It might not seem like core police business, but our people’s engagement with a fledgling business in Bougainville has got a very useful relationship sewn up.
In 2012 Julie Morok was trying to get established as a seamstress working from a workshop without walls under her small home in Buka town.
Fast forward to 2023 - Julie has employees, runs a teaching programme, has premises with walls and a booming business, thanks to New Zealand Police, innovative thinking and badges.
“If New Zealand Police did not assist her, Julie would not have the successful business she owns now,” says Inspector Shawn Rutene, our team leader in Bougainville.
“We’re more than just helping to shape the Bougainville Police Service – we’re helping to build a nation.”
New Zealand Police first deployed to support local policing through the Bougainville Community Policing Programme in 1999 as the region emerged from civil conflict. Since 2003 we have had a continuous presence there.
Our staff work as advisors helping recruit, train and mentor 350 Bougainville Auxiliary Police (BAP) officers – formerly known as Community Auxiliary Police (CAP) - who are selected by village chiefs to support local processes and maintain law and order.
The support includes providing the BAP uniform – not a problem, apart from sourcing embroidered badges for the shirts, which before 2012 needed to be supplied from Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea, at a significant cost.
“One of the other advisors suggested I visit Julie Morok, a local seamstress who was just starting out,” says Pete Rendall, a New Zealand Police Advisor in Buka at the time.
“She had a good name in the village and was doing small sewing jobs for the Buka people.
“I visited Julie at her haus and asked her about the embroidering. She said she could do the badges but did not have the machine to do them.”
Pete asked Julie what she needed then consulted Murray Lewis, now retired but then contingent commander. They costed the project and bought the machine Julie had identified – a Singer Futura.
By the time it arrived Murray had been succeeded as OC by Inspector Les Paterson, and contracts were signed under Julie’s haus.
The Singer Futura embroidery machine that began it all - with Nibbles the parrot in attendance.
“The machine was a big behemoth, very heavy, but at the time it was top of the line,” says Pete. “I went to Julie’s to hand the machine over - she wasn’t there, so I left it on the front step.
“I put a note on the machine that said ‘There you go’. I would have liked to have seen her face when she opened her front door and saw that machine there.”
Julie, who began sewing to support her family after her father’s death, had not done embroidery before but Pete challenged her to get up to speed in a month and she taught herself using YouTube videos.
Under the deal with Police, she would pay off the 3500 kina ($1600NZ) cost of the machine by producing the badges, which she achieved in a year. This put her business on a much firmer footing.
Julie now provides a range of tailoring services for the New Zealand contingent and local police, Buka Hospital and many other clients.
Her business boasts 10 machines – including a state-of-the-art internet-enabled embroidery machine, though the old Futura is still in use - and employs four others.
She also takes students into her workshop for two-week placements to teach them the basics of the craft.
Another order for New Zealand Police's Bougainville contingent...
Julie says she is very glad of the challenge Pete gave her in 2012.
“If I didn’t have the help of the New Zealand Police officers I wouldn’t be able to have what I have right now - more machines, more people to help me out and more orders and more challenges for myself.
“I’d like to say thank you to New Zealand Police because they gave me something I’d never had. It was a new idea.”
Shawn says Julie’s story shows the reality of deployment to somewhere like Bougainville, where policing with a prevention mindset is as much about repairing the fabric of society – no pun intended - as law enforcement.
“The moral of the story is that in Bougainville there is more to policing than locking people up - you have to be part of and gain the trust of the community,” he says.