Wednesday, 9 December 2020
Ramenka, Mr Horowai
When it was revealed there were about two dozen locals living in bushland in my electorate, most of our city were shocked. The fact that people didn't go home at night to a roof over their heads was something quite unfamiliar to our patch of South-East Queensland. Little did I realise that one individual managed to pull together the services and find a home for each one of those people. That man is a Kiwi citizen, so on Australia Day we can't formally recognise Horowai Ramenka, but we will spare a thought for the incredible service he has given to my city.
Hori, as he is well known, begins his story in New Zealand, as I've pointed out. He trialled for the Junior All Blacks and worked to become a pastry chef. His real passion was in education. He worked in a school for troubled Maori youth, where they took them out of the distractions of South Auckland and places like that, put them on a farm, put them to work, taught them skills, and built their resilience and self-confidence. Many of those students would go on to achieve great things far away from those negative distractions that often took them off the rails in the first place. They learnt farming methods and mechanics and also did their school work in parallel. The school had a really high success rate. One student that Hori can remember is now a high profile lawyer and another one is a land advocate in New Zealand—a very important role.
Hori was teaching English, maths and social studies and after six years it was clear he had this natural affinity with youth. He went on to work for a Maori trust doing similar work, acting in youth liaison for Pasifika and Maori children, assisting them to get grants and get their own starts in life as well. Remarkably, in that job he was stabbed three times—twice in the chest, once in the back—which really caused him to review that work. Effectively, he needed to take a break. Instead, he went on then to car detailing, working as an entertainer, an MC and a musician. New Zealand's loss was Australia's gain when he moved to South-East Queensland, like about half of his Maori and Pasifika colleagues. He really made a difference in our community, because he noticed that there was only one meal a day for homeless people, and he worked to set up Homeless United, where they now do a meal every night. There is a real community esprit de corps when you see those in need all meeting in one place, supporting each other and, on occasion, singing 'Happy Birthday' to each other. Homeless United was born.
Hori worked with the Department of Housing. He worked to get shower facilities in local clubs that the homeless could use. In the end, when the pinch came and we had to find housing for two dozen people, he not only found housing for them but found employment for around a dozen of them. I had the pleasure of taking one of these young people to their job interview. We worked assiduously to make sure that this city will never ever have a local living without a roof over their head, and so much that work goes to the key groups that need to work more closely together. But the people who pulled it together were the Redlands Community Centre and Horowai in particular. Our city says thank you to Hori.