May 31, 2024
March 2022
Tū Ora Story

Eruera’s story.

With “too many siblings to count” Eruera was sent to live with extended family in a whāngai arrangement at the age of 8.

“It’s hard, ‘cause they were actually good parents,” he says of the aunt and uncle who took him in. “But I wasn’t a good child. It was too late.”  By 11, he was on the streets. By 13 he was in a gang. By 14, he was locked up.
“To steal a car was normal, I stole my first car when I was 8. My first robbery was when I was 14 and I got caught.”  He was sentenced to three and a half years at a boys’ borstal, an army-style youth detention centre. By 18, he was back out and back to the world he knew. 

“Making money was my life. Stealing cars. It was a grand a car. Three cars throughout the whole country in a night, that’s three grand. That was heaps of money. I’d steal a car in Auckland, drive to Wellington, drop that off, get a grand, steal a car there, bring it down here, drop it off, steal a car, drop that off, back to Auckland. Still happens today. That was my income.” 

A minor breach of his parole saw Eruera recalled, briefly, to prison. While his brief stint in jail never resulted in a sentence, it did result in connections and a plan. 

“We planned something inside and outside was supposed to help. It was an armed robbery, this time someone got hurt.”  He was out of prison for just half an hour before committing his next crime, this time the sentence would be for ‘life’ and he would spend more than two decades behind bars.  

“That was, I can’t lie, it was heartbreaking. The family was there, to see them as tears it sorta hits home. Pare’s not an easy jail to be in, it’s dangerous and ugly. You either fit in and get involved or… I’m just 18, 19. My size made it easier to fit in. Me being small, they left me alone.”

In his last year in prison, Eruera connected with the Navigate Initiative at Christchurch Men’s and the reintegration team journeyed alongside him as he rebuilt his life on the outside. Even with support, it took time to reacclimatise. “It took me a few months. I got out of one jail and into another jail, that’s how I looked at it. I had a bracelet, curfewed to the house. It got hard eh.”  After three weeks, he was ready to go back to jail. Instead, he reached out to Pathway and the reintegration team supported him through the challenging time. "If you’ve got no support, it’s pointless getting out!" Eruera says. 

Three Corrections officers had bids on how long he would last on the 'outside'. They ranged from two weeks to three months. With Pathway’s support he's smashed every single one of those bets. In the past 16 months Pathway has supported him to get his licence, secure full-time work and safe and secure accommodation. 

“Anyone that’s in my situation, coming from prison, all you want is that second chance. All it takes is that one person," he says.  

My piece of paper tells you the story about ‘then’ but I went in when I was a kid, I came out when I was grown up. It’d be a slow process, an ugly process without Pathway. Having that support network made all the difference for me.

Names have been changed.

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