'I just want a chance'

FAITH AND HOPE: Tanita Brenssell has built a new life for herself and her family in Gisborne, after the death in Australia of her son Israel (see the following picture in this gallery) sent her into a downward spiral. She successfully fought Oranga Tamariki attempts to uplift her new baby boy, and is now fighting for custody of her other three children. They have been with Tanita’s grandmother in the Wairarapa, but she is no longer able to care for them and the children are to go into the care of people who are not whanau. Pictures supplied
Israel.

In three weeks, on July 29, Israel Brenssell-Rimene would have been five years old.

He should be starting school next term.

But that won’t be happening.

Because in a week’s time, on July 13, it will be four years to the day that Israel died in Hamilton, Victoria in Australia.

He was just 11 months old.

The baby boy was found face down in his cot, with black eyes and a bump to his head.

This week, Australian Coroner Philip Byrne ruled that the boy’s death was not an accident, and that his mother’s former partner, Quinton Thompson of Invercargill, was “in some manner” involved in his death.

Israel’s mum Tanita Brenssell, originally from Ranfurly in Otago, now lives in Gisborne. She has suffered not only the loss of her baby boy, but her three older children were removed from her care by Oranga Tamariki three years ago.

On Monday, she won custody of her youngest child, another baby boy.

It has been a harrowing four years for Tanita, who says Gisborne feels like home and that her path to healing is thanks to the support of the Gisborne community and a newfound faith in Christ.

She wants only two things — the return of her three children, and justice for baby Israel.

“I came to Gisborne because I had hit rock bottom. I made some pretty bad choices due to the grief.

“I didn’t cope very well, I just woke up one day and decided to come to Gisborne, and it was a good move. That was 18 months ago.

“The community support has been amazing. There’s more awhi (support) here. I have not seen that anywhere else, other than Gisborne.

“This is why I really hope my other three children can come here and we can get on with our lives.”

The children are in Woodville, living with Tanita’s grandmother.

But at the end of the upcoming school holidays, which begin next week, the children will be transferred permanently into care with people who are not whanau.

“I’m trying to stop it because that’s not right. But my grandmother is sick and is unable to meet their needs.”

Tanita says Oranga Tamariki did not consider other whanau as an option, and that she wants to be given a fair go, to be a mum.

She has turned her life to Christ, and has established what she says is a safe and stable home, for her whanau.

“I came up with the most well-structured plan. All the safety nets are around me. I have enough support here. But that was not recognised or considered.

“I did everything that I possibly could to ensure that I am a good mother and that I can meet their needs and protect my baby son.

“I know moving up here was deemed as bad. But I couldn’t progress where I was. I couldn’t meet their needs. I needed to work on my own mamae (hurt).

“I see my kids once every two months for two hours, which is supervised. In a whole year I’ve only seen them for 24 hours in total.”

She is restricted in what she can say to her children during visits.

“I just want to tell them that I love them. I always have and always will.

“And that I keep trying. I just want them home. I have never stopped trying. I hope that they’re OK.

“I’ve got a home here, whanau here. They’d love it here.”

Justice for Israel is something Tanita has been longing for, and she says it is unfair that there has been no retribution yet.

“No one has been held accountable and it is very evident who the perpetrator is.

“And me and my children have suffered. I don’t want my children to suffer anymore.

“The first question I asked the coroner’s investigation was ‘how do I get this looked at criminally?’

“I’m going to have to get a lawyer. But I need help in that department.

“Legal aid only gets you so far. I can’t afford a top lawyer. But I will never give up fighting.”

Tanita says she is grateful for the support of community groups like Ngati Porou Hauora’s Te Hiringa Matua service, the Tairawhiti Whangaia Nga Pa Harakeke police programme, the Tuhono Whanau – Family Start programme, and her church family at The House of Breakthrough.

“Those groups have been my safety net. And the church, they’re my whanau. They’re my brothers and sisters in Christ.

“I found Christ on September 3, on my daughter’s birthday, in 2016.

“I give glory to God for where I am, the strength and courage he has given me.

“I live in faith every day, through patience and prayer.

“I have to be strong. If you don’t stay strong you can lose yourself. But I need to stay strong for my kids.

“I feel like I can’t lose anymore. In a sense I had already lost everything. But I was so lucky to be gifted my baby (her youngest child now).”

A custody order was placed on her while she was hapu (pregnant) with her youngest child, and Tanita said Oranga Tamariki did want to uplift.

But it was prevented due to the backing of community groups that she was seeking assistance from.

“I formed those safety nets so it wouldn’t happen.

“I’m trying to be a person that it’s kind of impossible for anyone to be.

“I just want a chance to show that I can care for my kids, and be able to move on together and heal together. I think that was the main thing. We didn’t get to heal together.

“It’s time now that I’ve come to a place where that can happen.

“I will never stop fighting for my kids no matter what.

“I want them to come here and be loved upon as I have been loved upon. And I want retribution for my son.”

In three weeks, on July 29, Israel Brenssell-Rimene would have been five years old.

He should be starting school next term.

But that won’t be happening.

Because in a week’s time, on July 13, it will be four years to the day that Israel died in Hamilton, Victoria in Australia.

He was just 11 months old.

The baby boy was found face down in his cot, with black eyes and a bump to his head.

This week, Australian Coroner Philip Byrne ruled that the boy’s death was not an accident, and that his mother’s former partner, Quinton Thompson of Invercargill, was “in some manner” involved in his death.

Israel’s mum Tanita Brenssell, originally from Ranfurly in Otago, now lives in Gisborne. She has suffered not only the loss of her baby boy, but her three older children were removed from her care by Oranga Tamariki three years ago.

On Monday, she won custody of her youngest child, another baby boy.

It has been a harrowing four years for Tanita, who says Gisborne feels like home and that her path to healing is thanks to the support of the Gisborne community and a newfound faith in Christ.

She wants only two things — the return of her three children, and justice for baby Israel.

“I came to Gisborne because I had hit rock bottom. I made some pretty bad choices due to the grief.

“I didn’t cope very well, I just woke up one day and decided to come to Gisborne, and it was a good move. That was 18 months ago.

“The community support has been amazing. There’s more awhi (support) here. I have not seen that anywhere else, other than Gisborne.

“This is why I really hope my other three children can come here and we can get on with our lives.”

The children are in Woodville, living with Tanita’s grandmother.

But at the end of the upcoming school holidays, which begin next week, the children will be transferred permanently into care with people who are not whanau.

“I’m trying to stop it because that’s not right. But my grandmother is sick and is unable to meet their needs.”

Tanita says Oranga Tamariki did not consider other whanau as an option, and that she wants to be given a fair go, to be a mum.

She has turned her life to Christ, and has established what she says is a safe and stable home, for her whanau.

“I came up with the most well-structured plan. All the safety nets are around me. I have enough support here. But that was not recognised or considered.

“I did everything that I possibly could to ensure that I am a good mother and that I can meet their needs and protect my baby son.

“I know moving up here was deemed as bad. But I couldn’t progress where I was. I couldn’t meet their needs. I needed to work on my own mamae (hurt).

“I see my kids once every two months for two hours, which is supervised. In a whole year I’ve only seen them for 24 hours in total.”

She is restricted in what she can say to her children during visits.

“I just want to tell them that I love them. I always have and always will.

“And that I keep trying. I just want them home. I have never stopped trying. I hope that they’re OK.

“I’ve got a home here, whanau here. They’d love it here.”

Justice for Israel is something Tanita has been longing for, and she says it is unfair that there has been no retribution yet.

“No one has been held accountable and it is very evident who the perpetrator is.

“And me and my children have suffered. I don’t want my children to suffer anymore.

“The first question I asked the coroner’s investigation was ‘how do I get this looked at criminally?’

“I’m going to have to get a lawyer. But I need help in that department.

“Legal aid only gets you so far. I can’t afford a top lawyer. But I will never give up fighting.”

Tanita says she is grateful for the support of community groups like Ngati Porou Hauora’s Te Hiringa Matua service, the Tairawhiti Whangaia Nga Pa Harakeke police programme, the Tuhono Whanau – Family Start programme, and her church family at The House of Breakthrough.

“Those groups have been my safety net. And the church, they’re my whanau. They’re my brothers and sisters in Christ.

“I found Christ on September 3, on my daughter’s birthday, in 2016.

“I give glory to God for where I am, the strength and courage he has given me.

“I live in faith every day, through patience and prayer.

“I have to be strong. If you don’t stay strong you can lose yourself. But I need to stay strong for my kids.

“I feel like I can’t lose anymore. In a sense I had already lost everything. But I was so lucky to be gifted my baby (her youngest child now).”

A custody order was placed on her while she was hapu (pregnant) with her youngest child, and Tanita said Oranga Tamariki did want to uplift.

But it was prevented due to the backing of community groups that she was seeking assistance from.

“I formed those safety nets so it wouldn’t happen.

“I’m trying to be a person that it’s kind of impossible for anyone to be.

“I just want a chance to show that I can care for my kids, and be able to move on together and heal together. I think that was the main thing. We didn’t get to heal together.

“It’s time now that I’ve come to a place where that can happen.

“I will never stop fighting for my kids no matter what.

“I want them to come here and be loved upon as I have been loved upon. And I want retribution for my son.”

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