Riders make pit stop at Cromwell College

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Cromwell College pupils this week met the White Ribbon Riders, a group of motorcyclists taking part in a tour of the country to raise awareness and discussion of men’s violence towards women.

Cromwell was the only Central Otago stop along a route encompassing large and small towns across the country.

a tornado, hailstorms and snow, the bikers roared into Cromwell College on Tuesday, bringing their message of promoting respectful relationships.

Group member Eru Whare, of Hamilton, spoke to a group of year 7 pupils about the importance of good communication on devices like tablets and mobile phones.

“Seventy percent of kids your age are on social media and it’s hard for parents and teachers to control.

“You must ensure you have the utmost respect in your use of gadgets when communication is not face to face,” he said.

He urged any pupils who might be “having a hassle”at home to speak to a trusted adult about their worries.

After the talk, Mr Whare said the riders’ South Island visits had been the catalyst for pupils and women to speak for the first time about violent situations in their homes.

These people were referred to local agencies to ensure the issues were dealt with once the group had moved on, he said.

Blair McKenzie, formerly of Queenstown and now living in Nelson, told the class about his violent childhood, being abused by his father at a time when domestic violence was not spoken about.

“I became the same angry man that my father was and I was like that for 15 years.

“I was being an absolute twit, and at age 32 I just couldn’t stand myself any more.”

Discovering religious faith helped him completely change his life and become a good husband and father, he said.

Mr McKenzie is now an ambassador for the White Ribbon movement.

His work includes helping gang members who want to make positive changes within their organisations.

Trust manager Rob McCann said White Ribbon Day on November 25 was the international day when people wear a white ribbon to show they do not condone violence towards women.

“We have the highest rate of reported violence towards women in the developed world, while our front line police officers spent 41% of their time responding to family violence.

“It’s time for men to get off the sidelines and play a role in violence prevention.”

The trust had an online pledge which encouraged men to commit to taking one of eight actions to show respect, including treating women as equals.

For details and to take the pledge visit whiteribbon.org.nz