National | Documentaries

New doco shares story of domestic violence survivor

A new documentary, I AM WARU, shares the story of a Gisborne father who survived a childhood surrounded by family violence.

Josh Wharehinga's early life was tainted by violence at the hands of his stepfather.

Since then he has been determined to change the narrative, not just for himself but for his own six children.

"When teachers asked what I wanted to be, I always answered 'a dad' and I wanted to be different from the male role models I'd had,” says Wharehinga.

His drive to be a better male role-model was reignited after watching the feature film Waru, a story about eight women grappling to cope with the death of a child caused by family violence.

"I saw more and more of myself in there.  I could have easily been Waru."

While he and his siblings enjoyed normal childhood activities, they also endured the crippling fear of living with violence.

"I would get so apprehensive that I wouldn't want to do anything.  I used to come down the hallway and hug the wall of where the old man was to try to get past without him seeing me or hearing me," says Wharehinga.

Josh Wharehinga and his children. Source: I AM WARU

As a father, Wharehinga decided that the cycle of abuse would end with him and he has raised his children as a solo father in a safe home surrounded by aroha.

"My early life of being a solo parent was just one long enduring struggle of financial hardship.  I would forgo eating sometimes so that my kids could eat.  You are constantly playing the battle of 'I have a bill to pay, which bills don’t I pay, which bills could I live without paying right now'.

"It was like that all the time and is like that for a lot of our people who live in this country."

Driven by his experience, Wharehinga wants to effect change for all children.  To do so he works as a councilor on the Gisborne District Council and is on the board for the Tairāwhiti District Health Board and Te Mana Whakahaere at Te Wānanga o Aotearoa.

“All those things are important to me because at that level I can influence systemic change for those other 'Waru' in our country.”

I AM WARU is one of the Someday Stories series of sustainability-focused short films by emerging young film-makers from Aotearoa New Zealand, produced and directed by Caravan Car Park Entertainment. The film can be viewed below or here.