Open for business: Marcus takes chair of the ABA

A year ago, director of Cain Tattoo, Marcus Amosa, was elected Chair of the Avondale Business Association.

What followed is a bit grey – the incumbents refused to recognise Marcus’ election and one full year of high-profile discord followed that some would describe as the death-throws of an outdated autocracy.

This is now safely behind us with Marcus’ officially recognised re-election to the role of Chair at the 2019 AGM. He has a fresh board to back him and their collective sights for Avondale are set steadfastly on a fresh and transparent future.

So ... who is Marcus Amosa? documented the Amosa family in its 2016 online series, Portraits of Poly Pastor’s Kids. Featuring Marcus and his four brothers, it is a deeply personal account of the cultural complexities they were raised within.

When the boys were young, their father, Asora Amosa, accepted his first Ministerial post to a church in Pleasant Point in the South Island. They were the only Samoan family in town.

While home-life was culturally Samoan, with only the Samoan language spoken at home, outwardly, the children were raised like everyone else in town.

It wasn’t until the boys were teenagers that the family relocated to Auckland for Asora to take up his first post in a Pacific Island church in Glen Eden. A further post followed to the Nafanua Church in Rosebank Road causing the family to relocate to Avondale when Marcus was in his final year of Kelston Boys High.

As teenagers, the siblings had been plunged into a new cultural environment with a large island and urban community that acted to highlight the many differences of who they had become.

The cultural shock was nothing short of overwhelming at times. Coupled with the challenges of growing up under the microscope as a Samoan Minister’s child, Marcus’s late teens were a particularly difficult time.

Subsequently, he became a rebelliously young adult drinking a lot and getting involved with the police.

“I’ve got a lot of empathy for young Pacific Islanders who are rebellious and drinking with the boys at that age,” he says.

Eventually, Marcus decided to join the army for a change of tack.

After training in Christchurch, his unit was dispatched to help with East Timor’s civil unrest in 2007. The tour lasted seven months.

“After an operation like that,” says Marcus, “every soldier experiences an understandable slump; it’s not uncommon for soldiers to leave the army at this time.”

Marcus pressed on, however, and travelled with the army training, in Malaysia and Germany, before being deployed again in 2009 to Afghanistan. This time it was a six-month operation, and after six years of service, he quit the army on his return.

Reflecting on his time in the army, Marcus says:

“Seeing first-hand how people struggle in third world countries had a big impact on me, especially in East Timor,” says Marcus. ”Not only do they struggle to find food, they have to be vigilant not to get themselves killed… it gave me a new appreciation of life and made me feel very grateful. It left me asking what I can do in the world to help people; not necessarily in a big sense, but at least for those around me.”

With a new future ahead, Marcus set off to Perth with a few ex-army buddies to work in the mines and from there to work on an offshore oil rig.

“I really enjoyed the work,” he said, “and it paid so well; it gave me the opportunity to get into business, which I have always had an interest in.”

While still working offshore, Marcus and his brother, Chris, an established tattooist, decided to go into business together creating their own studio, Cain Tattoo, in Avondale.

“Setting up a tattoo studio in Avondale rather than Ponsonby, didn’t make much sense to a lot of people,” says Marcus, “but because we had lived in Avondale, we knew the people and understood its potential.”

Marcus explains his decision to put his name forward for a board position on the business association.

“My mum used to tell us, ‘If you're walking along and you see rubbish, it’s your duty to pick it up,’ and that extends to other things in life too. When we set up shop in Avondale, it became clear that there were problems with the way the business association was working and so I felt it was my responsibility to help do something about it.”

Now at the helm of chairing the new board, what can people expect from the Avondale Business Association?

“In August, Council surveyed local business owners on the changes they would like to see,” says Marcus, “and these are now listed in the draft business plan - physical improvements, security & lighting and promotional events. It’s not dissimilar from what the broader community has also been asking for. For me, this is all about building relationships – with business owners, landlords, the police, with the community and other stakeholders. And it’s about being transparent. In the short term, however, we are focused on setting up an efficient platform with which to move ahead.”

At 34, Marcus is a natural leader and it will be interesting to watch him mature into the role. Though quietly spoken, he appears single-minded and self-assured with a vision and clarity of purpose which has caused him to also choose a life as a teetotaller.

“When I was young and used to drink,” he says, “my Mum would always say – without fail! – that I shouldn’t be drinking. I guess her persistence has paid off because I did stop drinking over four years ago. I thought that on the balance of things, I’ve got more to gain from not drinking. I've got a clear vision of who I want to be and that doesn’t fit the picture.”

Who does he want to be?

“Someone who helps!” is his ready answer. “One of the biggest things I learned in the army was to lead by example. I found that I naturally wanted to follow the people that do what they say they’re going to do and that’s what I try to emulate. If I want people to be more compassionate, I will be more compassionate; if I want people to stand up for the things they believe in, I will stand up for what I believe in.”

Watch this space...!