Vic Tamati marching for Moko: 'I didn't know any better'

Vic Tamati marching for Moko: 'I didn't know any better'

A well-known anti-violence campaigner made a chilling admission today. Vic Tamati, who fronted the "It's not Okay" TV ads, told a crowd in Auckland that during his violent past he was responsible for the deaths of two people.

Tamati was one of thousands around the country who marched on Sunday in response to the fatal abuse of three-year-old Taupo boy Moko Rangitoheriri.

"I'm responsible for the death of two people ruled as accidental death by the Coroner's Court," said Tamati.

Those victims weren't related to Tamati, but he told the crowd he was a violent man who also abused his family for 38 years.

"I didn't know any better," he said.

But on Sunday, Tamati issued a challenge to the men of Auckland to stand with him against child abuse. Dozens did.

"For years I thought it was just me," he said. "And so for finally for men to just acknowledge me, and acknowledge that they're part of the problem but also part of the solution, awesome."

Marches took place on Sunday in Whangarei, Auckland, Hamilton, Tauranga, Wairoa, Wellington, Nelson, Christchurch and Oamaru. 

Another round of action is planned for next month to protest Tania Shailer and David Haerewa's conviction for manslaughter instead of murder, and to coincide with their sentencing.

Moko's mother, Nicola Dally-Paki, released a statement saying she was "overwhelmed by the aroha and manaakitanga [kindness] shown by people around the country".

Karis Vesey thought of holding a march when she woke on Mother's Day, a week after the conviction of Moko's killers.

"We're averaging 10 to 14 child homicides at the hands of people who care for them every year and it's outrageous," she said.

This is the first event in memory of Moko. But other events will take place up and down the country at High Courts on the day of the sentencing of Shailer and Haerewa. They'll be aimed specifically at the plea bargain that led to a conviction of manslaughter and not murder.

Judging by what the crowd heard at another gathering in Lower Hutt, there'll be a different tone then.

"Today was nice and peaceful," the crowd was told. "I want youse all [sic] present on the day that the killers were sentenced, which is Monday June 27, and there you can be as violent and as angry as you want."

The crowd sang a waiata and held a moment's silence before releasing balloons in memory of Moko and the 205 children who have died from child abuse since 1992.

In Christchurch, children themselves led the waiata. Cheryl Tovizi told how her daughter died at the hands of an ex-partner five years ago.

"There's too many words," she said. "It's time for actions. Our children need to stop dying. We need to look after them; we need to care for them."

The challenge now is how to harness the day's good intentions to make New Zealand a safer place to be a child.