In February 2023, the Royal Commission attended a gang hui held by Gang Whānau. The hui is a result of several Trauma Noho that the Hikoi Nation has held for their whānau over past years. From this end, the Royal Commission has engaged with gang whānau through individual participation in private sessions, written statements, public hearings and reference groups.
In addition, an engagement led by the Te Tiriti Team was held in 2019 in Dunedin with several Mangu Kaha / Black Power members. This was the first gang whānau engagement hui with the Royal Commission.
A further hui was held at Ngā Whare Waatea Marae in Māngere in 2021, where up to 40 survivors including current and former gang members attended. A further hui was planned, however, due to Covid, this did not go ahead.
The Royal Commission has made multiple attempts to engage with Gang Whānau with little success due to a variety of unforeseen circumstances. However, a renewed effort initiated by some gang leaders to contact the Royal Commission in 2022, has created a unique and incredibly meaningful – and evidential – opportunity.
In July 2022, during the Disability, Deaf and Mental Health public hearing, members of the Mongrel Mob Kingdom and King Cobras, along with representatives from the Hikoi Nation, meet with former Lake Alice patient Paul Zentveld, to get a sense of what the mahi of the Royal Commission was about. This began a series of hui between the Royal Commission Engagement team and Gang whānau.
On 12 August, Hikoi Nation invited the Royal Commission to attend a Trauma Noho they were holding at Poihakena Mārae in Raglan, Paul Zentveld, shared his experiences of the 1970s at Lake Alice, where he was drugged and given painful electric shocks as punishment. A total of 6 staff from the Royal Commission attended the weekend event, which included members of the Mongrel Mob Kingdom, Black Power and King Cobras.
On 27 October, Hikoi Nation on behalf of Gang whānau invited the Royal Commission to a hui they were holding in Tāmaki Makaurau, to discuss what a possible Gang whanau engagement would look like with the Commissioners. The Royal Commission explained that a public hearing was not possible but other options were available, it was decided that a day wānanga would be organised so the voices of our Gang whānau and their experiences in State and Faith based care could be heard by the Commissioners.
November 18, 2022, another hui was held with the Royal Commission where they heard from Gang whānau that there was an overwhelming interest in wanting to be part of this Kaupapa. It was decided that a further hui to discuss and plan the day wānanga was needed given the increased interest. Also, it was decided at the next hui it would be beneficial if some Commissioners could attend to meet some of the Gang whānau.
A hui was held on the 8 December 2022, in Manukau City, where Commissioners Ali’imuamua Sandra Alofivae and Anaru Erueti, along with Bella Sutherland - Associate Executive Director, Julia Whaipooti - Head of Te Tiriti Engagement, and Community Engagement Advisor - Fa’afete Taito, who is leading the Gang whānau engagement on behalf of the Royal Commission, met with Rangatira of the Mongrel Mob Kingdom and King Cobras, also present where representatives from the Hikoi Nation, other Gang whānau in attendance were the Stormtroopers and the Kuki Squad, all together there were over 50 gang members in attendance. At this hui it was decided moving forward that a collaboration between Gang whānau and the Royal Commission to design and organise a one-day wānanga, which would be held in February 2023.