Written by Victoria Folauhola-Mafi Quensell
NZ Born of Maori/Tongan descent
Statistics. For most they’re used to back some sort of claim about whatever the concern is. A weapon used by those outside the pool of statistics concerned, to push their agenda. Whatever it may be. For me, and many other Maori here in Aotearoa the word ‘statistics’ is the title of a prophecy that hangs over our heads from birth, repeated over and over by those looking from the outside in. Our people are grouped into pools of ‘bad’ statistics whether it is low education levels, low employment levels, high drug and alcohol abuse, high levels of violence in the home, high rates of imprisonment, the list is long. So it is almost expected, that we will pick one of these paths and head on down that road of destruction. The cycle I think it’s called; it is our destiny right? It became our destiny since colonisation, where our culture was beaten from us and we were forced to assimilate. Confused people with cultural identity problems not knowing where we stand, who we are or how to live. Fuelled by the cycle of dysfunction that comes with the territory.
If I consider my childhood then yes, I could’ve been a lost cause. By the age of 12 I had witnessed death by substance abuse, alcohol dependency, attempted suicides, violence and more violence, aunty beaten into a coma, grandmother choked with a phone cord, police raids, dodgy men and heartbroken wailing from the sounds of tortured adults and many more things you see when you’re ‘just another statistic’. However, to me, my siblings and my cousins this was normal, this was just what happens. Do I blame my mother? No. Remember, it’s a cycle. My mother was at the time, at war with her own childhood demons that lingered on into her adulthood. Therefore, my siblings and I did our best to protect each other. In saying all of this, it is important to point out that unlike many others who witness these things, I was blessed with a father who never stopped trying to snatch us from our reality.
My father, a Tongan, with the support of his huge family, exposed me to a sense of normality. Where there was no drinking, no drugs, no violence, structure, unity and a very strong adherence to the Tongan culture. This, was where I began to understand that the life I had, was not normal. It was not ok. And more importantly, nobody should be made to feel it is all you deserve. Fast-forward to 2009, I fell pregnant. By then I had been expelled from school aged 15 for constant fighting, I left home many times, got into crime, sold drugs and abused alcohol but upon that positive pregnancy test, reality came crashing down on me like a tonne of bricks. I had nothing to give this child but I’d be damned if I let her see half the things I did.
I had to grow up, fast. And through the following 9 months I did much soul searching. My mind could never quite pass 3 things; 1st; the times I was troublesome as a child but no outside adult ever tried to see what the problem was. Nobody saw that I came from darkness. In fact, that was the reason for my title, the day I was expelled I heard a CYFS worker saying id be just another ‘lost cause’ and I agreed with her, quietly to myself. 2nd, why was this normality for so many other Maori kids around me? All the other kids looked so… happy. 3rd, I saw that within my Tongan family, there was structure. Apart from bloodlines, they shared beliefs, traditions, language and all the other things that tie people into unity. And with unity, there was stability. Contrast to my Maori side who knew nothing of what it is to be a Maori not even the language. Instability and dysfunction tied them together. I love them so very deeply, but they are broken people who without a sense of identity, sufficient support and knowing nothing different, will remain broken.
VICTORIA FOLAUHOLA-MAFI QUENSEL
My name is Victoria Folauhola-Mafi Quensell. A Tongan. A Maori. A woman. A mother. And as of recently, a BA Arts graduate, majoring in Criminology and Social Sciences who just accepted a place in a Bachelor of Laws (LLB). I am doing work experience with The Green Party and often participate in South Auckland knowledge sharing community groups as well as empowerment classes. I also have experience as a benefit advocate. These are all the paths I chose. For myself and to get into a position, preferably government where I will contribute to helping Maori move forward. I believe there needs to be systemic changes in order for Maori to advance, I believe Maori culture needs to be revived full-blown not just commercially, I believe there needs to be knowledge shared, I believe the cycle needs to be broken, I believe I was not nor are any other Maori children…just a lost cause.
Thumbnail image: Jimmy Nelson– Before they pass away