maori social services

Mack’s story – The value of human connection

Jul 31, 2020

Heading to Australia at age 23, Mack had dreams of building a good life for himself, his wife and their infant son. Returning under a deportation order 15 years later while his wife and six kids stayed behind, wasn’t exactly part of the plan. But being arrested and imprisoned in Australia in 2019 was a pivotal turning point in his life and Mack takes full responsibility for how he ended up there.  

Mack is an articulate and good humoured guy in his late 30’s. Raised in suburban Auckland in the ‘80s, he had what he considered to be a pretty normal middle class upbringing. Although Mum was abusive, he was close to his dad; a hard worker who did his best to keep the family together. But drinking, drugs and parties were commonplace at home, and when Mack was 15 his father had had enough and moved out. Mack went with him and over the next few years they shared good times bonding over doing up the house and tinkering with engines.

Mack stuck to himself as a kid and stayed out of trouble so it was a sad irony to be leaving school at 16 after an unprovoked hiding from a bunch of kids at school. But even at that age Mack was resourceful and self-motivated. He joined an outdoor adventure tourism course, studied anatomy and physiology, got a job as a lifeguard and holiday programme coordinator at the local pools – where he met his future wife – then got into house renovations for Kāinga Ora (formerly Housing NZ).

It was 2006 when he, his wife and their baby son moved to Australia, and over the next few years they welcomed five more children to the whānau. Mack worked long hard hours to keep them financially comfortable, but his wife was feeling the isolation of being away from family and friends, and communication between the two started to break down. As his wife withdrew, Mack found himself coming home from work worn out and needing to feed the kids and do housework. His mum had brought him and his three siblings up tough so he found it hard to express his feelings. He started drinking heavily and “got into some stupid stuff”. Anger became an outlet and a way to cope, and Mack got himself a reputation for getting into fights.

In 2019, he was arrested for an act of violence and was sentenced to 14 months’ imprisonment, with nine to be served behind bars. Mack built and presented his own case for early release to the court, and was awarded a reduction in imprisonment to seven months. In February 2020, two weeks after the ruling, Mack was released on probation and agreed to return to Aotearoa under Section 501 of the Australian Migration Act. 

PARS were on hand when he arrived to support his reintegration, and in Mack’s words, “PARS are awesome!”.

He is particularly grateful for their trust in him to understand his own needs and the type of support he knew would serve him best – an example of the PARS ‘one-size-fits-one’ approach to providing services.

Mack is capable and resourceful, so left to his own devices he would have managed to navigate his own way around the benefit and probation systems, but having someone to talk to who would listen without judgement while he went through the process, made reintegration that much easier. He felt heard and respected. The value of the encouragement of another human being cannot be underestimated in the healing journey, and Mack really appreciates that the team still check in with him every so often to see how things are going.

Today, Mack is happy, and is excited to have landed a job as a warehouse team leader. The only thing missing is his wife and children. Although they were due to follow him home in April, the pandemic put paid to that, but Mack is optimistic that they will be able to return in September. By that time his full sentence will have been served and they will be able to live as a family again. In the months since his sentencing, Mack has experienced “a return to more of” himself than he has been for years. Life is looking good, and he can’t wait to be reunited with his kids so they can see their dad at his very best!