­ing. Run­ning her hand through her short black hair, she points to the green patch on her leather jacket with the word F.A.I.T.H.

‘‘Tribal Na­tions is an ex­tended fam­ily,’’ says Clarke. ‘‘We sup­port each other. We go out on rides to­gether and we do char­ity work.’’

Aso­cial mo­tor­cy­cle club, Tribal Na­tions be­gan in Nga¯ ru­awa¯ hia, con­sid­ered its spir­i­tual home, in 2014.

Steeped in Ma¯ oridom, at its core, it has an em­pha­sis on cam­paign­ing to spread aware­ness of vi­o­lence, abuse and sui­cide.

Its 200-odd mem­bers are spread through­out New Zealand – from In­ver­cargill to Whangarei.

There is one elected pres­i­dent, Kevin Pep­perell, based in Nga¯ ru­awa¯ hia and, un­like in tra­di­tional gang cul­ture, the re­gions are man­aged by am­bas­sadors and com­mit­tees.

‘‘Tribal Na­tions has peo­ple from all na­tions, back­grounds and cultures,’’ says Pep­perell.

‘‘With the ride against teen sui­cide ear­lier this year we raised close to $20,000. In Novem­ber we’ll be com­ing down south for the White Rib­bon ride. When­ever we raise money we make a big song and dance about it, with the gi­ant cheques and ev­ery­thing. We want peo­ple to see where their money is go­ing.’’

For these rides, bik­ers pay a reg­is­tra­tion fee, which can be about $50. The group then rides a scenic route to a des­ti­na­tion. Fam­i­lies and sup­port­ers are wait­ing at the fi­nal spot with games and a bar­be­cue.

Some­what con­tro­ver­sially, club mem­bers wear a back patch, or as they pre­fer to call it, a ‘‘back set’’.

Pep­perell says they do this in a bid to ‘‘change stereo­types’’.

‘‘We are a back patch non­gang. Wear­ing a patch on your back or your leg or your arm doesn’t mean you are an out­law. Our mem­bers are ex-mil­i­tary. They’re doc­tors, pi­lots, road work­ers, lawyers, for­mer gang mem­bers, Chris­tian In­di­ans, Chi­nese lawyers. We’ve got one guy called The Pro­fes­sor in Oamaru.

‘‘They are peo­ple from all walks of life, all creeds and re­li­gions . . . In our club women are wel­comed and our equals. Any­one want­ing to join is vet­ted.’’

Some mem­bers have trou­bled pasts but have moved on and want to im­prove their lives. ‘‘Spoons did years in prison, Tiny is a re­cov­ered heroin ad­dict. It’s not about who they were, it’s about who they are now. Ev­ery­one has a past, it’s what you’re do­ing now that mat­ters.’’

Tribal Na­tions is, he says, non-threat­en­ing, law-abid­ing and friendly to all. Its kau­papa is to sup­port those in the com­mu­nity who are dis­ad­van­taged, dis­en­fran­chised, and suf­fer­ing se­ri­ous ill­ness, ne­glect, de­pri­va­tion, abuse – whether phys­i­cal or emo­tional – and ad­dic­tions.

‘‘First and fore­most we are a mo­tor­cy­cle club but we com­bine this with work­ing in our com­mu­ni­ties to bring about pos­i­tive change.’’

The club has three main fundrais­ing rides it or­gan­ises or takes part in. Its RATS (rid­ers against teen sui­cide) rides are held na­tion­wide. It also holds a Ride of Re­spect for our veter­ans and a White Rib­bon ride against do­mes­tic vi­o­lence in Novem­ber.

Mem­bers can or­gan­ise rides to sup­port other char­i­ties too.

Ear­lier this month, Christchurch-based hus­band and wife Al­lan and Kerry Townsend held Stands Up Ride 2018 to raise funds for Aviva, for­merly the Women’s Refuge.

Aviva fundrais­ing man­ager Ta’ase Vaoga says it was the first fundrais­ing mo­tor­cy­cle ride for

the or­gan­i­sa­tion. ‘‘It is re­ally great to have Al­lan and Kerry sup­port us in this way.’’

More than 100 rid­ers from through­out the South Is­land took part and rode 200 kilo­me­tres across Can­ter­bury. Moneys raised would go to­wards run­ning and oper­at­ing Aviva’s 24-hour cri­sis sup­port line and all-ages ed­u­ca­tion pro­grammes.

Tiki O’Brien, a tra­di­tional Ma¯ ori artist, is one of the ‘‘orig­i­nals’’ who first sat around a ta­ble and de­cided to ‘‘take the kau­papa to the world’’ with Tribal Na­tions. He de­signed the group’s seal, the Hei Tiki, hold­ing the ta­iaha, with huia, hawk feath­ers and pis­tons.

‘‘F.A.I.T.H. stands for our five ba­sic core val­ues,’’ says O’Brien. ‘‘Fam­ily, which comes first; Ac­cep­tance – the unique dif­fer­ences of all peo­ple, cultures, re­li­gions and be­liefs; In­tegrity, to be au­then­tic, whole, com­plete and of good char­ac­ter; Trust and Hon­esty.’’

Its guid­ing prin­ci­ples recognise the tino ran­gati­ratanga and mana whenua of all peo­ple.

O’Brien says mo­tor­cy­cling was some­thing he did when he was young but, as he got older, he felt he was miss­ing out.

‘‘Get­ting in­volved in Tribal Na­tions has been an amaz­ing ex­pe­ri­ence. I love mo­tor­cy­cles. I love be­ing with peo­ple and this is just the group I was look­ing for, not just in terms of rid­ing for fun but rid­ing for a good cause with a great bunch of peo­ple.’’

Byrnes en­joys the op­por­tu­nity to go on rides with oth­ers. ‘‘No-one has made me feel un­com­fort­able. Mo­tor­cy­cling can be a soli­tary thing, es­pe­cially as a woman.’’

Through their fundrais­ing ef­forts, she feels they are mak­ing a dif­fer­ence where it re­ally mat­ters. ‘‘Some of these teenagers who are strug­gling with sui­cide have a tough per­sona. They will come up and talk to you be­cause they think you are tough enough to hear what they have to say.

‘‘It’s an im­por­tant group in the com­mu­nity we might be able to reach that oth­ers can’t.’’

Af­ter first find­ing Tribal Na­tions ‘‘up north’’, Moore joined when he moved to ‘‘te turu re­gion’’, Christchurch.

He grew up around mo­tor­cy­cles and jokes that he ‘‘rode out of the womb’’.

‘‘In my up­bring­ing there was a lot of men­tal and emo­tional abuse. I’ve lost some peo­ple close to me through sui­cide . . . Tribal Na­tions is also a good rep­re­sen­ta­tion of Ma¯ oridom, which I love. I’m a proud Ma¯ ori,’’ he says. ‘‘I have grown up around the back patch . . . Black Power, Mon­grel Mob, I have fam­ily mem­bers in both or­gan­i­sa­tions..

‘‘Tribal Na­tions takes a firm stand on not be­ing a gang. I would love to help de­stroy the stigma around the wear­ing of a back patch. Not all peo­ple who wear patches on their back is a gang. We are a mo­tor­cy­cle club who wants to serve the com­mu­nity.’’

The leather gear is sim­ply the ‘‘best pro­tec­tion’’ on a mo­tor­bike. ‘‘It’s not to try and look tough, it’s to pro­tect us. It keeps you nice and safe.’’

O’Brien says the back set is a way to get their mes­sage ‘‘and brand’’ across. ‘‘Mo­tor­cy­cle clubs have been around for 50 years. We thought it was time to take a mod­ern ap­proach. We have a Face­book page and a web­site with pro­fes­sional videos. Peo­ple see our name and they can Google us and see what we’re about straight away.’’

Re­cently, he was on a ride with a fel­low club mem­ber and they pulled into a cafe.

‘‘We wanted to get some hot choco­lates. These kids came run­ning over to us scream­ing and say­ing they’d seen our videos and all the good stuff we do in the com­mu­nity.’’

Pep­perell says Tribal Na­tions mem­bers have been ap­proached by mem­bers of other gangs, un­sure of their in­ten­tions.

Moore has ex­pe­ri­enced this first hand in Christchurch.

‘‘I’ve had run-ins on the road where gang mem­bers in cars have thrown up gang signs. I stick to the road rules and give them a friendly wave. My sign is the peace sign.

‘‘We are blessed as a club, we have no en­e­mies. Tribal Na­tions has the mana of be­ing neu­tral. We are re­spected but we give a lot of re­spect.’’

At first blush, Ja­cobs cuts an in­tim­i­dat­ing fig­ure but if you spend five min­utes with him you’ll quickly be laugh­ing at his down-to-earth, cheeky na­ture.

‘‘There are a lot of quiet peo­ple like us out here plod­ding away for the com­mu­nity,’’ he says. He con­fides that he used to ride with the ‘‘1 per cen­ters and the Hells An­gels’’.

He joined Tribal Na­tions in June af­ter meet­ing mem­bers at a BACA (Bik­ers Against Child Abuse) Ride. ‘‘I feel it is a beau­ti­ful kau­papa, that was what brought me here. The other mem­bers do all these flash jobs, I am a dig­ger op­er­a­tor and I just chuck a shovel around,’’ he says, grin­ning.

‘‘To be hon­est I’m around peo­ple I haven’t been around be­fore. I’ve al­ways been in the lower so­cio-eco­nomic thing with the bros and all that. This has opened my eyes.

‘‘We are all here just try­ing to make some­thing good hap­pen in this crazy world.’’

In Fe­bru­ary the group will cel­e­brate its fifth an­niver­sary with a ‘‘bit of a do’’ in Reefton.

Times are chang­ing. Last week Pep­perell, in his leather jacket with club in­signia, was stopped in the street by an ‘‘old lady with pur­ple hair’’.

‘‘She looked at me and she said ‘you guys aren’t bad­dies’. I thought, ‘fi­nally, we’re crack­ing it’.’’

Tiki O’Brien, an ‘‘orig­i­nal’’ mem­ber of Tribal Na­tions, a New Zealand-wide mo­tor­cy­cle club that works to raise funds for char­i­ties. The group’s motto is F.A.I.T.H. – stand­ing for Tribal Na­tions’ five core val­ues: Fam­ily, Ac­cep­tance, In­tegrity, Trust and Hon­esty.

Some mem­bers of the Christchurch, te turu, Tribal Na­tions Mo­tor­cy­cle Club, from left, Lesa Clarke, Mita Ja­cobs, Kerry Townsend, Al­lan Townsend, Lynda Byrnes, and, far right, Atama Moore.

STUFF

Atama Moore is a Christchurch mem­ber of Tribal Na­tions. ‘‘We are a mo­tor­cy­cle club who wants to serve the com­mu­nity.’’

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