Far North brotherhood building network of Māori role models for young men to look up to

Made with support from Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air.

The Circle of Brothers in the Far North is a brotherhood and support network hoping to be a positive support network for young Māori men.

The seeds of the Circle began at Te Rangi Āniwaniwa in Kaitaia, where the kura kaupapa kids met and bonded together over kapa haka.  

It was 27-year-old Conor O'Sullivan who came up with the concept of the Circle of Brothers in 2013 and says that it's a roopu without a leader. 

"A circle has no edges. It's got no top or bottom, you know, it's equal on every side. We all have problems, we've all got issues, and we can help each other out to get through them," says O'Sullivan.

This group of locals saw the lack of Māori male role models when they were young, so want to be there for the next generation of tāne to look up to. The Circle now looks to be a positive example for Northland youth.

"Growing up, there were only a few sorts of people and groups that we could look to that really showed ihi and the mana that we sort of yearn for, you know, growing up as young Māori men," O'Sullivan adds.

"From what we know growing up in hapori now, the demand for it is huge. It's as high as any small, isolated rural Māori community, you know, these communities like Kaitaia, dotted right throughout the country."

The Circle though has gotten smaller recently - the boys lost one of their close friends to suicide.

That loss has given the Circle a greater purpose, and no matter what they're up to, the boys get together every summer.

The Circle of Brothers want to inspire other tāne to form their own brotherhoods across the motu. Giving rangatahi a strong sense of their own identity and being kaitiaki for their own whānau and their community.