From working in the New Zealand Police for 19 years to now working for her iwi with police, Melanie Humphries' mahi remains the same; to serve her iwi and community.
Ngāti Kahungunu Iwi Inc recently welcomed Humphries (Ngāti Kahungunu, Tūwharetoa) as its newest staff member, joining the Te Kura team as family harm reduction programme coordinator.
She will be implementing Te Kura, an iwi and police collaboration initiative designed to reduce family harm.
“Te Kura is a Kahungunu initiative that is based on our tīoreore, which is Pinepine Te Kura, where the whānau are our treasure," Humphries says. "Our concept is that we’re putting the whānau and anyone that is vulnerable in the centre, and the framework is wrapping our supports around that whānau, especially those experiencing family harm.”
Humphries’ role as coordinator involves bringing those supports together.
“Initially, it’s about how we’re looking at how we triage family harm as it comes in from episodes that police have attended. Then we look at how we can work together with our Crown agencies and NGOs (non-governmental organisations) to create a plan to help our whānau.
“If you look at it realistically, what we have done in the past hasn’t worked, so let’s try something new and different. Let’s look at Māori solutions for Māori whānau, and the wider community as well.”
Despite the jump from working as a police officer to working with police, her purpose remains not just wanting to make a difference but “to be the difference".
“The whole mindset of the organisation changed quite a bit over those 19 years. I experienced and saw that change myself. We went from a punitive type of approach to everything, to where we were looking to partner with our communities, to look at solutions.”
During her time with the police, she has seen many harm incidents.
“At that first incident where you’re there and you’re giving the support, whether it’s wanted or not, I think that, for me, when I joined the police it never changed who I was and what I wanted to achieve."
Her message to whānau is simple.
“Take any little step that you can towards a better outcome. Set yourself a goal. It’s a long game, so look at anything you can do.
“Just be aware; we are there. If you reach out or are open to it, we’re there to come along and help you in that space.”