180 degrees - I've Done Things I Regret

Jan. 30, 2019, 6 a.m.

Growing up in Otāngarei has seen social worker extraordinaire Martin Kaipo grow from a high ranking member of the Black Power to the manager of a successful community social services centre. Kaipo has seen it all.

One of 12 children, raised by a single mother Kaipo said discipline was high on her list and living in Otāngarei in those days was merely about survival.  

“Violence was a key factor. Rejection, the idealism around fighting to survive.  For us it was about living, living didn’t necessarily mean you had to be happy it meant that you were able to exist and survive.”

By age 14 he was in search of identity, culture and nurturing alongside other youth who were all victims of their own environment.

With the growing influence of gang culture rife in Otāngarei it wasn’t long before he patched into the Black Power, moving through the ranks alongside his brothers to eventually become the leader of the Whangārei chapter.

“I was always searching even within our own families and we couldn’t find a fitting".

As chaotic as his life was on the street, Kaipo’s homelife was the complete opposite with wife Janine left at home to raise the children where she drew a firm line that gang life was left at the door.

“If you walked into my house you wouldn’t know that a gang member lived there, my house was like the frontier and I guarded it fiercely,” Janine said.

The turning point came in his 30’s when his younger brother was sentenced to life for a murder Kaipo believes he was never a part of.

“My brother was only 15 when he was accused of murder and he did a life sentence so sacrifice comes to those who hear no evil, see no evil, say no evil.

As he watched his brother begin a life sentence Kaipo’s mind started to split and it would not be long before he handed in his patch to a gang he realised had no loyalty to his family.

“We gave up everything for what we wore, not who we were and I still had that thing that blood was thicker than water...If you want to make change you’ve got to be the change yourself.”

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