Mary Jane's Story
“Looking back that’s just my nature, to be a caretaker”
Mary Jane Ale, a mother of three, a police officer and a Kiwi Fern is an achiever. It could have been different, given an upbringing she describes as a “mixed bag.”
Her father was a founding member of the Head Hunters and her mother was a gang associate. Both parents were drug-addicted as was Mary-Jane as a baby. Born addicted to methadone, she had to be weaned off, only to face a childhood surrounded by alcohol and violence.
When she was just 5-years-old the Armed Offender Squad raided her house. Faced with guns and dogs, her biggest concern was making sure her younger siblings didn’t see anything. She made sure they didn’t. A courageous choice for a little girl, made with a spirit that became a habit.
Things began to change for Mary-Jane with more choices like that - going to church with a friend from school, for example. She wasn’t sure if her parents even noticed that she was gone. But they eventually joined the same congregation.
It’s normal for some kids to experience just as she did and that’s part of the credentials Mary-Jane brings to policing. “A lot of them (the kids), they’ll stand there and say to your face “You don’t know what it’s like” … and well actually I get it.”
Mary-Jane had her eldest son Everton when she was 20, “I was still a kid and we had no idea what we were doing.” When Everton was one she became a solo mum and she felt like she was almost heading down the same track as her parents had travelled in their youth.
Optimistic about the power to choose change, she champions pathways for the good. She says “it doesn’t matter what’s thrown at you, you still have so many options. If you get dealt a bad hand, it’s not a permanent.”
Mary-Jane was always into sports. In primary she started athletics and cross country. Exploring all avenues that let her be a part of something but it was mostly to escape what was happening at home.
Mary Jane says her and her siblings were the ones down at the touch fields from early in the morning to the end of the night.
She played rugby in high school and when she moved to Wellington she continued to play. Playing for the Wellington 7’s and in 2015 switching to league, that year making the Kiwi Ferns (#127).
In 2016 she played the 9s and the last ANZAC test (now the Downer tests). The 9s game at Eden Park was her first ever game of 9s. “The coaches must’ve had a lot of faith in me.”
Her team ended up winning the series and the ANZAC test. As Mary Jane was a solo mum at the time, she dragged her son along to trainings. She is happy she has these sporting achievements, hoping her son sees that if you put in the hard work and long hours you can achieve good things.
She now also has 16 month old twins, Quinn and Jude, with her partner Chance.
Mary Jane says she continues to get asked the same question, ‘how do you do it?’ and she says it’s always the same response, “I don’t know… how do you do anything?” And she goes on to expand on that by talking about the fearlessness she sees developing in her children.
When people have a new-born they’re running on no sleep and they just get on with it because they have to. Mary Jane says now having twins is a massive learning curve.
“Everyone is different; you’ve got to find what works for you.”
With safety around the house Mary Jane says they keep all the doors closed except for the places where the little ones can go, and they make sure that the babies are supervised. They make sure they are in areas of the house where they won’t get hurt or aren’t around anything that they could hurt themselves with.
Everton, Mary Janes 12-year-old, plays rugby and he’s pretty much fearless on the field. She hopes the little ones grow up to be as fearless as he is in any situation.
Her parents have changed a lot since her childhood and her dad now lives with her and her family. He helps out with nappy changes and getting the kids ready for school which Mary Jane says is great to have an extra pair of hands.
“I have the greatest respect for my dad but he is definitely a better grandfather than he was a father to us. He also probably likes them more than he liked us.”
At Mary Jane’s first Jersey presentation she was told that they were only caretakers of the jersey and it wasn’t theirs to keep, they were looking after it for the next generation. She feels as though she has been doing that her whole life. Being a guardian is more than choice sometimes. It’s a driving force.
“I think it was that someone had to do it (care for her siblings).”