Barbarian Papiriana Family

Gangs are usually in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons, but in Ōpōtiki the Mongrel Mob Barbarians are trying to be more community-minded.

The gang recently joined police and fire officers to collect kai for the Ōpōtiki community foodbank, administered by Whakaatu Whanaunga Trust.

Students from Ōpōtiki’s Toi Ohomai Institute of Technology Media Studies course, interviewed the gang’s president, Tiwana Taiatini and put together a story on the foodbank’s annual appeal and the gang’s plans.

Mr Taiatini said the members were not just gang members, but were tangata whenua and fathers.

“That’s what we’re here to do as a Barbarian family is to provide better men, better fathers, and grandfathers and to become better leaders for our families.”

One young member of the Barbarians said he joined the food bank annual appeal to give back something to the community, do some good and show people they want to make a difference.

Taiatini said young gang members needed positive role models, to be around positive people and learn “pro-social” behaviour.

“They need to understand that being part of the community creates a sense of belonging and makes them feel good.  The direction the Barbarians are shifting is to make us accountable for ourselves and our families.”

The gang was approached by Whakaatu Whanaunga Trust to take part in the food bank annual appeal, collecting kai house to house.

As they set off with a police car in the lead, Taiatini said the gang was willing to work with any organisation to address community issues such as poverty, domestic violence and substance abuse.

Taiatini said people needed to reconnect with their whakapapa and true identity as Māori because many gang members had lost their culture.

He said the Mongrel Mob Barbarians in Ōpōtiki learn their pepeha, who their chiefs are and where they come from.

(Article co-author credit: Ōpōtiki Toi Ohomai Institute of Technology media studies students)