Cook Islands Women in Police. 23032617. PHOTOS Supplied by Rebecca Hosking-Ellis
Fifty years ago, two young women Jane Tauariki Tuavera and Makirua Luka graduated in the Cook Islands Police on March 29th 1971 – they paved the way for women policing in the country.
Over 100 women have been sworn in over 50
years, and currently there are 39 women in the police department and 71 former
The Cook Islands Police Service executives,
former women in policing and current colleagues have planned a celebration to
commemorate the 50th anniversary for all women that served and still serving in
the Cook Islands Police Service.
Coordinator of the event, former police
officer Rebecca Hosking-Ellis says: “Women have worked alongside with their
male colleagues: on frontline shifts, airport police, CIB detectives, and they
have achieved international in the Pacific region and nationally.
Rebecca Hosking-Ellis wore a bullet proof vest while serving with RAMSI in the Solomon Islands in 2004/2005. 21032642.
“Our people should be proud of their passion,
dedication and commitment in serving the government and protecting the people
of this great nation. Women have faced many challenges and have overcome them.”
Jane Tuavera, retired on March 29, 2010 after
39 years (two months shy of 40 years) of faithful and dedicated service to
policing; she moved to New Zealand for health reasons.
During her service she served 11 police
commissioners – Tangata Nekeare, Sir Fred Goodwin, Elliot Khan, Jim
Butterworth, Lindsay Todd, Tepure Tapaitau, Ronald Melrose, Tevai Matapo, Pira
Wichman, Pat Tasker and Maara Tetava.
Tuavera travelled to New Zealand for further
training and was the first woman in the First Sergeants course at the NZ Police
College in Porirua that was opened by Prince Charles in 1981.
Some highlights of her career were achieved in
the Criminal Investigation Bureau (CIB) that involved four rape cases – two of
these from the outer islands.
Rebecca Hosking-Ellis who was policing at the
time was the emcee at Tuavera’s farewell.
Cook Islands Airport Police in the late 1980’s. From left: John Samuel, Sergeant Tangaroa Vaikai, Rebecca Hosking, Tai Joseph. 21032641. PHOTOS Supplied by Rebecca Hosking-Ellis.
She joined the police at the age of 18, the
only female of six recruits: Maara Tetava, Buntu Vainerere, Tuaine Manavaroa,
Ake Tere and Araipu Tairi from the Sir Tangaroa Tangaroa Wing who graduated in
Rebecca wasn’t keen to sign up for police
work, “my father was a cop and two of my aunties… so I wanted to join the NZ
A friend convinced her to apply for the police
job while she was attending Tereora College. Her application was successful.
Only with the stern encouragement from her
Mama and Papa did she attend the induction.
Over the years, her interest and passion in
“I started to get really involved helping
people and people started trusting me. I was so passionate and I believed in –
‘you watch, you listen you learn’,” says Rebecca.
Women faced challenges, “there are barriers
but I put it in a positive way and tell the girls we can do this, and they
agreed and we carry on.
“People would say to me, that kind of work is
for men. But you need women in there, women to deal with domestic violence,
rape, children… a woman is only comfortable talking to another woman in these
situations - not to a man…”
Rebecca received urgent calls late at night to
escort women (sometimes with their children) who were escaping their abusive
violent partners to the airport.
In those earlier days, she says most of the
accidents occurred from drink driving and speeding on motor bikes.
“We (police) have seen so many gruesome things
that is traumatising like terrible fatal road accidents, we don’t have
psychologists to help us and some of the young ones left because of the trauma
“What we did was, we talked about it amongst
ourselves, our staff, expressing how we felt… it was the only way to help us
Rebecca says the job wasn’t easy, adding the
negative comments from members of the public were sometimes terrible “it’s not
an easy job”.
community should also realise that when cyclone or disaster warnings occur, we
go home get our family ready; and then we go back to work to help other people
be safe - so people need to think about that.”
After 33 of years policing, Rebecca chose to
take an early retirement on January 7, 2018, to work at the Ministry of
Internal Affairs where she is now based.
And still today women approach her in public
to acknowledge their thanks for her valuable help when she was policing.
It’s not always glooms in the police force;
Rebecca has good memorable experiences.
One of her career highlights was an overseas
trip with the late prime minister Sir Thomas Davis KBE and Lady Pa Tepaeru
Police officers would accompany the Prime
Minister or the Queens Representative and their wives on official events
abroad, a female officer was required to assist like a “lady in waiting”.
She was excited to be selected and travelled
with police officer Tiki Matapo.
In Sydney an amazing huge vase of beautiful
coloured orchids greeted them, “it was just so beautiful, Lady Pa and I were
just so taken with these orchids.”
“She asked me to ‘taviri an ei - weave a head
ei’, I had no string, no flowers - just those orchids in the hotel corridor.”
Improvising she rolled up the newspapers in
the hotel room for the band, although she was frightened of being caught, she
sneakily picked the orchids and wove a beautiful ei katu.
“And it matched her (Pa Ariki) gorgeous
muumuu, it was so beautiful, the hotel staff complimented the ei, not knowing
it was their flowers… it was hilarious; Tiki kept laughing and shaking his
head, but I did it, I got it done.”
Rebecca travelled to Paris, London, Scotland
for the 13th Commonwealth Games, to Israel where she stayed at the King David
Hotel and was thrilled to see “Jerusalem - so beautiful, full of apple and
orange orchards, it was so special to see, amazing.”
In 1991 she was sent to Manihiki to assist
policemen Party Johnson and Boaza Kaina with the island’s election.
The elections then could be quite cruel, “it
was not nice at all, people teasing each other, it was not good; but it’s
She then took on the job of police officer on
Manihiki, living there for 12 years.
A deeply traumatic experience was 1997 Cyclone
Martin – the most tragic natural disaster in the recorded history of the Cook
Islands that devastatingly robbed 19 lives in Manihiki.
“I haven’t read the book ‘Matini’. We were
given a copy from (author) Rachel Reeves, but to this day I can’t bring myself
to read it, I open the cover and then I close it. It was devastating, unreal…”
Rebecca lived in Tukao, Manihiki. Rarotonga
contacted her about the cyclone warning, she then called the Fisheries contact
on Tauhunu to go and warn people.
Preparations were made, people were warned,
clothes were packed.
On Saturday, a phone call from Rarotonga
advised that the next weather chart read the cyclone was moving away towards
“I could see the waves getting bigger, higher
and rougher from where I was, I was disagreeing with the caller saying the sea
was getting worse, then the call cut out… later we heard that was the time
Tauhunu got it…”
Before the first wave hit Tukao, Rebecca
returned to her home to get her children.
She was walking towards the building shelter
with a child on each arm when she heard a Mama screaming at her to hurry.
“I turned around and saw the wave, as tall as
a coconut tree. I picked up my kids (7-year-old son and 3-year-old daughter)
one in each arm and I ran for my life, somehow you find the strength … it was
She got inside the building ran up into an
attic like space with the others, the men were downstairs and the wave hit.
“Then you heard the screaming, some were
dragged through the building by the sea surge, luckily there was a hedge at the
back so some people got stuck in the hedge.
It was lucky it was still daylight, so we
could still see.
One of Mataio Johnson’s Japanese technicians,
had grabbed their Satellite (SAT). He kept asking for the Cook Islands code.
“I was still in shock and I couldn’t remember
it. He called his family in Broome, Australia to call Rarotonga to call us.
Cook Islands police women. Back from left: Ruta Tane, Kurere Tuaputa, Inano Matapo, Teveka Taru. Front from left: Rebeca Ellis, Tupou Patia- Brogan, Mereana Hagai, Pauline Rangi, Jane Tuavera, Ana Teinangaro, Ngaeikura Taere, Gertrude Maretapu-Vaomotou. 21032615. PHOTOS Supplied by Rebecca Hosking-Ellis
“We sat and waited for the phone to ring, when
it rang it was Chief Tini, when I heard his voice I just cried I couldn’t stop
After a brief they were asked to clear the
runway so Air Rarotonga could land bringing medical personnel and supplies.
It was a Sunday, but the people worked
together to clear the debris from the airstrip and fill in the holes, “the
Mayor, konitara and all of us worked well together. We were hit but not as bad
Rebecca returned to Rarotonga in 2003, for her
kids to attend school.
In 2004, she and fellow officer Michael Akava
worked in the Solomon Islands for the Regional Assistance Mission to the
Solomon Islands (RAMSI) for nine months, both received commendations for their
performance of duties there.
Rebecca is excited for the upcoming official
celebration and revealed a book about Cook Islands Women in Police will be
compiled with the help of her aunty Marjorie Crocombe.
“Crocombe has kindly agreed to help us put the
book together, so we can all share our stories, and sales from the book will go
back to help the retired police association.
“We have had amazing women work in the police
and amazing women who support us.”
Rebecca also acknowledges Vaai Basnet and
Cancy Maro the two female probationary constables who made history in August
2020 – the first women to join the crew of the police vessel Te Kukupa.
Juliana Pierre joined the Cook Islands Police
in 1987 at the age of 21. She was the eighth woman to join policing.
She was motivated to take on the job simply
because, “the job did not require sitting in an office eight hours a day, you
were encouraged to use your initiative and the job wasn't predictable”.
Her duties included working on the frontline,
issuing driver’s and firearm licences, court orderly functions trained by Kau
Mapu and with CIB when a female officer was required on particular cases.
“When I joined, it was rare for women to come
forward and file reports about an assault or domestic violence and to follow
through. Women often withdrew their complaints believing the police would not
have a positive impact to their situation,” says Pierre.
Mike Akava, RAMSI Commander Sandy Peasely, Rebecca Hosking-Ellis, former CIs Police Commissioner Maara Tetava. 21032639. PHOTOS Supplied by Rebecca Hosking-Ellis
Their (women) reasons at the time were
because, “of feeling shamed for ‘letting the skeleton out of the closet’ or the
negative feedback they had had to deal with.”
“So back then women did not see police as
helpful to them in their specific traumatic circumstances,” says Pierre.
“Seeing a change in response to that over time
while I was serving was a highlight, amongst many others including meeting
people from different walks of life.
Challenges were always present in policing but
Pierre says they moved on by making the best decisions they could to overcome
“There’s always cause and effect, at the end
of the day going home knowing you did the best you could with your
recommendations regarding each case, was quite satisfying.”
Pierre worked in the police force for eight
years, she resigned to move overseas.
Looking back, she absorbed valuable skills and
has no regrets.
“I learnt to do my best in whatever I put my
mind to, to have implicit confidence and faith, and build a rapport with people
regardless of race, age or background.
“And attention to detail, these attributes and
others are serving me well in my job here in New Zealand.”
Before Pierre joined the police service,
Rebecca Hosking, Ruth Tane, Iva Poaru, Jane Tuavera, Florida Hosking and two
other women, she can’t recall, were in the police service. Mereana Hagai, Kura
Atirai and Patia Kapao enlisted during her time.
“I pass on my congratulations to all the
former and current police women of the Cook Islands who have done and continue
to do a job that serves the community. Meitaki.”
The Cook Islands Police Service will celebrate
50 years of women policing on Monday, March 29 (Monday) starting with a church
service at the St Joseph’s Cathedral in the early morning.
A police parade will start at 8.30am at Police
Headquarters, to be attended by Deputy Prime Minister Robert Tapaitau to mark
the special occasion.
Dinner for invited guests will be held at the
Edgewater Resort that evening.