THE MAORI WARDENS HAVE OFFICIALLY SET UP SHOP AT PACIFIC WERRIBE. (ADEM SABAN)
Victoria Maori Wardens celebrated four years of helping Maori and Islander young people in the westerns suburbs by moving into a brand new office at Pacific Werribee.
The group’s volunteers regularly walk the streets and patrol the shopping centre and surrounding transport hubs to engage with young people.
Victoria Maori Wardens chairman James Hohepa Smith said the group was borne from a community meeting four years ago where Islander and Maori elders said they believed their young people in the west were “lost”.
“They are often born here in Australia to parents who were born in New Zealand,” he said. “There is a loss of identity, a loss of culture.”
Mr Smith, who works as a prison officer, said the response of young people to the wardens had been fantastic.
“They can relate to us because we’re from their cultural background, we aren’t intimidating, and they know who we are and why we do what we do,” he said.
“Communicating with these kids, for us, is like talking to our own community.”
Youth committee liaison officer Maria Kumar said the new office would work as a referral point for young people, with information on services and agencies that can provide them with help.
Mr Smith said the Victorian group had 70 members across the state, but there was a need for more to join – especially men.
For more information, download the Victoria Maori Warden app for free or search for them on Facebook.