Community Profile: Kassie Hartendorp

Kassie is a well-recognised member of the Rainbow, Maori and Diverse communities in Aotearoa. She talks to express’ Wellington correspondent Lilly Loudmouth about volunteering for School’s Out and working as a Community Organiser for ActionStation.

Where are you from?

On my father’s side, I come from England, Scotland and Ireland, and on my mother’s, I whakapapa to Ngāti Raukawa ki te Tonga. I was raised mostly in Whanganui but moved to Wellington when I was 18 and have been here ever since.

How have you been involved in rainbow communities?

I started by volunteering with School’s Out which is a local support group for LGBTIQ+ young people in Wellington. We were really supported by older members of the community and met many other incredible people. I was also involved in queer activism at this time, such as organising Queer the Night events and co-founding The Queer Avengers which aimed to challenge homophobia and transphobia in schools, the media and the wider community. Since then, I’m lucky to have been a part of many different community projects and efforts. I walked alongside young trans and gender diverse people through working at Evolve Wellington Youth Service, have been a part of the takatāpui community kapa haka group called Tīwhanawhana, collaborated with indigenous and people of colour with BOX Oceania and have supported local community initiatives where I can.

Tell us about your work in our rainbow communities?

I started by volunteering with School’s Out which is a local support group for LGBTIQ+ young people in Wellington. I was also involved in queer activism at this time, such as organising Queer the Night events and co-founding The Queer Avengers which aimed to challenge homophobia and transphobia in schools, the media and the wider community. Since then, I’m lucky to have been a part of many different community projects and efforts. I walked alongside young trans and gender diverse people through working at Evolve Wellington Youth Service, have been a part of the takatāpui community kapa haka group called Tīwhanawhana, collaborated with indigenous and people of colour with BOX Oceania and have supported local community initiatives where I can.

What are you working on at the moment?

Right now, I am a Community Organiser for a community campaigning organisation called ActionStation. My focus is on supporting tino rangatatiratanga (Māori self-determination) in Aotearoa. At the moment, I am working on a campaign to increase Te Tiriti o Waitangi and decolonising education for adults in communities. The government has just committed to making our country’s history part of the core curriculum for schools, but it’s important that adults and elders have opportunities to learn as well.

Why does this matter for our rainbow communities?

Many of us growing up in Aotearoa were not formally taught about the realities of colonisation, and yet must live in a country that is founded on a massive rift that is often felt, but rarely acknowledged. And it affects takatāpui, or Māori LGBTIQ communities, in many different ways. We have to navigate both the impacts of colonisation on our families, racism in everyday society and also work through the stigma, prejudice and isolation that comes through being sex, sexuality or gender diverse. There is no evidence that practices of homosexuality were punished before British settlers arrived on our shores. So homophobia and transphobia are likely to be modern concepts that came along with colonisation. The way I see it is that Aotearoa and our wider Pacific once embraced many different roles and genders that have now been erased or buried. We have an incredible history of diversity that we can learn from, and guide us to a more accepting, loving future for our communities.

What do you love most about Wellington?

I love the fierce winds and wild waves of the Southern coastline. It’s hard to stay in one place in Wellington because the weather is always moving you somewhere else. Ultimately it is about the community that I am blessed to be a part of. I love that the capital draws in many people who want to learn, create change, express themselves, be creative and push our country to be a better place for all of us.

 

Article | Lilly Loudmouth.