Grandmother's experiences of crime and pain rebuilds others

By Jessica Tyson

As a child, Patricia Walsh suffered from terrible abuse that led her to a life of crime. She has since turned her life around by becoming a registered social worker and is helping others through her organisation, Toitū Mokopuna.

“Toitū Mokopuna grew out of my desire as a nanny to make sure that my mokopuna were not raised in the same environment that I was raised in and what I also raised my children in,” says Walsh, of Ngāti Porou.

Walsh was raised in a home where physical, emotional and sexual abuse was prevalent.

“I was never told that I was loved. I was never hugged so I took that disconnection into my own life.”

Native Affairs - Cycle of Change

In her role with Toitū Mokopuna, she has shared her story to thousands of people as a keynote speaker at events in Australia and New Zealand. She also runs whānau and professional development workshops to restore mana to people going through similar struggles.

“Living experiences are now seen as something as important as the theory. Theory is what governments are basing their programs on today,” Walsh says.

“I’ve been there. I know what they're feeling. I know the barriers of walking into a service."

Due to her criminal record of at least 140 convictions, she was first told she could ever work as a social worker.

“But I kept going and I graduated as valedictorian, I went on to a masters journey I am now a registered social worker.”

Photo source: Toitū Mokopuna

She says the work by government organisations is promising for the future of whānau.

"I think we are in a good place where we are now. The services are actually looking at better ways of engaging with whānau.”

But her biggest hope is for family violence to no longer exist.

“That’s what I would hope, for all wāhine Māori, that they will speak up when things aren't okay without the fear of being hurt,” she says.

“In the darkness, there is a speck of hope, a speck of light that your life is worthy of love. Your whānau might not know how to show it but you can look back on those times and you can be the person that speaks hope into someone else’s life where there is no hope.”

Walsh plans to continue sharing those messages in upcoming programs for corrections and for women nationally.