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Read about each of the family members in the Common Ground web-series to learn more about their stories.
Amy is a seventeen year old caring and popular girl, and is well-liked by her peers. Amy has been dating Richie for more than a year now. Amy loves the fresh energy he brings into her life.
Since her parent’s separation, Amy has begun to filter what information she allowed her mum to know about her, effectively becoming one person at home and another with her friends. She intended this deception to be for her mum’s own good, but it has become more and more a part of her personality. Amy loves her mother, but finds some of her mother’s coping attitudes challenging to navigate.
Richie is a free-thinking, fun and spirited guy who upholds strong ethics. Richie enjoys the independence he is allowed by his parents and tries his best not to abuse it. He usually works three nights a week making pizzas at a local chain store.
Richie adores Amy. Though he sometimes struggles with her secrecy, he understands her reasons for it and is patient enough to wait until Amy is ready to tell her mother about their relationship. The most important thing to Richie is Amy’s happiness and he will do pretty much anything to maintain it.
Diane is the forty five year old mother of Amy and Caitlin. Only recently separated from Charles, her husband of nineteen years, Diane runs a tight ship, whilst maintaining an orderly and supportive lifestyle for both daughters. Diane has done her best not to focus on the change, believing that a normal day to day approach is the best course of action.
Diane is completely unaware of her daughter’s relationship with Richie. She knows that Amy is of the age where she will start to meet boys, but believes that as a teenager, this will lead to nothing but trouble and broken hearts and has done her best to make her views clear.
Caitlin is Amy’s eight year old sister. Shrewd and a little savvier than an eight year old should be, Caitlin has been quick to embrace the separation as a vehicle to get lots of great new things – including two bedrooms. She loves her sister and blossoms under her attention.
Unfortunately Caitlin seldom knows how to draw this attention, unless it is through covert acts of antagonisation towards her sister.
Carla is Richie’s mother. While she, together with her husband raised Richie with a strong moral code, she also believes that there is a large amount of learning that comes from making mistakes and with this in mind, she has always encouraged Richie to think openly and make his own decisions. She has met Amy on many occasions and thinks that she is a lovely girl and wonderful match for her son. She, however, has no idea that Amy’s own mother is in the dark about Amy and her son’s relationship.
Gabriel is the son of Maria and Aleki. Though quiet and not overtly popular, he is well liked and has always achieved well academically in school. Socially, he is sometimes limited by an introverted personality. He values his place in the church and within the wider Samoan community, which he regularly interacts with.
Over the past few years Gabe has become increasingly aware of his attraction to other boys. At first he thought this was something he could ignore, but as time has passed he is beginning to realise that this is not something that will simply go away. Though he would like to talk to someone about these fears, he feels there is no one around him who could understand what he might be going through.
Maria is a 39 year old mother to Gabriel and wife to Aleki. Maria was born in Auckland from immigrant Samoan parents. She works as an early childhood teacher and is an integral member of her church. Maria thinks of herself as a supportive mother and she thinks her friends are impressed at how Gabriel has turned out. She is very hands-on with Gabriel, ensuring he prioritises study over socialising.
Maria has never had anyone in her life that identified themselves as homosexual. It has never crossed her mind that her son could be gay, as she thinks gay people are all effeminate and artistic types, and she doesn’t see these traits in her son. She wouldn’t wish this on him though, as he could lose his friends and his place in the community.
Aleki is Maria’s husband and Gabriel’s father. He is 40 years old and works as an intercity bus driver. Born and raised in Samoa, he migrated to New Zealand several years ago in search of paid employment. He met Maria when he began attending her church and they got married a year later. He is an avid rugby fan.
Aleki’s view of homosexuality is ‘each to their own’ but at the same time he can’t really understand it. Aleki has a close cousin who is a fa’afafine back in Samoa, and has always been extremely protective of her.
Jimmie is one of Gabe’s friends and is openly gay. Quick-witted, he usually reverts to humour to navigate the realities of his sexual identity when interacting with people.
Kim goes to the same school as Gabe. Vivacious and popular, she finds Gabe really attractive and has tried flirting with him with little success.
Sophie Harriman is a Year 10 student, who used to have many friends but nowadays she mostly hangs out just with her best friend Leigh. Sophie was very close to her mother; they used to spend a lot of their free time together because of their shared hobby, horse-riding. Sophie loves her father but she wonders if the only thing they actually had in common was her mother. She also senses that her dad is avoiding her. Sophie sees her grandparents regularly, but she worries about how much they appear to have aged since her mother passed away.
Alan is a 43 year old accountant. He dearly misses his wife, and is struggling with daily life as he feels like a huge chunk of himself is missing. Alan has always been close to his daughter Sophie but he finds it hard to put on a happy front around her nowadays; he just doesn’t have the energy or expertise to know how to deal with her grief on top of his own. Alan has a good relationship with his in-laws, Elaine and Colin, but lately he feels Elaine is judging him and his parenting constantly, and this has started to create some tension between them.
Jackie was Alan’s wife and Sophie’s mum. She passed away after a short battle with breast cancer. Jackie was the youngest of three daughters born to Elaine and Colin Rorke.
Elaine is Jackie’s mother. She grieves for her daughter privately; to the outside world her life has gone on as normal since her daughter died. Elaine worries about how losing Jackie has affected her husband, but it isn’t something they talk about. She is close to her granddaughter Sophie, and is trying to spend extra time with her, but is concerned about how Alan & Sophie are coping together.
Colin is a retired policeman, and husband to Elaine. Colin has always been a highly-sociable part of his community and a member of many local clubs since retiring. However since his daughter’s death he has started dropping out of social groups and events. Nowadays Colin prefers to sit inside and watch TV. He says he feels old all of a sudden. He isn’t sure how anyone else in his family is coping with Jackie’s death; and he isn’t about to start asking questions.
Jacob is Lisa’s 17-year-old son, a night owl, who if he isn’t out with friends he’s playing on his X-Box until very late. Jacob has a big friend group at school but not a ‘best friend’ as such. Unlike his sister Jacob still sees his biological father Blair. They meet irregularly and only at Blair’s invitation. Life at home can get tense because Jacob and his sister bicker a lot and Jacob feels a isolated within his family. He feels like an outsider and sees the rest of the family as having a stronger connection to each other than he does with them.
This growing distance has become a bit of an issue with his mother and Jacob is finding he has less and less interest in following the rules.
Leigh is 14 years old, popular and hangs out with older students who are in Jacob’s year. Leigh comes across as tactless and blunt, but she is very intelligent. She enjoys annoying Jacob because it gets his attention. They were close as children, but these days unless they are squabbling they don’t have much to say to one another. Leigh has stopped meeting up with her biological father Blair. She feels talking to him is awkward and a bit like hanging out with a stranger. She has a good relationship with Lisa and Graham but her natural teenage temper can cause her to lash out sometimes.
Lisa is a 38 year old mother of two and lives with her son Jacob, daughter Leigh, and partner Graham, who is not the children’s biological father. Lisa works as a carer in a nursing home. She has a strong relationship with both children and pushes them to do well at school. She thinks that both Jacob and Leigh are old enough to decide whether they want a relationship with their biological father Blair, and she does not influence their decisions either way.
Graham is Lisa’s 46 year old partner. Born and bred in West Auckland, he works for the AA’s breakdown service and enjoys his job. Graham is a friendly guy but never seemed to meet the right woman until Lisa, who is the absolute love of his life. Whilst Graham didn’t aspire to have children he really took to Jacob and Leigh and cares and provides for them as if they were his own. Graham is a reliable stepdad for the kids, and they know they can call on him any hour of the day or night for help. He is a family man and is close to his own brothers and their families as well.
Blair is 38 years old and owns his own small scaffolding business, which Jacob designed the logo for. After splitting up with Lisa, Blair moved to Melbourne and completely cut contact with his children for several years. When he returned to New Zealand he demanded visitation rights, but their arrangement has always been informal because Blair is unreliable and often cancels at the last minute.