Senior Constable Brenda Lee from Jacobs Well Police Beat has become the first Maori police officer in Queensland to wear moko kauae.
Senior Constable Lee said moko kauae was a sacred female facial skin marking that has descended through the generations that pertains to one’s cultural and spiritual ancestry and to have moko kauae means to reveal who you are.
“It represents dignity, identity, worthiness, respect, integrity, genealogy, accomplishment, warriorhood, beauty, honour to serve others, you do not have to earn it, if you whakapapa Māori , it is your birthrite to choose,” Senior Constable Lee said.
“Being of Irish and Chinese descent, my heart is drawn to Māori. I am proud to be wearing moko kauae.
“It has taken me 17 to 18 years to come to a place where I was ready for moko kauae, it’s a personal journey.
“Tae mai tewā māku I was ready, this is my time.
“Everyone has individual designs and you never know what it’s going to look like until you get off the table. So, after it was finished, I went to the mirror and had a really good look and oh, man, I cried.
“It was what I was waiting for.”
When discussing being a Māori Queensland Police Officer, Senior Constable Lee said that being Māori, a woman, parent and a grandparent brings unique experience to her role, providing a strong link to her community.
“I am Māori no matter where I live,” she said.
“I remember one particular mental health job. The patient looked at me and said, are you Maori? And I said ‘Ae’, and an instant connection was made.
“I was able to interact with her, keep her calm and I picked up that she missed her mum. I started to sing little waiata, little songs to her from when she would have been at school and we did a karakia together.
“Queensland Ambulance asked me to stay as I was keeping her calm.
“I did what any mum would do with their kids – sang to her, told her she was going to be okay. And that kept her calm.
“I didn’t realise being Māori would have such an effect on my policing jobs.”
She also recalls another incident where a young woman was hesitant to report a breach of a domestic violence order.
“We had a conversation about empowerment of strength for Māori woman,” Senior Constable Lee said.
“I said you have courage, get it back again, you got this girl, kei a koe te kaha, you got this!”
Senior Constable Lee said by wearing her moko kauae, she hopes to encourage others to be proud of who they are.
“No matter what colour, age, faith or nationality you are, be proud of who you are, it is a gift” she said.
“I’m proud of being Māori, if you’re proud of being Māori and want to do this, go for it! Your time! But wear it with mana, wear it well, wear it with dignity and integrity and wear it to show the warriorhood from inside.”
“There’s a whakatauki, a proverb that is associated with moko kauae and it’s about taking your moko kauae as a friend for life, Taia o moko hei hoa matenga mōu.”