‘The court is not King Solomon,’ judge tells parents feuding over son’s body

For almost two months the body of a disabled teenager has remained with the State coroner in Newcastle while his family has waged a bitter war over what to do with his remains.
Nanjing Night Net

Pono Aperahama died in tragic circumstances at Lambton swimming pool in Newcastle on October 17.

The 17-year-old had sustained severe head injuries in 2013 when he was hit by a car while riding his bike. He spent nine months in hospital and suffered ongoing health issues as a result of his injuries.

On his release from hospital Pono, who had been living with his grandmother, was placed into care with Challenge Community Services.

He was at the pool with his carer when he became erratic, striking out at the pool staff and repeatedly hitting his head against a brick wall.

He died in the ambulance on the way to John Hunter Hospital.

Almost immediately his family began fighting over whether he would be buried in New Zealand or cremated in Australia.

Pono’s mother Te Rina Abraham, who lives in New Zealand, wanted to bury her son there.

However, his father Steven Henry and sister Piki Aperahama wanted the body to be cremated in Sydney and the ashes to be divided equally between both parents.

Members of the family took to social media to air their grievances.

Two days after her brother’s death, 19-year-old Piki attacked her mother on Facebook. “You haven’t seen your son let alone any of your children in years and now you think you have a say? My brother is dead and still somehow my mother seems to make it about her, YOU WERE NOT THERE, my nana, papa and aunties raised me and the boys, they made sure we had a roof over our heads and were always fed.”

Her mother replied by text saying, “You f—ing lying little c— say you did everything for your brother and how much you love him while he lays here in Newcastle alone on ice.”

The feuding family took the matter to NSW Supreme Court.

“I have found this decision most difficult,” said Justice Stephen Rothman.

“The circumstances are tragic. The Court is not King Solomon. Whatever happens, one or other party will be disadvantaged,” he said in his judgment handed down earlier this week.

He noted both parents are New Zealanders whose son Pono was born in Sydney in January 2000.

His parents separated when he was three-months old and he lived with his mother.

However, at 8, Pono was removed from his mother and placed with her parents.

One of the major issues between the parents was a dispute over Maori culture.

His mother argued that Maori culture forbade cremation and that “a deceased must be buried so as to return the body to the earth from whence it came”.

Ms Abraham’s older sister, Maata Takiari, a liaison officer and secretary with the Maori Performing Arts Group in Brisbane, gave evidence on behalf of Pono’s father that although Maori tradition was to bury rather than cremate “it is not uncommon for Maori families to decide to cremate a body because it is cheaper than a burial,” she said in her affidavit.

Pono’s sister Piki testified that her brother did not have a strong connection with Maori culture or New Zealand, having been there only three times in his life.

Ms Aperahama told the court the family wanted a traditional Maori service in Penrith, lasting from three to five days, during which family and friends could come to pay their respects in accordance with traditional Maori practices.

Justice Rothman agreed with Ms Aperahama and her father and ordered that the body be released to them.

The judge also ordered that after the funeral service and the cremation, both parents were to receive half of the ashes.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

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