A Career Goal Fulfilled
Nā Maxine Jacobs.
The journey to the blue uniform can take many paths and be motivated by many different reasons. For Constable James Bowden, his path to the police was one he says he was always going to walk, but his journey towards his new career was paralleled by his hīkoi towards his Māoritanga.
James,28, identifies as both Māori and Fijian. He grew up with his grandparents in Kaikōura and it was there that he met a police officer who inspired him to take to the uniform. It would be at least a decade, however, before he reached his dream.
His road to the service had a few forks as he moved through high school and then on to university to study Film & Media and Communications at the University of Otago. During his studies he worked in retail, where his experience in sales kick-started an interest in real estate. And after a time working as a real estate agent, he moved into real estate compliance.
James says he enjoyed his various job experiences but knew at his core he still wanted to pursue a career with the New Zealand Police. He got closer to his dream when he became a youth worker at Te Puna Wai ō Tuhinapo, a youth justice residence based in Rolleston, Ōtautahi.
Through his experiences at Te Puna Wai, James strengthened his skills of dealing with high pressure situations, issues of conflict, and taking the role as a youth mentor, through developing strong relationships with the tamariki. For James, one of the most rewarding aspects of his time here was the connections he was able to build with rangatahi, and the impact he felt he could have on them.
Another positive aspect of his role at Te Puna Wai was the kaimahi surrounding him.
Many of the staff were Māori or Pasifika, and being with them felt like he was reconnecting with a part of himself he’d been missing. “They really encouraged you to be authentic to who you are. You don’t have to shy away from your culture. Instead, it’s embraced and embodied through the work that you do.”
He began to think seriously about reconnecting to his whakapapa. This was kick-started when he finally began his journey at The Royal New Zealand Police College after a lot of hard mahi.
“I enjoyed learning about New Zealand history in lectures and found it very interesting. Another aspect of my time at college that I enjoyed was visiting Horouta Marae. Here we learned about the marae itself, New Zealand history and its links to Ngāi Tahu and te ao Māori.”
Through his time at Police College, James has emerged with a greater understanding of who he is, as both Māori and Fijian. “Having a front-line job, I know how important it is that all people are represented fairly. I am so proud to put on my uniform each day and know I am both a face of the New Zealand Police while also representing my culture.”
James’ whakapapa to Ngāi Tahu is through his mother. She grew up hearing the stories of her tīpuna from her grandfather. His whānau has connections with Awarua, Ngāi Tūāhuriri, Ōnuku and Wairewa.
James’ understanding of where he was from and how he was connected was initially limited.
So much so that he identified as Pākehā when he was growing up. “When I was younger, I simply said I was New Zealand Pākehā because I didn’t really know my Māoritanga. It wasn’t until I got to high school that I started to realise my true identity.
“I realised that actually I am not Pākehā. I am Māori. I am Fijian and I am proud of who I am. I believe that many others have had a similar experience to me, in which their lack of understanding of their own culture can result in a loss of identity. I think it is so important that, as a nation, we are raised, and continue to raise our tamariki with an understanding of who they are, on a cultural level.”
Now that James has reached his goal of joining the New Zealand Police, he is excited about the impact he can have within his role.
He is looking forward, not only to connecting further with his own hapū, but also to make a difference to communities and whānau.
“I am trying to learn as much as I can about my own culture so that
I can educate others and best represent Ngāi Tahu and both Māori and Pasifika voices.
“One of the proudest moments of my life was standing in front of my loved ones, wrapped in a korowai and a salusalu, taking my oath into the New Zealand Police. I am very proud of my journey and hope to inspire other Māori and Pasifika to delve into this exciting and rewarding career.
“I REALISED THAT ACTUALLY I AM NOT PĀKEHĀ. I AM MĀORI. I AM FIJIAN AND I AM PROUD OF WHO I AM. I BELIEVE THAT MANY OTHERS HAVE HAD A SIMILAR EXPERIENCE TO ME, IN WHICH THEIR LACK OF UNDERSTANDING OF THEIR OWN CULTURE CAN RESULT IN A LOSS OF IDENTITY. I THINK IT IS SO IMPORTANT THAT, AS A NATION, WE ARE RAISED, AND CONTINUE TO RAISE OUR TAMARIKI WITH AN UNDERSTANDING OF WHO THEY ARE, ON A CULTURAL LEVEL.”