Maria Kumar is a busy woman. The co-founder of the Victoria Maori Wardens also spends a lot of time with her family, feeding the homeless and helping out disadvantaged New Zealanders. She speaks with Adem Saban.
How long have you lived in Wyndham?
Since 1999. I moved to Werribee and later to Hoppers Crossing with my husband Peter and three children (I now have five). We lived in Prahran in the 1970s when Werribee was country.
What’s your favourite thing about living here?
We’ve seen the housing boom, the population growth and the different ethnic groups moving in. We love living in a multicultural community; we get to meet different people and learn about their cultures all the time. We are Maori so we can also show off our own culture to other ethnicities.
How did you and your husband meet?
We met through my mother back in New Zealand and it just bloomed from there. I was a bride at 16 and have been married ever since … that’s 41 years. I have no regrets at all. We now have five children and 10 grandchildren. We came to Australia in 1977; there are better opportunities here. Life in Australia was, and still is, better than New Zealand.
Tell me about your involvement with the Victoria Maori Wardens?
I’m a co-founder of the Victorian Maori Wardens. In July 2012, we had the Queensland Maori Wardens come down and present the concept to us and it took off from there. It’s been a real success since. My background is in youth work, so I see, especially in Pacific Island and Maori youth, a lot of issues around disengagement and disconnection in the community.
It only felt right at the time that we needed something like the Maori Wardens to engage with that particular group. Now we’re engaging with police, patrolling the Werribee Plaza
and have a contract with CDC [bus company] … the wardens are doing a lot in the
I understand you’re also involved in feeding the homeless?
Yes, my husband and I are involved in Melbourne Tautoko Whanau. Translated, it’s Melbourne Supporting Families, a program for homeless people.
Basically, we go out every second Friday evening to the Melbourne CBD and feed the homeless for four hours. It’s also a welfare service for New Zealanders when homeless, placing them in families with
New Zealand families. It’s been going three years.
I’m also involved in Iwi N Aus, an advocacy group that supports Kiwis around immigration laws and New Zealanders in immigration detention centres. We support them and find pathways to employment and study
What got you into volunteering?
I’ve done volunteer work since 1993, firstly with Sacred Heart Mission in St Kilda, where we were involved for years.
The way we see it is we just have compassion for those who are more disadvantaged than ourselves. If we can help, why wouldn’t we? It’s carried on from there into our lives in Wyndham.
If you had friends or family visiting from New Zealand, where would you take them to show off the area?
We have so many special spots in our own backyard that we don’t need to leave. The Werribee Park Mansion is the first place. It’s a part of our history. I’d also take them to the zoo and the beach. They’re my top three places.