She is not your rehab: WORD Christchurch Festival 2021

The session began with an introduction from both Matt and Sarah. Matt; Mother and father from Samoa, Matt born in Auckland and one of 9 siblings. Sarah: Originally from the far North then moved to Manawatu. Has 3 children one of whom asked to come this evening.

Matt then asked to share a letter he had written to a brother who he had lost recently.

Dear Client, Dear brother,
When I think of Barbering I think of you. So when I cut your hair I'm cutting the lost little boy inside your hair. Snip Snip.
You are worthy to be loved , I feel you exhale , I exhale too. I see your tears, I don't hear them. You were not allowed to cry back then. Cry now my brother. I see you sitting on the bed springs not worthy of any thing else. I will sit with you all night going now where.
I thank you for trusting your pain with me. You can sit above this, rise above this.
Rest in power my brother.

This letter written to a man labelled the worst of the worst having suffered intergenerational trauma and pain.

When the film Once Were Warriors was released and Matt was 10 years old, they laughed through the film and thought it was a comedy. Beth Heke's black eyes and bruises were like those on his mother. He's been in every women's shelter in Christchurch, where shared pain makes you feel like family. He said that Grace from Once Were Warriors was who he identified with. They had an open home in their State house in the East where he suffered many sexual and physical abuses from the Aunty Bullies and the Uncle Bullies.

Sarah now takes the chair: "Me and Matt were friends for four years before asking me to be his girlfriend". The book title credited to his mum who was always grateful for the work of Women's Refuge. His father never took responsibility for anything. Sarah decided she was willing to walk with Matt however, she was prepared to do the work for him. He had to go back and show up for little Matt through therapy. It is not popular to talk about family harm and family violence. They wanted the gentleness to invite people to address difficult things making goals digestible, real, raw, and promising. They are also hoping the book will be available to every person in prison in Aotearoa.

For Matt the journey of healing began at 15 and he is still talking about it as we sit here. "This shit is happening, 60-65 cases of family harm in 24 hours, that's a lot of whānau and it's not just brown people and we need to talk about this. Twenty years ago people were not ready to talk about family harm."

At this stage Phil Borell the convener asked, "The story of your mum - is there anything you want to say to her?"

"Grief is a bitch she died last December of cancer. It opened a wound of powerlessness seeing mum being beaten. Not being able to save her. She gave her blessing for the book before she died. Mum made silly decisions that harmed her children but she did her best with what she had."

He wants to forgive so as not pass on trauma and pain to his own children. By doing this he is honouring his mum.

Phil asked: "This book is aimed at men but it's women's story as well. Where does this book go from here?"


There is more to come. We are on a journey to encourage people to do the work and heal this inter-generational trauma.

Inter-generational healing is when this shit stops with me ends in my generation. Asking questions why was dad so damaged that the caused this pain? and then passed it down to him. Intergenerational healing can occur. Let's plant the seed today so we can eat the fruit tomorrow.

When I attended a meeting of barbers we had a circle of courage where I asked the question of the men how many of you have been abused? 47 out of 50 men stepped into that circle! All cried and they were all different kinds of men. Men don't know how to regulate their emotions.

Sarah added: If only people had language for emotions. How many disconnected young people have access to insightful conversation? Who can't access genuine interaction with their parents and how this affects them negatively. A really good place to start is to have interactions of even 5 minutes a day with partner and children with no devices around and no screens making for genuine interactions and small genuine interactions.

Matt: We need to normalize these conversations around family violence, the violence is happening all around us.

Sarah: "I had a conversation with an older pakeha woman who had lost her husband in a tragic way I suggested we talk about that. She burst into tears saying this is the most meaningful conversation I've had. No one has ever asked me before." All Sarah did was simply show interest and let her talk. Let's prioritize genuine connection.

Matt: "Accompany people, work alongside them as this is a massive tool to help people to open up. You don't need magic answers just hold the space and listen. We raised money so every prisoner can have the book."

Matt then read a small chapter from the book. The session then wrapped up. As Phil said:

"This book is love. So much love in there, and passion".

She Is Not your Rehab


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WORD Christchurch


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