Assistant Commissioner NZ Police Tusha Penny spoke to the club on Wednesday 20 October.
Brenda Lazelle summarises Tusha's candid and compelling presentation.
Our speaker this week was Tusha Penny, Assistant Commissioner New Zealand Police. A proud Ngati Porou wahine, Tusha grew up in Gisborne where she was taught that ‘you’re not better than anyone else and no one else is better than you’.  Seeing or discovering what happened to those close to her also taught her that not everyone is born equal. So, she challenged us to consider – if you have a voice and privilege then you have a choice of how you use it.

As a young reporter, Tusha watched detectives giving evidence in court and she wanted to be like them, so she joined the NZ Police to be a detective. In her 30 years of policing, she has met many people who have made poor decisions but only two fundamentally evil people. One was known as the beast of Blenheim. Her work on his case early in her career became her ‘why’ as she discovered many of his victims, women and children who, just because of how they presented, could not make their voices heard. This set her on a path of trying to make positive change to New Zealand’s family harm and sexual violence statistics – to make it everyone’s business and to turn the tide on an Aotearoa social shame.

Tusha has held the hands of women as they died from injuries inflicted by their partners. She has blown the whistle on her own colleagues who were hiding child abuse files. Although these times were difficult, she knew why she had to make a stand, be resilient and to keep going. She encourages new recruits and her special units to understand and articulate their why.

While the content of her talk was often grim, her presentation was uplifting. We were challenged to revisit and give effect to our own purpose and use our own privilege to give a voice to those who are not heard. She urged us to not be apathetic and quoted Winston Churchill – we make a living by what we get but we make a life from what we give.

Tusha retires from the force in 3 years’ time and it’s pretty clear that her energy, attitude and great humour will continue to make a difference whichever path she chooses next. And she just might be looking a Rotary Club to join by then, so watch this space ……