Whānau of kid allegedly assaulted in park ‘overwhelmed’ with assist at neighborhood hui
The mother of a toddler who was allegedly assaulted by a man in a Hastings park said her whānau has been overwhelmed with support after dozens of people gathered for a hui to discuss alcohol, drugs, gangs, and violence.
Aotea Brown’s 3-year-old son was hurt in an altercation which allegedly involved a Mongrel Mob member and other adults at Cornwall Park on June 1.
A 26-year-old man was arrested the following day and charged with common assault and assault of a child.
Brown said her son no longer had any physical injuries from the incident, but it had “stuck in his memory like glue”.
“He always says ‘Mummy, he made me bleed.'”
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His problem with bed-wetting had worsened since the incident, Brown said.
“I’m hoping that people hear about our experience and seeing it, that they think of their kids, and it stops them from wanting to do that stuff.”
Brown said she didn’t blame the gang for the decisions of an individual.
“The decisions you make, no matter how long ago it was, will always catch up to you and won’t just impact you, but your family too,” she said. “A lot of gang members I know love their kids more than I have ever seen. They look after their families.”
Hui organizer Cherie Kurarangi with Aotea Brown, the mother of the child allegedly assaulted at a Hastings park last week.
When addressing the crowd of about 100 people at the community hui on Monday at Anderson Park in Napier, Brown held up the bloodied shirt her son had worn on the day.
“What would you do if this was your baby’s blood?” she said. “I know many people will be thinking an eye for an eye because that’s my mindset too. But one thing I’ve learned is that you can’t fix pain by adding more of it into the equation.”
Brown urged people to speak up if they witnessed something wrong.
Andre Skudder, a member of Mongrel Mob Notorious, spoke to the crowd about wanting to prevent violence and hoping others can learn from his past mistakes.
“Don’t ever feel weak or like a snitch for speaking up, because sometimes that’s the bravest thing you can do. If we want to change we have to start with ourselves first.”
Organizer of the hui and the child’s nanny, Cherie Kurarangi, also created an informal online survey about family violence. She said the response to both had been “massive”.
“I feel like we made a real difference today, we really did.”
Of the nearly 5200 people who took part in the survey, more than 840 reported witnessing violence in public or family spaces.
Dozens of people attended the hui to discuss violence, gangs, drugs, and alcohol.
“These kinds of things are all around us, so they have become somewhat normalized. I really feel as a community we need to stop that normalization and get back to what should be normal which is looking after each other,” Kurarangi said.
The main issues of concern raised in the survey were family harm, followed by gangs, and drugs and alcohol in parks and community spaces.
Representatives from both Black Power and Mongrel Mob attended the hui.
Other speakers at the event included former Hawke’s Bay Regional Prison director Peter Grant, Hastings councillors Henare O’Keefe and Bayden Barber, and Mongrel Mob Notorious member Andre Skudder.
Andre Skudder has been a member of Mongrel Mob Notorious for more than 30 years.
During his speech Skudder, a gang member of more than 30 years, said he felt the weight of responsibility for his past actions and hoped he could prevent others from making the same mistakes.
“When I hear about violence, whether domestic or fact related, occurring in public places, I cringe with the weight of responsibility felt in my heart, because I have often behaved in similar ways in the past,” he said.
“Because of my toxic state of mind at the time I was indeed an unnecessary danger to society.”
Skudder said he had “paid dearly” for the mistakes in his life, including 20 years in prison and a further decade of strict parole conditions.
Former Hawke’s Bay Regional Prison director Peter Grant with Andre Skudder and Cherie Kurarangi.
“But worst of all, the loss of my children and family. I do not stand here preaching from a higher place, rather I am a sad example of the consequences and ramifications of one’s wrongful decisions in life.
“I truly believe that to make a difference and improve safety for our children and families in our communities – can only come if we change our whakaaro, our ways of thinking, and our perceptions of what is right and wrong, and to do this we need to do it together, as one, in unity, for the same cause and outcome.”
Police attended the hui and provided reassurance and advice to the community, a spokesperson said.
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