Seeking help helps
Shaquille’s life could have been much different today if his nana didn’t seek help.
He might not have learnt to control his anger. He might never have realised his true potential. But his nana did seek help, and she never gave up on her mokopuna.
My success is not mine alone
Today, Shaquille Shortland, aged just 24, is the Kaihautu (leader) Māori at Literacy Whangarei and he is leading an initiative to give staff working for government and community organisations an understanding of te reo Māori and tikanga. He is also running open classes for the public every week at Otangarei Marae in Whangārei.
He has a dream that one day all people in New Zealand, regardless of race, religion or status, will be united as tangata whenua (people of land). This dream was ignited by Trish Harrison-Love, an Oranga Tamariki Senior Practitioner in Whangārei.
Pictured above l-r: Trish, Shaq and Waana at Te Puawaitanga Marae
A difficult start to life
Shaq, as his friends and whānau call him, grew up in Otangarei where he lived with his nana, Waana Reihana. He is affiliated to Ngāti Hine and Ngāti Terino.
Waana did her best to raise Shaq but his life took a turn when he moved to Christchurch aged seven to live with his mother and her partner. During his time there at school he experienced racism, bullying, loss of identity and emotional and physical abuse. He felt it was the worst two years of his life, and he returned to Otangarei an angry, alienated youth.
Waana felt she couldn’t handle him. He was quickly approaching his teens and he was already getting into trouble in a neighbourhood renowned for its rough edges.
Both Shaquille and Waana reflect on this point in time as being a pivotal moment. “He was at a cross roads, and if I didn’t intervene, he could have headed down the wrong path,” Waana says.
"Trish was the first person outside of my whānau who showed genuine aroha towards me and my whānau"
The value of identity
She knew they needed help, and she found it in Trish Harrison-Love who was working with Family Works at the time. Trish became their guidance counsellor and someone they could go to for advice when things got tough.
Through the values of tika and pono, and aroha, she helped direct Shaquille down the path towards something he desperately needed, identity.
“Trish was the first person outside of my whānau who showed genuine aroha towards me and my whānau and we have kept a close relationship since we met. Without her support, I probably wouldn’t speak te reo Māori,” he says.
Shaquille’s father had passed when he was only young, and Trish quickly recognised that he was suffering from a lack of positive male role models in his life. She took him to visit a range of successful Māori men who had also experienced difficult starts to their lives but had managed to overcome them.
“I could see he had so much potential but he didn’t realise it. I arranged one-on-one meetings with these men so he could see what he could achieve if he put his mind to it,” Trish says. She also helped Shaquille to get a scholarship to attend the Catholic Māori boarding school in Auckland, Hato Petera College – something he had always wanted to do.
A lot of people don’t seek help when they need it, but they should as it can make a big difference, Waana says. “Seeking help helped us.”
Returning the aroha
To express his gratitude to Trish for all her support, Shaquille recently acted as kai kōrero (speaker) for her during her interview process to become the Liaison Social Worker for one of our family homes in Whangārei. This home provides a safe and loving environment for children and young people who don’t have anywhere else to go.
“When Trish asked me if I would support her, it was an instant yes. Most of the mahi I’m doing now would not have been possible without Trish and the aroha, tautoko and manaaki she showed me and my whānau.”
The interview panel was so impressed with Shaquille and his mahi that they asked him if he would share his knowledge of te ao Māori with Oranga Tamariki staff in Te Tai Tokerau.
“Having a more in-depth understanding of te reo, tikanga, and history will definitely give staff more tools to assist tamariki,” he says.
"Ehara taku toa i te toa takitahi, engari he toa takitini -
My success is not mine alone, but the success of many"
Waana, who works at Te Wānanga o Aotearoa, is also learning te reo through Shaquille and he has inspired her to become more involved with her local marae, Te Puawaitanga Marae.
Waana is very proud of her mokopuna and she hopes he can inspire other youth in Otangarei to follow him down a more positive path. “We want to show people in Otangarei that living here is not a barrier to success.”