Tremain's Story
Where was anyone? where were our neighbours? they did nothing

I wasn’t violent in my marriage before our son was born. It soon changed. I learnt jealousy and found I could be attractive to other ladies – and that my wife could be attractive to other men. We were so young, and all these emotions were very new and very raw, and we didn’t know how to control them. The only comparison I had was my father going off his rocker, so I’d go off my rocker and then I knew from him you just go hard and fast and smash everything in your way. It was sheer rage. I’d blow up over anything, it didn’t need much.

The blinds would close again. It would be such a wild, lunatic rage. I was my father all over again. I had to be more than him – in my head. I’d just go berserk and try and smash everything – including my wife. She’d run, but normally the attack would be so fast and ferocious she’d get knocked out. And the beating wouldn’t stop because she was knocked out. I knew from experience if I keep punching you and kicking you, you’re going to wake up. Away I’d go again...

After I got out of youth prison we headed to Tauranga, where I joined a family gang. They wear patches like the bike gangs, but you need to be family before you join it. Then I went to Auckland and got involved with the Black Power. Over the next few years I was sent to every prison in the South Island – four of them.

When I was 18, I went to jail for armed robbery. Fortunately, the trigger was wet and the gun didn’t go off. I still have nightmares about that. I went to a youth prison in Invercargill where I was subjected to a different kind of abuse from other prisoners, who were white supremacists. It wasn’t nice to have a brown skin in that prison.

I came out when I was 21 and went back to Motueka. My mother was there, and a lot of other Maori people who had come to do the tobacco thing. They were about to build a new marae there. I was standing in a hall and everyone stood up and did a mihi in Maori. That was all new to me. I said to my mother “you didn’t tell me about this carry-on”. My mother didn’t want us to learn Maori. She had been whipped at school for speaking her beloved language, and she wanted us to be safe. Her experience was that you got beaten, or got something taken away from you, if you were Maori. All of us felt like that. But when I was standing there in that hall I thought, “I’m going to learn Maori so I can get it back and it can’t get lost again”.

Through my twenties, I learnt many things – traditional Maori warrior discipline, how to carve, how to gather Maori medicines in the bush. I did a horticultural cadetship for three years – with Ngati Rarua trust. It was an iwi initiative, but they made an exception for me because of the work I had done with their tribe.

After that I had a casual job as a fisherman. I’d just go out to sea, come back in for two days, buy kegs of beer, get drunk and go back out to sea. I spent maybe five years like that.

I used to play rep rugby – for Bay of Plenty and then Nelson. My hip got smashed playing rugby, and later I twisted it and my leg froze on me. I got put on pain management and ended up in a wheelchair. I started gaining weight and the joint couldn’t bear it, so when I got out of the wheelchair I had to use crutches and walking sticks.

We had a new baby and she was taken off us by CYPS and given to my older brother – because I was a violent person and had been diagnosed as a poly-addictive substance abuser (I was using various drugs). Now we only had our two older children – who were 15 and 14 – and we said, “Oh my gosh, we’ve got nothing, we’re doing nothing”.

Then my son got caught smoking marijuana on the playing field at school. He was 15. I went to a school board meeting and said “I’ll do anything. I’ll go and sit with him in class if that’s what it takes for him to achieve”. It was a bluff – but they called me on it. They said “thank you very much, we’ll see you in class tomorrow morning at 8.15”. There was no way out.

I had a wonderful mentor – I still have him. He is the Maori teacher, a wonderful old man called Moeke Paaka. He still mentors me and monitors me. He said to me, “Tremain, what’s your legacy? What are you going to leave behind for your grandchildren?” And I said, “I don’t want them to feel hurt like I’ve felt, I don’t want them to see alcohol and drugs like I saw them. I want them to love people, and if they get hurt to accept that and to move on for good people.” And he goes “well, how you going to do it?” I said “I don’t know.”

He couldn’t understand the outbursts of anger I’d have for my son. It didn’t matter that there was a class of schoolgirls around me, I’d just start swearing – “f-ing this, f-ing that, I want to smash you”. Moeke would wait till I’d finished and then he’d say, “Come here, Matua (parent or guide). Is that how you love a person?” I’d say “that’s how I was taught”. He’d say, “I’ve never known love like that Tremain. I was never in an environment where you got hit. I can’t even think about it and nor am I going to let that thought invade my mind. So next time, don’t swear or yell at yourself so loud, and see what happens.”

I found, sitting there in the classroom, that I had an empathy for kids. I knew the ones who were being abused at home in various ways. I just knew. And they could tell me. One of my faults is that I am kind of fearless, so I’d go to their houses and say to their parents “you’d better cut it out”. Everyone who used to hide under the blanket couldn’t now, because I was onto them and if they didn’t stop it, I was going to tell everyone else. The parents started coming to school and saying “sorry bro” – to me.