April 24, 2017
Frequent fliers visiting this page will have noticed my summer flush of posts going dead.
Yep, I caught the ‘flu from some virus-laden person at a public event I attended & then spent a good six weeks enduring a chronic fatigue syndrome flare-up as a post-viral complication. Goodbye, February and most of March.
Another family member became hospitalised just after I recovered; April has been a blur of hospital visiting, but now I can hand-on-heart confirm that some parts of Waikato DHB’s facilities are working extremely well, and every single nurse I met was worth his or her weight in gold. Hearing that aged-care workers in hospitals and retirement homes had succeeded in getting a long-campaigned-for pay rise was the best news I heard during the three weeks and counting of my relative’s hospital stay.
#Green2017 has kicked off without me, and in jolly good form too, I must say.
I’m slowly dipping my toes back in the campaign terrain, and as with other active branch members all over the country, I’ll be out door-knocking, doing leaflet drops, supporting candidates at public meetings and generally wearing out my Greens campaign t-shirts.
One pic from last weekend: Kirikiroroa Hamilton Greens, about to inaugurate our door-knocking campaign for 2017. Candidates Sam Taylor (East) on left in blue skirt, and Jo Wrigley (West) with glasses and blue skinny jeans (but no sunhat!), accompanied by local crew.
January 14, 2017
In my 2016 roundup post at the end of December, I mentioned housing policy, which is a ‘wicked problem’ that currently fills a lot of newspaper column inches, policy research reports, and is increasingly the most criticised area of Government inaction over this term of Government.
National Ministers are not having an easy ride on this one. Since assuming power after the 2008 elections, John Key showed himself to be a populist PM, who despite starting out with an agenda of neoliberal policy changes (State-Owned Enterprise sales, privatisation of HNZ, reduction of public services across a whole range of Ministries, mining in our National Parks, etc…), proved to be guided more by frequent polling of voters’ opinions than by his more ideologically bound Party stalwarts or coalition government partners.
After the rather smooth, but startling, transfer of power from Key to Bill English in the final Sitting week of the House in December 2016, there have been rumblings of a sea-change in a variety of policy areas.
Housing is one of those areas, where Minister Nick Smith found himself in hot water many times; the SHA’s, which turned out NOT to be Crown-acquired land, after a PR stunt involving bussing journalists around to look at sites in Auckland, and the strange case of the thousand-year old stonefields site in Ihumatao, a fomer quarry and traditional kainga of Tainui, which is now deemed a profitable location by Fletchers with the closure of the Puketutu Island sewage treatment ponds.
It is close to Mangere Bridge, where Te Puea Marae kick-started a major project to help the homeless by opening their doors in the winter of 2016. Ihumatao is also right beside Auckland International airport, and has been considered reserve land, managed by the local Hapu for generations – one of the last sites of traditional occupation left in the Auckland isthmus.
Since the initial protests around redevelopment at Glenn Innes, where HNZ properties were originally to have been trucked off for resale (being, as they are, completely sound houses), there has been a lot of resistance by HNZ tenants to being evicted on spurious grounds from tenancies they have upheld to the letter.
Attempts to demonise tenants by using dodgy American meth-testing franchises, who have moved into NZ in a ‘business expansion’ exercise reminiscent of Amway, have been exposed by the media during 2016, and yet the powers that be in MBIE, the Ministry that has acquired most of the former Ministry of Housing (one of the first casualties of English’s ascension to leadership) are still keen to gain clear, untenanted possession of those properties in Glenn Innes, where the attractively-named Tamaki Development Corporation (owned on paper by Minister Joyce, English and a consortium of private investors whose names stay in the shadows…) are quietly seeding stories in the media of a potential big overseas corporate buyer.
This selloff of land that was acquired specifically to bring Tūhoe Iwi into the city in the 1940’s and ’50’s, which contains in one of it’s pleasant streets with a view over the estuary, Te Tī Marae, dedicated to the Tūhoe ancestors, is nothing but a 21st century land grab of magnificent proportions. The land at Glenn Innes was acquired as a swap with the Crown, in recompense for refusing to allow replacement of papakainga housing on land that went into Crown management in the Ureweras in the early part of the 20th century, after the raids on Mangapohatu in 1916 which were intended to stifle the growing popularity of the Ringatu sect and their prophet Rua Kenana.
Tamaki Development Corporation have quietly elided over this history, and proclaim themselves the fit and proper entity to pursue the sale of this lucrative piece of land – whose property values have increased since the demise of the meatworks in Panmure that used to discharge effluent into the Tamaki estuary, leaving a taint of offal smell wafting up the banks of the slope as far as Te Tī Marae. Of course, many of the inhabitants of those HNZ properties were workers at the meatworks, and other industrial sites in Panmure, Mt Wellington and further afield.
History is a funny old thing. There are many good and beautifully produced histories of Government Ministries and their major policies; we have a Ministry of Culture and Heritage that commissions such work, and in the past, it was done under the aegis of the Historical Branch of the Department of Internal Affairs.
My researches recently have brought me to some fine publications descending from those official government historians.
Of note are the works of Ben Schrader, We call it Home – A history of State Housing in New Zealand, published by Reed in 2005, and Gael Ferguson’s Building the New Zealand Dream, published by DIA in Wellington in conjunction with Dunmore Press in Palmerston North, 1994.
These two texts, both produced with full assistance of the National Archives and funded by the relevant Ministries, elaborate on the 1990’s sale of HNZ properties, and the ideological build-up to those sales.
I was surprised to discover that the incoming National Government began the policy of selling State Houses (initially with low-interest loans & low deposits) to their tenants immediately upon gaining office in 1950, even as State Housing was still being built in huge quantities during the post-War baby boom. The policies hinged on selecting working class tenants of ‘good character’, during those years of full employment, and converting them into suburban, middle-class families by the simple expedient of allowing them to gain home ownership.
The glaring cognitive dissonance of this policy came to fruition in the ’90’s under Bolger’s leadership of that National Government. By then, State Housing had morphed into the Housing Corporation, built a few eyesore office buildings which still pepper the regions’ CBD’s, and begun a program of market-rate renting which saw HNZ properties vacated by the working poor, the disabled and pensioners, who could no longer afford to rent them on their fixed incomes.
This was lauded as a policy success, and the best-built examples of State Housing stock were promptly sold off to private speculators, some of whom developed extensive rental property portfolios; some just held the property long enough to make a good capital gain & then flicked it on to new owners, often young couples who wanted a first home in an established area – these were mostly the ‘pepper-potted’ integrated housing areas, and in desirable suburbs like Woburn in Lower Hutt.
Thus in the 90’s, Bolger and Shipley’s Governments oversaw the largest net removal of social housing units in our history, and concurrently increased homelessness by returning HNZ tenants to the slums that State Housing had been initiated to destroy. Not bad for a King Country farmer and a former GM of Playcentre New Zealand.
“David Thorns, sociologist, argues that the market didn’t respond the way the Government predicted: “It appears that the supplement may have simply raised rents and thus landlord’s profits … there has not been a large increase in low-cost units of accommodation.” (P78, Schrader)
The roots of the current Housing Crisis, therefore, sit within the privatisation ideology and policies of the 1990’s, and the dogged determination of the current National Caucus to continue with the privatisation agenda. A thirty-year lag in producing low-income housing, at which the market has truly failed, has seen low-waged working families, and all other categories of unwaged households, suffer from the incredibly short-sighted policies that only looked to the profits to be made from private financial speculation in housing, and did not consider the national need for housing across all demographic and occupational classes.
Time to #ChangeTheGovernment
December 24, 2016
Firstly, Happy Holidays to everyone who is getting time to spend with their loved ones.
Now that I’ve caught your attention, spare a thought for those who are working through the seasonal festivities – in hospitals, driving ambulances, keeping petrol stations and call centres and other emergency services running, so that all of us keep our first-world privileges if anything goes wrong.
It’s been a rough year for a lot of people. A multi-party inquiry into Homelessness in Aotearoa/New Zealand produced this Report on Homelessness, and in July in the U.K., David Cameron resigned as PM after a Brexit result to his Referendum on Membership of the EU, not quite what he was expecting. Teresa May stepped into the vacancy as the next Tory PM, and the country as a whole began ticking off the similarities with Baroness Thatcher, who is so recently deceased as not to have left the battered consciousness of those who lived through the 1980’s.
Two months after the Homelessness Inquiry was completed, our own PM John Key resigned one Monday morning, having apparently woken up & decided he couldn’t be arsed any more, and Bronagh agreed with him. When The National caucus agreed with his estimation of Bill English as the best man for the job, they swore in the new PM at Gov House on December 12th, the first State Function performed by an equally startled Dame Patsy Reddy, whose inauguration as Governor-General was still in very recent memory.
Across the Atlantic, Trump won the US Presidential elections in November, startling most of the pundits, journalists and political insiders, including those inside his own Republican Party hierarchy. Democrat candidate Hillary Clinton still won the popular vote by over 3 million votes, but it’s the Electoral College that counts, and the votes in the big Republican states confirmed Trump’s win. Odd system, American ‘democracy’.
President Obama has provided a few good internet memes on the subject of ‘How to train a trump to be President’, go look for yourself on Twitter before @Potus is taken over by the orange menace.
I spent a lot of 2015 writing about Housing policy failures, and neglecting this blog. Some day, I may get bored enough to upload those research essays, but don’t hold your breath.
Much of 2016 has been about researching early settler/colonisation history, mostly in Otago as My O-week posts in February attest.
I can highly recommend the Hocken Library to anyone wanting a great, supportive atmosphere in which to research NZ history. #DunedinIsGreat became a fav hashtag for a while. The Otago Museum, the Heritage Room at Dunedin Public Library, the Knox College Archives, Tōitu Settlers Museum and the Otago Regional Archives all served to augment my research journey. I did trace one loose end down in Auckland Public Library Heritage Room, as well. Librarians are awesome, I’m such a fan of professional archivists and librarians!
I also managed to squeeze in attending Prof Barbara Brooks’ launch of The Hisory of NZ Women, a text that will reverberate for the next generation of feminist historians, and catch a little of the conference her book launch was associated with, in February. Then on my way through Wellington on the way home, I caught up with friends and colleagues at the Proud Conference on Human Rights and Health at Otago Med School, Wellington campus, in March.
In May, I was present for the launch of the Neglect and Nurture Report, by Poverty Action Waikato researchers Dr Anna Casey & Dr Rose Black. This report came out at a pre-Budget function, which was well-attended by representatives of local NGO’s working hard to address housing and inequality issues in our region. That report can be found here.
My next conference was the Greens’ AGM in Lincoln, Canterbury, followed by my second short trip to Dunedin. Fortuitously, my friend Nicky Hager was speaking at the Foreign Policy School during the mid-year break, so I snuck into that conference to hear him, and stayed to listen to a few stunned British Professors speak about ForPol in the wake of Brexit. Well worth pulling my post-grad researcher privileges to get into that one, and sponsorship by MFAT meant the catering was somewhat awesome!
On my way back through Wellington, I stopped long enough to do a quick oral presentation to the Social Services Select Committee, with a couple of days of hot-desk support from the Greens’ National Office, which was much appreciated.
This was a foretaste of the second half of the year, as my travels took me to Wellington twice more: for the Social Movements, Resistance & Social Change III 2016 conference, held at VUW in early September (and my first conference presentation on my thesis research area, Anarchist Feminist Herstory in Aotearoa NZ), and then back again in October for a week beginning with the release of The Homelessness Inquiry Report in the Legislative chamber of Parliament.
Then to Barry Coates’ Maiden Speech in the House later in the week, and in between, another Select Committee oral submission, this time with one I’d fully prepared at home before I travelled.
I couldn’t have done so much without family and friends who let me sleep on couches and spare beds, all over the country. It was truly a very busy year, and there is a lot of ‘shut up and write’ still to do, and coincidentally, there will be a lot to do locally for Kirikiriroa-Hamilton branch in the leadup to #Green2017 campaigning for the General Election.
I’m going to chill out a bit, do some swimming and maybe some cycling, after I get through Xmas Day; my family are all ‘adult children’ now, with their own plans this year, so I am spending tomorrow prepping & cooking some vegetables, then serving Xmas Dinner with the Hamilton Homeless Trust; a practical counterpoint to the intellectual writing and research I have spent so much time on over the past two years. Sometimes you just need to roll up your sleeves & get stuck in. I have the hugest respect for the crews who are cooking a hot meal every week night at Attitude in Hood St, some of whom I know. It gives me great pleasure to step in and give a hand, to let the regulars have a break.
Have a safe and happy festive season, seeya on the flip side in 2017.
December 7, 2016
OK, so that’s a Thatcher reference, but it seems appropriate this week.
While we’re in this lame duck week in Aotearoa, the week between the announcement of John Key’s resignation as PM, and the election by the National caucus of his successor on Monday 12th December, I just want to put down a few thoughts that have come up over the past two days.
Eight long years.
I graduated PGDipArts in 2008, and envisaged working in gender policy analysis in some Ministry or other, after I got a handle on some health problems that came up when I was finishing my diploma papers. Then National swept into power, and the policy analysts who had been guest lecturers to my Hons-level class were pushed out the doors of MSD Head Office right after Paula Bennett swept in as the new Minister in early 2009.
They both got jobs in Canberra and left the country, their qualifications and expertise appreciated by the Australian administration, at least.
I was suddenly in limbo. I wrote a bit, recovered some of my energy after a diagnosis of low thyroid function, and started a course of appropriate medication. I wrote book reviews, Ministerial complaints about the conduct of WINZ branch staff, blogposts, Select Committee submissions.
I wrote a Master’s thesis proposal, and it was accepted in June 2009. I started work on anethics Committee Research Application, and applied for a round of scholarships. Read more about how that went bad here.
I watched friends graduate the PhD’s that had been underway before GWS was threatened with closure, playing photographer for a friend at the last VUW Graduation Parade involving GWS School in December 2010.
I kept campaigning on Green politics, and writing about social policy issues from a feminist perspective.
Things got worse in Wellington; a transgender friend was so hounded and bullied by bigoted WINZ frontline staff that she took her own life in October 2012. This was just weeks after some successful transphobia-busting actions at Fairfax’s Wellington offices, and glitter-bombing Germain Greer for her transphobic statements at the Writer’s & Readers’ Week event at the Embassy Theatre. Ashley’s funeral was a very sad and angry gathering of her friends from Queer Avengers, who had to listen to family members misgender and dead name our friend, the ultimate in transphobic family behaviour. We walked her coffin across Willis St to the Wilson Funeral Home, and consigned her to eternity.
A helluva lot of Queer and Trans* support work grew from that, especially programs for LGBTI+ youth, but it was a bitter price to pay.
I left Wellington and moved to the Waikato, giving my Master’s thesis another go. Surprisingly, I encountered a bunch of deeply unethical behaviour from one supervisor, who it later became obvious was a fully-paid-up TERF.
My research into radical feminist activism was not an area she was familiar with, neither was my research methodology, oral history interviewing. After a lot of disagreements, and an ethics application that was incorrectly edited by a supervisor who failed to read the 2013 ethics committee guidelines ( freshly revised, which I followed, but had edited back to the ‘old’ way of doing things by my supervisor …), I withdrew my enrolment on medical grounds.
It took filing an academic grievance in 2015 to get my fees fully refunded. There was never any response in writing to the grievance that acknowledged fault, just the full and final refund in May 2016.
I applied for a lot of jobs during those years. Citing my PGDipArts in Gender and Women’s Studie s, as well as my BA in French (effectively, two majors and one Hons), I got rejection after rejection. I keep every one of those responses, because WINZ keep attacking my disability status & my lack of employment. Showing that employers are not interested in hiring disabled feminist policy analysts is necessary, on a regular basis.
I keep doing Green campaigning, and I keep writing Select Commitee submissions and I slowly stop blogging. Because what’s the point?
Eight years of a misogynist caucus under a PM who thinks ponytails are sexy and can’t keep his hands off them, who cut funding to Rape Crisis, Women’s Refuge, Lifeline and a myriad of otherNGO’s doing social work that MSD was denying responsibility for; cuts to Ministry of Women’s Affairs staff & funding (and a nonsensical rebranding); a year-on-year increase in suicide stats for youth; cuts to Studylink availability for school leavers, post-grads and over-55-yo mid-life retrainees; and then the crowning glory of refusal to acknowledge the housing crisis, refusing a Government inquiry so that the Cross-Party Homelessness Inquiry was established by Greens, Labour & Māori Parties. Read the submissions .
NGO’s and individuals presented in person at five hearings around the country, beginning at Te Puea Marae in Mangere, South Auckland. I attended 3 of the 5, and then the launch of the Report in Wellington.
I’ve never been so miserable in a hearing my life, I wept & left the hall to go and shout angry words in the bathroom, and knitted my rage when I couldn’t keep taking notes.
The articles I researched during a stint of Policy study in 2015 haunt me – I wrote about Housing and found research papers going back to the mid-80’s that predicted selling off State Housing would be a net loss to society, as impoverishment and homelessness would result. I read Cabinet papers from December 2014, heavily redacted for official release, that turned up on the HNZ section of MSD website a week before Budget 2015 was announced. I realised that John Key had spent the entire previous summer lying to media, talking up an expectation that the Salavation Army would buy thousands of HNZ properties, when the real pitch was an overseas buyer to take the infrastructural rebuild off their hands. I was really angry at that deception.
And still John Key ruled the polls.
I felt a hefty sense of Schädenfreud on Monday.
Finally, all the corruption of this Government was being discussed (the institutional child abuse in State care had just become public and Minister Tolley was getting a drubbing in media) and Key spat the dummy on Monday 5th December 2015.
Eight long years.
What do I do now?
I can’t spend much more than this one post on regrets.
The election is ours to win, while National flounder around sorting out their factions and working out if Key’s backers go with him.
It’s time to #ChangeTheGovernment.
October 3, 2016
I’ve been thinking about the future of work, a policy area Labour have focussed on for some months now.
This area has received a lot of heat from union groups particularly, due to the predictions about automation resulting in the loss of whole categories of boring, minimum wage jobs. Great! Say the utopianists, they can all retrain as computer coders and analysts!
Not so fast, say the working classes themselves.
We already have a situation where female-dominated industries are lowest-paid, and where ‘women’s work’ type jobs (service, caring), while understood to be essential to society, are remunerated at starvation levels (we do these tasks for free in our homes, any woman does, thus the skills are ubiquitous and female; not skills at all, really, so why pay highly for them? – thus goes the sexist reasoning.)
Men are suddenly coming to terms with the élitism that tells them ‘some traditionally male-dominated skills and industries are not worth protecting’, that they are on the lowest rung of the employment hierarchy ladder, so please jump off now, you’re being a drag on the rest of us.
The furore, then, is driven by men suddenly being treated the way women have been, for decades – as expendable, as temporary additions to the workforce, to be laid off on a whim, to be hidden unemployed within households, and to be kept in society under sufferance, because the traditional rôle of the father in the family is sacrosanct.
That grates, right? When I call upon traditional family roles to explain why unemployed men are being denied assistance of even the most basic kind, if they have a working wife/partner.
Because those ‘gender neutral’ welfare rules were designed to maintain a reserve army of female labour, in case of need (eg: another WW2 situation, when women were called into employment to keep the country running, while the men served in uniform.)
If we have driverless cars/buses, an Internet of things running our computerised households, automated industry – where does that leave the poor, the working classes who are currently the precariate, living on random rostered hours, struggling to pay the rent, food, power and other household costs?
We have hollowed out society at our peril.
The insouciant disregard of our PM to the issue of child poverty is a symptom of the disease – an élite who are setting up systems to privilege themselves further, and destroy the ‘unnecessary’ workers in their new world order.
At a recent conference I attended in Wellington last month, a call for a Universal Basic Income was bookended around the launch of a new left wing think-tank, ESRA – Economic & Social Research Aotearoa – and the keynote speaker, Nick Srnicek, who has recently published “Inventing the Future – Postcapitalism and a World Without Work” through Verso Books.
The book is well worth obtaining, imho, and I read it while struggling with a dose of the ‘flu, so I reckon it’s pretty accessible. I’m not going to give a potted plot, go look it up at Verso Books for yourself.
(Gratuitous pic of Srinicek from the launch. Excuse grainy image, the lights were low for the PowerPoint. )
The main takeaway from that week, for me anyway, is that employers have pushed precarity in casual roster employment to the brink of killing their workforce, have shaved worker allowances to the bone, and capitalism is still losing ground; doing away with human workers is the next step.
Welfare systems worldwide have responded to the GFC with ‘austerity measures’, governments have cried poor, bailed out banks, and generally given licence to corporations to carry on extracting profits as usual. Ministers and CEO’s are doing ok, but the general population are now more impoverished, the indebted and insecure than they were in 2008, at the height of the Recession.
If that’s not a textbook description of the conditions for revolution (à la Paris, 1789), then I don’t know what is, anymore. There is a movement back to a neo-feudal arrangement of landed gentry (or corporations), and a mass of peasants scrabbling for a living, which can’t possibly work because the population is an order of magnitude higher now than it was in the 18thC.
The potential for Internet surveillance, demonisation of ‘out-groups’, the criminalisation of dissent, all are factors in the mix of society today, to be considered when any form of ‘activism from below’ is being developed.
Time to #changethegovernment
August 15, 2016
This was submitted to Nexus at Waikato University, for the Crime issue.
Nexus decided not to use it, oh well, too bad, here it is anyway.
2016 is a big year in my timeline, because the recently defunct TIB campaign has had a new lease of life.
I’m that occasionally grumpy woman some of you may have seen around campus last year, wearing an oversize black hoody with a bunch of text in white on the back of it, and “Thursdays in Black, demanding a world without rape and violence” in a small logo on the front.
When I first arrived on Waikato campus from Wellington, I was used to wearing my TIB hoody (or a t-shirt in summer) every Thursday, and thinking nothing of it – but in Hamilton, it was something that got me comments from strangers, who had literally never seen one before.
That was when I realised that the disappearance of the WRO position from WSU exec about a decade ago had meant that TIB had also vanished; around seven years earlier than the campaign folded in Wellington during the NZUSA presidency of Max Hardy, in 2011 (update: He says it was still going then, with help from NWRO Caitlyn Dunham. I stand corrected.)
But there was definitely no merch by the end of trimester two, 2012. I knew when I moved up here that the stock of TIB merchandise at VUWSA had vanished (I had tried to buy another t-shirt before I left town), but it wasn’t until I looked up the NZUSA website in preparation for this story that I realised the campaign had been folded nationwide.
Backtracking a little: what is TIB, and where did it come from?
Thursdays in Black is coordinated by Tertiary Women NZ, a branch of NZUSA, and seeks to transform the policies, practices, and culture that perpetuate and normalise sexual violence. A little of the backstory has been told in launch events around campuses – Craccum, Salient, and the Otago Daily Times have all run stories during O-Week 2016 for the re-launch – basically, it began during an upswing in radical feminist activity that saw campus women’s groups re-started after a post-’70’s slump. Jan Logie was an early mover of the concept of a campus-backed rape crisis service, and Thursdays in Black was born.
The name harks back even earlier, referencing the ‘Mothers of the Disappeared’, women who paraded in the Plaza del Maya demanding information about the whereabouts of their missing family members, wearing black in mourning and anger. This was in Latin America during the 80’s, a very dangerous time for political dissenters in Argentina, Chile, and Mexico.
By 2001, there was a regular presence on many campuses around NZ, with sales of t-shirts, singlet tops, hoodies, long-sleeved tees, and eventually even trucker caps making an appearance. Lunchtime stalls on Thursdays and O-week promotions kept women’s group members busy in term-time. My own personal involvement in the campaign in Wellington included at various times writing about what TIB means.
In the past, merchandise was sold to help fund Wellington Independant Rape Crisis (WIRC), since around the mid-90’s; each campus around the country chose where they put the funds raised from TIB, so in other areas, survivor support NGO’s were assisted as available.
There were also gigs to support TIB, run as fundraisers during Women’s Festivals on campus, featuring among others Plum Green (goth/folk singer) & Anika Moa in 2006. That was also the year the White Ribbon campaign hit NZ, with a joint TIB/White Ribbon campaign event at the Southern Cross Tavern in Te Aro, Wellington, raising funds for WIRC.
White Ribbon was later picked up by Police National HQ under Commissioner Howard Broad, during the ‘damage control’ phase after the trial of then Assistant Police Commissioner Clint Rickards and his mates, former police officers Shipton and Schollum, for historical charges relating to rapes endured by Louise Nicholas. Rickards, Shipton & Schollum were acquitted; not so their colleague John Dewar, the investigating officer who was convicted of perjury and perverting the course of justice later that same year, 2007. Shipton and Schollum were already convicted and serving time for another, more violent and brutal rape at Mt Maunganui, a fact of which the jury acquitting them was unaware.
TIB campaign was very popular in the wake of both the acquittals and the later conviction, as the public at large began to be aware of historical cases coming into the Rape Crisis networks all over NZ. Many women came forwards for the first time to disclose historical assaults, triggered by the media publicity surrounding the trial in Auckland.
Police attitudes have shifted markedly since that time – Louisa Nicholas now gives seminars and lectures at the NZ Police College, and has assisted production of guidelines for interviewing sexual assault victims, so that vital evidence is not lost by inept interviewing procedures.
The other big change in survivor support has been the acknowledgment of the extent to which men have been abused, either as children or adults, in contexts where rape has been used to control or coerce, such as prisons or long-stay mental health institutions. In the Waikato, Tokaanui Hospital in Te Awamutu was a site of child and youth mental health long-stay care, and stories are now being validated about abuse of minors in that facility by orderlies. There is an increased need for community services that help those who were not acknowledged as rape victims in the past, to enable them to come forwards and be supported. Some survivor support services were predicated around being ‘women only spaces’, and this is being complemented by services that cater to men and boys, either in the same service provider or through a separate service.
Thursdays in Black has a place in this journey to healing; firstly by simply bringing rape out into the open, by acknowledging the 1 in 4 women who will experience sexual assault at some point in their lives, and the approximately 1 in 7 men, and seeing this as a symptom of a society that has not historically given consent a high priority in our understanding of sexual relationships. It’s too easy to point to alcohol, to say it wouldn’t have happened if one or other was not drunk or drugged at the time, out on the town. The reality is that we have a rape culture, an acceptance that ‘boys will be boys’, and that women are seductive, flirty, encouraging attention, so “what’s the problem?” Getting beyond that rape culture was the point of ‘Slutwalk’ in 2012, challenging the victim-blaming narratives and placing blame and responsibility for their actions squarely on the shoulders of the rapists.
For every guy who says #notallmen there are women asking for consent to be discussed, and the various myths around how rape happens to be debunked.
Rapists target women they happen to find – it’s a predatory thing, not a woman ‘asking for it’ because she was walking around town, to the shops, going for a drink with mates, wearing a pretty dress on a night out.
We need, as a society, to get over this idea that men are ‘uncontrollable’ in the sight of a pretty woman; it’s just not a thing guys, so if you are tired of women being all defensive about this, then get used to saying to that one guy you know who is a bit of a dick when you’re out, “hey bro, she’s not interested, leave her alone”, when he pesters the living daylight a out of some intimidated young woman.
Since 2009 the National Government has reduced funding available to NGO’s dealing with Domestice Violence (DV) or survivor support groups like Rape Crisis, Women’s Refuge & Te Whare Rokiroki – so for many of these peer-to-peer support groups, staff have been reduced, or services limited to only a few days a week.
The latest Budget in May 2016 has further reduced funding to Women’s Refuge, Rape Crisis and others, including the nascent Men’s Refuge developments, which have not got off the ground due to funding challenges.
New agencies have sprung up – Aviva is one such – in response to the changing funding environment.
In Hamilton, SAATS is the first responder (Sexual Assault Assessment Treatments Services), based in Anglesea Clinic in the CBD, and they liase closely with the Police, as well as running a 24-hour phoneline on 07 858 0800
This year, TIB merchandise is available via NZUSA’s Thursdays in Black TradeMe page, and you will see students wearing these shirts on campuses all around the country. (So far, t-shirts in men’s and women’s sizes, made with organic non-toxic dye, printed in Wellington on fair trade certified t-shirts, text available in English or Te Reo.)
Tertiary Women NZ contacts: Izzy O’Neill, current National Women’s Rights Officer, firstname.lastname@example.org
There’s a FB page, NZUSA Tertiary Women’s Focus Group, they tweet @_TWFG and can be found on http://www.students.org.nz/twfg
#TIB selfies can be posted to Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to show your support for students’ right to safe campuses in Aotearoa New Zealand.