Nita | Ōtara

“Kia ora koutou. My name’s Nita, and I hail from a place called Ōtaki, but this has been my home for nearly 50-something years; Ōtara.

I don’t experience loneliness when it comes to the sense of whānau, because I’m from a very, very big whānau, and I have a lot of connections and networks here in Ōtara. So it’s not that loneliness. What I do feel in terms of loneliness is the closeness of a partner, because my husband’s passed on, and what that means is that you don’t have an opportunity to have true conversations that don’t impinge on your relationships. You just accept each other for what they have to say. So, in terms of loneliness, that’s what I kind of feel; not necessarily a loneliness about being isolated from those who are around me, and those who are in this community.

I suppose because my history with my husband who has now passed on, and those friends of ours who we both knew, and this community, because we were from the same community, means that the passion that we had around community work and the passion that we had to work with young people and old people is still there. So in some ways, overcoming loneliness, it only impinges on me when it’s things like birthdays or holidays when, like Christmas and our wedding anniversary. You know, those sort of things, which is only a small, it’s like one day in the year.

Loneliness on a long term basis here in my life, I don’t believe that it’s really there, because I’ve got so much other things that I’m doing. There are a lot of people even now when we have the opportunity, to connect and have conversations, and we talk about the people that we knew in the past. The kaumatua and kuia who really impacted on our lives at that time, I suppose they live through our conversations. They certainly live in my memories. So, we have an opportunity to talk about those memories, and laugh about them, and talk about how they were as people, and what they did, in terms of how they impacted on the processes that we used to make decisions as individuals and like a community project.

I think right now we do a lot of talking bout them, in terms of our kaumatua and kuia, because there’s such a lot going on, that we don’t necessarily see the same reliance of community as what we saw when we were younger and we were working in the community. There was a more of a a willingness to give without thought, and give because they really cared about things, and they really cared about how it would impact on their neighbours and their family that was living in the same community. So, we do talk about that.

There is a huge difference around that, say 40 years ago, that doesn’t exist now. When I think about the community and the fact that this loneliness has crept within society, I believe it’s because of the way that barriers have been put up around the natural order of how we work. I’m talking about our culture, barriers have been put up close in front of us, because it’s not given a value, and that value has not been given by ourselves, but by others, because they look at us, and say, oh well you know, why would they do that? For Pacific families it’s the same, you know? I think in the context of Māori culture, not only do we have each other as family, but we have a hapū that extends beyond the family. So, I went to school with girls that are my best friends now, and their children and my children consider each other as cousins. So I think when people start trying to dissect what that looks like, then that’s the breakdown of community and relationship, and so that’s what creates loneliness, and the people who were putting those up, those barriers up, are the very ones who, who are trying to strive to making their lives better, but it’s not working out that way. I think the simplicity of the fact that now churches are bringing back in the fold families and having that as a place of gathering and being able to look after each other and share each other’s stories and rights and wrongs, and be able to support them is really important, because that’s what we had for Māori, and that’s what we still have. It is disappearing, and I think that’s because there are other factors are coming in, and breaking down that cultural value.”

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