I came into the media thinking it would be all about spinning discs.
I’d been in a vocal quartet, in Oz, with my sister and two brothers.
We’d had our share of the limelight on telly and around the Pacific as the Family Affair.
Three are still there in Sydney but, after 10 years in that game, I was ready for a change of scene — and so was Karen, my wahine.
Both of us liked the idea of our kids growing up as we had, galloping around in bare feet, and picking pipi and watercress rather than watching our step in inner-city Sydney streets.
So here we were in the late 1980s in a beaut old whare in the Waikato — and, before long, I was on my way to a broadcasting course in Christchurch, thanks to a a scholarship named after Wiremu Parker, one of Aotearoa’s Māori broadcasting pioneers.
That led on to me cutting my teeth at a small radio station in the King Country.
Then there was a phone call from my Aunty Kura.
In those days, she was keen on Aotearoa Radio, which was operating out of Papatoetoe and which preceded our present-day Radio Waatea.
“They’re advertising for an announcer,” she said.
Hone Kaa was running the station in those days and, when he recruited me, I assumed he must’ve rated me and my skills.
Could be. But I think the job offer was more to do with him rating — or even fearing — my Aunty Lully and the Watene clan who we belong to through my mum, Mei.
That was 25 years ago and I’m still here.
At first, it was no more than as a fill-in announcer between midnight and dawn.
Still, it put food on the whānau table — and, along the way, my original thoughts of being a rock jock morphed as I took on Waatea’s Breakfast Show, found myself presenting Mana programmes to RNZ’s National Radio as well as to the iwi network, lending a hand with Mana magazine, emceeing all sorts of occasions, and also indulging a whānau passion by doing radio and TV commentaries of rugby league games.
Fortunately, much of that work has involved interviews with Māori personalities at the heart of significant Māori issues.
That has suited me just fine because Māori issues, given my background, hold a special place in my heart and head.
Māori mum. Pākehā (ex-seaman, and sometime bookie) dad. State house. A politician grandfather (Steve Watene). And our three kids and our moko having to make their way in a Kiwi society that often doesn’t go to any great trouble to see that non-Pākehā get a fair go.
I’m fortunate, though, that I’m in a job I love.
It can be genuinely inspiring to have the radio guests I’m interviewing week by week.
I’ve always felt that the once-over-lightly style of radio news throughout New Zealand broadcasting comes at the expense of more thoughtful analysis and commentary.
Too frequently, the public don’t have a chance to get their heads around the big issues — not those affecting Māori and Pacific lives anyway.
Now, with e-tangata.co.nz that chance is improving. Heaps.
That’s because the website is focussing on having bright, well-informed people shedding light where the mainstream media too often tolerates or encourages darkness.
I’m pleased — proud even — to be part of this project.
Perhaps you will be too.
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