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Meet our whānau: Shirleyanne Brown aka Shirl

She’s a wonderful wahine who wears a few 155 hats, including Chair of 155 Food Rescue, coordinator of our Mothers Moving Mountains programme and Alcohol Harm Reduction Project, and is now our Community Development Project Manager. Her connection with 155 stretches decades.

Being from Whangārei, 155 touches a lot of our communities and marae. Way back, I worked with Carol Peters on a digital project looking at cyber hubs for marae.

How would you describe 155 Community House?
No door’s the wrong door. 155 is a place where people can come in and have a cup of tea and a chat. No problem is too tough, hard, too big or too small. There’s always a listening ear and a keenness to see people well and safe.

There’s courageousness too. If there’s a gap, they’ll fill it. They really champion those community-led projects that other people have been able to leverage off as well.

What do you enjoy most about working with 155?
It is an incubator of community heart and need. The agility of the organisation is one of the drawcards. Every day is different.

It’s very heart work. We’re certainly not here for the vanity or money. It’s very much because it’s the right thing to do. It’s an opportunity for me at my point in life to give back and help people find a belonging.

155 is also a place of belonging for many people. Many that are transient, who don’t know where they’re from. 155 is their entry point.

Who inspires you?
Everyone who comes into my gaze inspires me; The community itself inspires me every day. It really shows the resilience people have to just stay above water. Our volunteers within the community, and their generosity. Liz, Carol and all 155 Kaimahi too.

My marae, Pehiāweri, and whānau inspire me; my cousins, mother and father. I’m very blessed to have a strong connection to my whakapapa because, when the chips are down and there’s nothing else, it’s the people around you who you know you can nestle into their arms and feel safe. They are your whānau. Not only blood whānau, my friends too.

If you were the Prime Minister of New Zealand, what is the first thing you would do?
I am proud of our Prime Minister. She’s a value-based leader. I want to create pockets of hope holders by saturating Aotearoa with people who will hold the hope and be a refuge for those who are needing care and support. It’s about unconditional care for people that’s defined by your heart not what you have. What you know matters, but who you are matters more. 

It’s nice to have a PM that’s vocalised that. That does speak to New Zealand, particularly when we don’t have answers. There’s no cure but what we can do is band together. Let’s just crowd together and protect each other while we figure it out.

Fun fact about yourself?
I love to create party themes for everyone to get lost in the fun and fantasy of the moment. Winning favour with people through humour is a trait that I’ve inherited from my parents. An Irish-Māori combination.