Positive changes for my family

Watch Wiremu's story, who turned his life around after experiencing family violence, homelessness, and addiction. Follow his path to healing and redemption as he shares his emotions through music and stands as a pillar of support for his loved ones.

Soft piano music plays continuously in the background for the duration of the film. On a black screen is the text ‘Warning. This video contains coarse language and discussions of violence. Viewer discretion is advised.’

A close up of Wiremu’s hands, fidgeting with a pair of black sunglasses. He has dark skin and his hands and arms are covered in various tattoos. On his left hand are tattoos of the happy/sad drama masks. On his lower arm is a tattoo with the words ‘South Auckland’ .

Wiremu: “My first name, Wiremu.”

Cut to Wiremu in the lounge of his home. There is a rust-coloured curtain in the background, and we can see a microphone and various speakers around the room. Wiremu sits speaking to an interviewer who is off camera. Wiremu is a Māori man with moustache and goatee. Tattoos can be seen on his neck. He wears a black cap with ‘LA’ on it, a blue t shirt and a black Bisley shirt over the top.

Wiremu: “I’m 39 years of age.”

Cut to a silhouette of Wiremu, in profile, as he raps into a microphone. His face is obscured by the light in the window behind him so that only an outline of his sunglasses, moustache and goatee are visible.

Wiremu: “Probably from as far as I can remember we were kids, playing in the back backyard with your cousins, having fun as we do and then everything just changed. We were only so small we couldn’t defend our mother. We couldn’t defend ourselves.”

Cut to Wiremu, walking by an industrial building with a large mural of a fish on it. He stops and looks up at the mural.

Wiremu: “We had a lot of hate built up towards our stepfather. I didn’t really physically or see violence but you could hear it and that was just as traumatic.”

Cut back to Wiremu in the lounge. As he speaks he gestures with his arms and hands. He speaks a lot with his hands.

Wiremu: “We had been beaten with two-by-fours, weight belts that you use to take to the gym … I had them all strapped up on my back all up to my neck. I went to school one day and we were getting ready for PE, and I then went to get changed.

You know everyone is getting changed in the toilet room and everyone freaked out at me because I had bruises all down my back. I buzzed out at them because I thought ‘well don’t you get hidings?’. But we are not complaining about it because we knew that it would just get worse.

To the point where I was acting out at school, you know, fighting, playing up. But I was a good student so I always done my work. Because I knew that if I had a bad report card what would happen. So, me and my brother were living in fear really. Shame, you know. Embarrassed.”

Cut to Wiremu sitting in a restaurant, in a high-backed red booth. He bends over and clasps his hands behind his head, moving his hands over his hair. He is not wearing his hat in this scene.

Wiremu: “But back then, I didn’t know what all that was. I just knew I had to hide it.”

Cut back to Wiremu in the lounge.

Wiremu: “Because I didn’t want anyone else knowing. So the only time I did feel comfort or peace was when he was out of the country or gone with his mates for the weekend fishing or you know just not there.”

Cut to Wiremu outside under some trees. He is wearing a blue t shirt, his cap, and black over the ear headphones.

Wiremu: “And I was expelled from school because I was fighting too much. Defending so, a lot of time they would … mock my mother. [It] used to make me real angry that you know a lot of people would even get into the sort of [laughs] teasing and stuff like that. It was new to me. Scared at home, scared at school until I had my first actual fist fight with someone you know and then I knew, yeah I’ve got some different type of pain now.

When I had my first fight that's when I knew that [laughs] I am the violence.”

Cut back to Wiremu sitting in a red high-backed booth of a diner. He looks up and out the window.

Wiremu: “I’m Māori but I didn’t like … Māori teachings. So I kinda forced my way out into the mainstream, with the island kids. That's where I felt more, um, belonging. So, when I had that first fight then I knew these fellas accepted me as one of their own.

I got suspended from school so I was fearful of going home cause I knew what was going to happen.”

Cut to Wiremu walking between industrial buildings covered in graffiti murals. He has his cap on backwards and is looking at his hands. The scene is in slow motion.

Wiremu: “So I thought I’d take a stand that day and not go home.”

Cut back to Wiremu in the lounge.   

Wiremu: “So, everywhere I went I always had this sort of aggression when things wouldn’t go my way. I was always in control. I felt anywhere that I wasn’t in control in my situation then why would I leave it to someone else to control it.”

Cut to Wiremu standing outside looking up at the graffiti mural. He is in focus but the mural is blurred.

Wiremu: “I was just scared eh”

Cut to Wiremu in the lounge.   

Wiremu: “I was just scared of being left out, I was just scared not being part of anything because I was so dominated at home [that] when I was outside of home, I needed to dominate outside of home. So I wasn’t going to let another man treat me the way that my step-father was treating me.

And that's one of the things I told myself was that, the only man that was and that did bruise me or touch me or give me a black eye was my step-dad.”

Cut to Wiremu standing with his back to the mural. His face is raised towards the sun slightly, and his eyes are closed.

Wiremu: “With the authorities and teachers and all that, there was a lot of involvement now…”

Cut to Wiremu in the lounge.   

Wiremu: “From being a kid who minded his own business who stayed in his own corner quiet to now, being sent to the dean's office. I guess my look on authorities and with police and all that sort of stuff, teacher aide and all, that's when my life started realising that these people exist. That we can't just get out of control. These certain things happen and certain people are there to do their job to minimise that.

As a young teenager, I ran away from home, so now I'm at a point where I’ve got to survive. Growing up in South Auckland was pretty harsh, cause every corner you turn to there was someone there waiting. There was always a group, another group. Now one of my mates has gone to jail ‘cause someone’s just hit the ground, and their head’s just hit the ground and they didn't wake up. It painted a picture for me as a place where if I didn’t be careful, I knew how to look after myself anyway, I didn’t have to walk around scared outside. Whether it be fighting or running .I never ever took anything from my childhood into my relationship but that’s what I felt. But still verbal abuse, emotional … abuse, that's still abuse. I'm with my partner now, we’re married, we’ve been together seventeen years. So when we first started, it was all that lovey-dovey stuff. There wasn’t any time that would trigger any of those aggressions or anything, so we had a good smooth run for about five years, and then I got addicted to meth. And that’s when everything just came up to the surface. 2010 was when I first tried it and then I never looked back I did it for the next ten years. Full on. So abuse of, verbal abuse really. And I still carried what I said to myself when I was young, that I would never hit … my kids’ mother. So I still carried that, but I was still carrying the verbal abuse, the emotional abuse, the put downs, name calling.

I pretty much spent everything without a care in the world … that my family is at home suffering.

Well I told myself to allow myself to do the things I was doing, was that this was my way out to go any get high again. This is what I used to get out. I knew that I needed to be somewhere so I needed to be off the top, …, to the point where she's telling me to leave, that’s when I’ve got my way. Now I'm off to go do what I'm going to do. Not realising that I’ve just put them through all this emotion and I’m out the door happy. So fast forward it to 2019. My brother passed away, had three of the worst cancers, killed him in, like, three months. My family was all against me, so I still wasn't getting along with my mum. I wasn't getting along with my siblings. They knew me as this addict that they didn't want around. And I pretty much just fell into that category.

Yea it made me even worse really when my brother passed away. Made me even more destructive. I think that one year was worse than the last ten years we just went through. Because now, as a whole family, we’ve got absolutely nothing now. We’re living in motels, emergency housing, going through a pandemic and all I could worry about was masking, numbing, you know? Numbing that that pain that I felt when my brother passed away.

And the lightbulb moment for me was, I guess I just woke up one day and just thought ‘what am I doing? Really, I'm suffering. I’m suffering. I could do a lot more. But here I’ve only limited myself to this addiction. Dealing, associated with the wrong people. It was … gang members turning up to my house, for me. Now my family is even more scared, and what am I doing out there to cause this sort of situation?

Being clouded and stuck in that cloud, I didn’t see what was behind me, I didn’t see what was around me. I just needed to know what was above me, and how do I get there again. Who do I hurt? Didn’t matter. It just didn't click.

I was gone for up to like two weeks at a time. Then I would come home, go through an argument, blah blah blah, then I would go again.

The impacts I saw in my kids, was that they were replicating arguments between themselves. The two oldest they were fighting, because that's all they seen me and their mum doing was fighting. So when they would get into fights, they were hurt. So they were going full on … siblings just fighting each other but when I would break them up, I'd go out and you know, do the same thing again.

So, when my brother passed away, we got pregnant. We didn't find out the sex until probably the last couple of weeks before he did pass away. And we were having a boy. So I rung him, and let him know that we were having a boy and he's got a namesake and that we’d name it after him. And he was over the moon, he was rapt. He couldn't wait to see him.

Wasn’t until maybe six months into him being born and my brother passed away, that I realised that he’s going to start learning and seeing everything that my oldest three just went through.

The change I wanted to make was so that he didn’t see, or … even feel that we just went through that the first three siblings. All we’ve got to do is forgive each other. Forgive you know … and we just move on, as a whole unit.

What I can do is provide now. I can go out there and provide for us. When I didn’t used to provide for us, I provided for myself. Before, I wanted to have the latest things. I wanted that, this I wanted this, flash, flash, flash, flash. Now I'm just happy that my family's got it. I can go without, you know. I owe that to them, to be a better man. I don’t owe them any dollars, or any cents or any explanations. I just got to owe that to them and myself, that I’m a better man.

I’ve hurt my family too long. I've lost them once, I don't want to lose them again. Cause … what do you do when you think you that your family is there, waiting for you, after they’ve left you, and you turn around and they are not there. You know it freaks you out.

The hardest thing for me was really cutting all those ties off. Cutting all the associates, knowing that my family needs me more here than anyone out there that needs me at their table.”

Cut to Wiremu, standing on a bridge with Chris, the facilitator of the men’s group. Chris is a middle-aged Māori man, wearing glasses, a grey beanie and a black hoodie. There is a brick church in the background.

Wiremu: “The things that help me change was that people starting to hear me. And I felt that my voice was what needed to be heard.”

Cut to Wiremu in the lounge.   

Wiremu: “the stories that I tell, are identical if not the same stories that every other man that is in my shoes are feeling.

So, when I did this music thing, it was more of a sentimental thing then it was a successful thing. So, if I wasn't here in ten, twenty, thirty  years, my kids still have something to go back to. I’m there, I’m still there. They might not listen to my music now but when I'm gone it'll be on repeat. So, it’s more or less leaving something behind so that they've always got something, not searching for ‘where am I?’ or ‘what I am doing?’”

Cut to Wiremu sitting in at a table writing. He is wearing his headphones. We see he is writing song lyrics in a ring-bound exercise book.

Wiremu: “Other people that relate to it is a bonus. How I describe myself now is that I'm just a beacon in the darkness.”

Cut to Wiremu, from behind, mixing music on a computer.

Wiremu: “Letting everyone know that no matter how hard things get, no matter how dark things get, through a dark night there is a brighter day.

Cut to Wiremu, sitting in a park with Chris. There are large rocks and cabbage trees behind them. They slap their hands together and lean in for a half hug (bro-shake), in slow motion.

Wiremu: “You can't sit there expecting it to come fall on your lap. You’ve got to walk yourself out of that darkness. I've got a whole support team now that I never used to have. I didn’t like support. I didn't like praise. I didn’t like people telling me that you could be better. I didn't like that. I had to realise that for myself, and my support systems I do go to is Chris.

He has pretty much been there since day one. He’s seen my journey from when I finally decided to give change a go, and actually give it a go and commit to it.”

Cut back to Wiremu in the lounge.   

Wiremu: “And he just sat back and just watched. He’s been able to provide a space for us, for us to go there, and be able to go and work these things out by ourselves. And it's not your you know typically counselling session, it's more of a self-check...”

Cut to Wiremu and Chris sitting on a bench in a park, chatting inaudibly. Wiremu fidgets with his sunglasses.

Wiremu: “‘Where are we at, what are we up to, if you fall down the only time I’m standing above you is to pick you up.’  

Cut back to Wiremu in the lounge.   

Wiremu: “And I learnt that pretty fast that I'm not going to have the support team for long, because there’s other people that need it, so instead of sitting there dwelling on what ‘shoulda, coulda, woulda’, just do it. Just do something that I should have done all those years ago.

And now when I do things I make sure when I say something, when I do something, it stays in that moment. I don't think about what I lost yesterday, I don’t worry about what I can be tomorrow. I’ve got to be present today especially for my kids -  what they need. What our kids need today is a present dad, not something that's thinking about yesterday, not someone that's thinking about payday tomorrow. They need someone that's there today. Present.

You know, 'cause, anything could happen. My outlook now is that I’ve got my baby now. He hasn’t seen any side of what I’ve just put my first three through. Me and his mother still have a bit of a – you know - towards each other, but it never gets any to the point where we were back in the day.

Now she's got a voice. Now she can stand on her own two feet. Now she can stand up for herself. Now she can tell me what to do instead of the other way around and I will just accept it. For so many years, we were like this, fighting each other. Now I feel we are sync as a family and that's when everything starts falling into place.

Around my family, friends they see the change, they see all the steps that I’ve taken to come through the other end. Still got the parents saying that … I'm a bad man, I’m a bad guy, da da da da da, but I’ve learnt that now no matter what people say, we can't change the way they think, we can't control the way they speak. So, don't worry about it.

The negative side it is not really there, but the only negative that is there is my own thoughts, my own self, my own demons that I’ve managed to [inhales] teach myself to get a hold of, cause when one pops they all pop. And I've got too much new habits now to be able to fall back on the old ones.

That music’s there for me to tell my story. That's my way … releasing, and instead of being aggressive anymore, being violent, going through all of those steps that I went through, intimidation, now I can put it all into music.”

Cut to a silhouette of Wiremu, in profile, as he raps into a microphone. His face is obscured by the light in the window behind him so that only an outline of his sunglasses, moustache and goatee are visible.

Cut to Wiremu in the lounge.   

Wiremu: “So, my message of hope to you would be, just find it, just find your find your way, because at the end of the day it’s not going to last forever, you are either going to be in jail for a long time, or you are just going to keep going through the same cycle.

If you want to see change, you’ve got to make the change. We can only lead you to this point. Be a better man. Do it for your family, do it for your kids. At the end of the day, you're not going to be here very long. Our next generation are coming through.

The snippet that I feel that's helping me towards change is knowing that I can leave these tools behind for other men to grasp. The knowledge that I gain, the knowledge that I’ve learnt, and the tools that I’ve been given, to be able to be able to pass down, in my house. So I want to be able to pass it through my sons, because it starts with them. I can't go outside and fix anyone's house. I've got to fix what’s in my house. So if I can pass everything down from my tools down to my kids, and maybe tomorrow's generation will be a better day.”

Cut to Wiremu, with his arm around Chris’s shoulders as they walk over the bridge, smiling. The screen fades to black. White text appears ‘In your hands. Change starts here. For you and your whānau.’

More to Watch
Corban - Thinking about change

Corban's Story

Play Full Playlist
Corban - Thinking about change
Ete - Taking Steps for Change
Wiremu - Staying on Track

Change Journey Playlists

More Stories on Change

Looking for help for someone else?

Go to supporters page
Image of mobile phone with Service Finder tool

Need help not sure where to find it?

Use the Service Finder tool below to find the right support for you.