Humble Auckland police officer reflects on NZ Order of Merit for work in ethnic communities

It took a week for Gurpreet Arora to decide whether or not he was going to accept a New Zealand Order of Merit. 

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Gurpreet Arora MNZM has been honoured for his services to ethnic communities. Source: Breakfast

“[It’s] because I had to reflect on my journey,” the sergeant from South Auckland told Breakfast. 

Arora, originally from India, started his police career in Counties Manukau in 2008. At the time, he said the South Asian community’s trust in police was “very low”. 

There were also a number of ethnic community groups in the area working in silos, and Arora realised he needed to unite them so they could better serve their communities. He also needed to increase their confidence in the police. 

Over his career, he and his team made proactive efforts to reach out to local businesses and partner with community groups. This helped increase their trust in police.

In the wake of the 2019 Christchurch mosque attacks, in a New Zealand first, Arora and his team hosted an iftar, the evening meal with which Muslims end their daily fast during Ramadan. 

Arora is the liaison officer for the Gandhi Nivas project, an early intervention facility for male perpetrators of domestic violence. 

He said South Asian communities also faced issues with domestic violence, usually against women, and it came with “unique aspects” like immigration issues. For example, some women in these communities are reluctant to report domestic violence because they’re reliant on their partner for their visas.

But, Arora then found out that while he could encourage women to speak out, perpetrators were returning home without getting help. 

Before 2014, “there was no facility, there was no programme to support male perpetrators of family violence”, Arora said. 

The Gandhi Nivas programme’s first facility opened in December 2014. It offers men free 24/7 support, accommodation, food and professional counselling. Since then, it’s grown to three locations across Auckland and it’s supported 3500 men and their families. 

A Massey University study looking at data between 2014 and 2019 found that of a group of 900 people who went through the programme, nearly 60 per cent did not reoffend in the family harm space. 

It was only when he reflected on his time in the force that Arora said he realised progress had been made and that he felt comfortable being included in the Queen's Birthday Honours List of 2021

“It’s an honour and a privilege for me and my family and, most importantly, for the community as well,” he said.

Arora said his job was his calling.

“It’s about solving problems and making the community more safe.”