PSA member Pam Maha had never been fully aware of family violence before she joined the Ministry of Justice twenty years ago.
“As a child I thought everyone had a Mum and Dad who cared about them,” says the Ngāti Kahungunu wahine who grew up in a loving whānau environment.
But following a career in banking where she “got sick of making money” Pam decided she would rather be helping people.
That led to her “dream job” as a sexual violence court victim advisor based in the Hamilton courts.
It’s tough supporting families through the court system but Pam tries to give them some hope.
“I do it because people and in particular our children didn’t ask for this. If it was someone from my family, I hope they would be treated with dignity.”
Pam had to overcome her natural shyness to take on leadership roles within the Ministry and the PSA.
“I remember sitting at a MOJ senior leadership conference and thinking what am I here for? But then I felt I’m here to ensure staff are represented at the table.”
She says she fell into becoming a PSA rūnanga, site and national delegate, and MOJ national convenor.
“I didn’t think I had the qualities you needed for those national roles but I get the big picture.
“I enjoyed working together with the people who made the decisions - because if we keep butting heads we won’t get anywhere.”
Pam was part of the MOJ bargaining team during their industrial dispute in 2018. She says she was a calming influence during a time of high tension.
“It was a valuable learning experience but it was exhausting and personally challenging.
“I was proud of our team. We were well prepared and used technology to inform our members quickly. The campaign really brought us into the 21st century.”
Last year Pam stepped down as MOJ national convenor but became the Ministry’s national health & safety representative.
As a health and safety site rep for the Hamilton District and High Court she won a Government award in 2017/2018.
Her achievements included ensuring systems were in place to make the site compliant and helping others to understand the importance of health and safety protocols.
“People come on board if they see it’s not just something head office told them to do. The important thing is for everyone to be able to return home each night.”
Pam has also represented the PSA and Ministry of Justice during the Hāpaitia justice reform process and is “cautiously optimistic” it will bring about meaningful change.
PSA members and local communities joined forces in February to protest restructuring that threatened hundreds of jobs and quality client care.
While the restructuring by HealthCare NZ is now set to go ahead the protests have thrown a spotlight on issues besetting the home care and support sector.
Union organisers from the Pacific have spoken about the challenges some face while trying to improve conditions for workers in their countries.