National | Crime

From trauma to triumph: Kimi Parata’s mission to break the cycle of reoffending

Kimi Putere Parata has been in and out of adult and youth prisons, now she is sharing her story to prevent reoffending and take accountability.

Warning: This story discusses drug abuse, sexual assault, and violence.

Aggravated robbery.

Grievous bodily harm.

Kidnapping of an adult

They’re serious crimes, the most serious crimes that Kimi Putere Parata (Ngāti Paoa, Ngāti Maniapoto, Tainui) has been convicted of.

As the wind wafts across the Hamilton Garden ponds while we’re setting up to interview her, three things immediately become clear about Kimi:

  1. She regrets what she’s done. 
  1. She doesn’t hide from what she’s done. 
  1. Her three Tamariki are her world. 

She’s bubbly, in a way you might not expect if you only knew her by the chapters of her life that we defined by crime, but her life mission has become to fill that book with newer, better, healthier chapters.

She opens that book on TikTok as @Mamagheeghee, where her kaupapa has attracted 53,000 followers and two million likes.

@kimigheeghee #stitch with @lomz8__ speaking truth #gheegheespeaks #onthisday ♬ original sound - 👑 🌹MamaGheeGhee🌹 👑

TikTok offers Kimi a platform to talk about the light and the dark, to talk about taking ownership of a troubled life that led her down a dark path.

It was a path that led her to hurt others.

She’s been in and out of prison, including years spent at Auckland Regional Women’s Corrections Facility.

That’s a long time to be stuck with your thoughts, and a long time to think about what you’ve done.

It’s also a long time to think about your son, only one-year-old.

“Leaving him out here and going in there, knowing that he’s not going to have a mother was heartbreaking because of something that I did.”

Kimi was inspired to make the most of her time behind bars, learning to manage emotions and behaviour which would’ve gotten the better of her in what feels like a past life.

“It wasn’t until I went to prison that I started learning that, oh my gosh, there’s another way to deal with these situations such as simple as stop, think, and act.

“I didn’t know that before. It was just act, act, act, think later, hit first, talk later.

“Just learning new ways to deal with things, having these tools in my Kete, which are things I never knew when I grew up.”

She currently lives in Hamilton with her three children, and it’s in the Hamilton Gardens that the 34-year-old openly and bravely decided to share her story with us.

The early years

Kimi Parata before being uplifted from her home. Photo: supplied.

Kimi grew up in the Pukekohe “dark side” surrounded by alcohol, drugs, and gangs from a very young age.

She was uplifted from her mother’s care at the age of nine and placed with Child Youth and Family Services (CYFS) – the old name for Oranga Tamariki.

“I wasn’t listening, [I was being] Rebellious, wanted to do whatever I wanted to do, and not listen to mum.

“That for me was an experience that I’ll never forget.”

She went through foster home after foster home and met foster parent after foster parent.

Home just didn’t stick for Kimi, and as the foster homes passed by, so too did the years.

In amongst all that change, she was also sexually assaulted.

While in the system, her father passed away in a car accident caused by bad weather in Port Waikato.

Kimi Parata father who passed away after a car accident. Photo: supplied.

His mahi was truck driving, and Kimi’s love for her pāpā is evident; she call him, “one of the best [truck] drivers in Pukekohe.”

His death had an expectedly profound effect on Parata.

“That hit me, it added to the dark path that I was already going through.

“I found myself in a spiral. No one could handle me,” she said.

The teen years

Kimi Parata at Felix Donnelly College Photo: supplied.

She found herself at Felix Donnelly College (FDC), a boarding school that housed students from a range of social, learning, and behavioural problems that cannot be catered for in a mainstream school. Many of the children who attended were in the care of Child, Youth, and Family.

Putere expressed her love for the kura where she had learnt so much and was top of her class in written expression, but she still faced some challenges, having run away from FDC multiple times.

It was during these years Kimi ended up in a youth prison in Christchurch for a year. Not long after that, she was placed in another youth jail in the garden city for a few months.

“I was angry at the world, holding everything in, not expressing how I truly feel.

“Blaming everybody else other than myself, [I was] grieving and [I had] so much pain inside, a lot of pain inside and it was in there for a long, long time.”

Kimi had left the youth facilities when she was 14 years old, but she was far from safety.

It was at this point in her life that she was raped repeatedly.

“I felt like I deserved it, at that time I felt like ‘my life shit, it’s not making me feel any worse than I already am.’

“This went on for months and months until I broke one day.”

She confided to her best friend in high school what was happening, and Police stepped in, arresting the rapist and sending him off to jail.

“This is not the first time I’ve ever been raped or sexual abuse,” she tells us.

“It’s something that I’ve grown up with.”

Adult life

The early years of adulthood brought little reprieve for Kimi.

Surrounded by drugs and alcohol, Kimi was also trapped in a toxic relationship.

The world seemed like it was out to get her, and she hated it for that.

Under the immense pressure of a robbed childhood and feeling indignant at the torture of her teenage years and an adulthood that had not gotten easier, Kimi snapped.

She committed a crime she would come to regret.

“I ended up in a situation where I hurt somebody else, another adult human.

“I hurt him so badly that he’s very lucky to be alive today.”

She and a few of her accomplices were caught and sentenced for the crime.

“I was very honest at sentencing, about what I did wrong.

“All I could feel was so much pain, like bashing myself up in my head.

“The judge looked at me and he said to me, ‘you’re not a bad person. I see that you just made a wrong choice, a bad choice and unfortunately, you have to deal with the consequences.’

“I just cried. I cried because I knew that he was right and that I could have changed that outcome had I chosen a better way, the right way,” she said.

Fixing the past

Kimi Parata outside of the prison. Photo: supplied.

Time behind bars became a time of repentance for Parata.

Speaking with the victim of her crime, she was able to apologise and hear how her actions had impacted his life.

“I didn’t realise the pain I had caused him. The sleepless nights or him being scared to leave the house.“

A tough moment for all involved – but one of emotion and closure for Kimi.

“For him to tell me that face-to-face about how he felt and how I made him feel, that really woke me up.

“It really made me think to myself, ‘why did you do it? You stuffed up big time.’ But I promised myself from that day I would never do it again, hurt another person. "

It was a promise she would go on to keep to herself, but without healing, those raw wounds and that bubbling frustration at the world had to go somewhere.

And once she was released on parole, she replaced the hurt she once inflicted on another with hurt she inflicted on herself.

The deep end

The first time she was placed on parole and returned to society was akin to being thrown in the deep end of the pool, in her own words.

“I was really nervous. My anxiety levels were up here, no support was in place. Just ‘here you go, see you later. Fend for yourself.’”

Kimi Parata high on meth. Photo: supplied.

With her second chance at life, she ended up becoming addicted to methamphetamine.

“That’s all I wanted when I got out, being fried was the way that I was coping and pushing the pain down on the side.

“The addiction was something real though, the extent that we would go to just to get a puff or just to get their next bag. That was me, you know, doing all the unbelievable things just to feed my habit,” said Parata.

The criminality of using methamphetamine also meant Kimi was breaking her parole, and it was back to prison.

Getting clean

After leaving prison for the second time, Parata got clean and had one sole goal in mind.

She wanted her kids back from Oranga Tamariki, and she knew no corners could be cut to get them back.

“[I] really fought for them.

“[I had] to prove that I was fit enough to be a mother, that I was clean, got off the methamphetamine, got off cigarettes, got off drugs, got off alcohol.”

It was hard mahi, and it paid off.

Kimi Parata with her three kids. Photo: supplied.

At the time of writing, she’s been clean for three years, attributing her success to the example she wants to set for her Tamariki.

“I want to be that mother that’s present in their life, I want to be a role model, and I want to show my children that change is possible.

“So that’s where I am right now. It’s just focusing on myself first and foremost, focusing on my family, making sure that that ka pai and then everything’s ka pai.”

What is Kimi doing now?

Parata shares her kōrero openly through Facebook and TikTok.

On top of talking about her life, she is also documenting her weight loss journey, regularly exercising to motivate others.

She’s involved in an exercise group named ‘DMC’, which stands for dedication, motivation, and change, she also runs a business from home creating and selling clothes branded with the same name.

Her life today is about as far as one might expect from the circumstances that enshrouded her early years, and she has a final message for anyone who is on the same dark path she once walked.

“I think you know whānau, we have to dig deep, we really have to dig deep. I know that the struggle is real out there. I know that a lot of our whānau are in pain, I know this.

“We just need to love each other more, we need to support each other more, stop judging each other, give a helping hand, stop beating people when they’re down.

“Take a self-reflection of yourself. It comes down to yourself. It’s your choice.

“But is this the life you really want to live? Are you happy? Are your family, okay? Are your kids, okay?

“We can be their change. it’s up to us. Let’s be their change for our generations.”

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