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.)


“Thursdays in Black Aotearoa” on FB and @ThursInBlackNZ on Instagram and Twitter post images from the campaign, and crowd-sourced selfies every week.

Tertiary Women NZ contacts: Izzy O’Neill, current National Women’s Rights Officer, nwro@students.org.nz

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.

Check out Thursdays in Black , on Facebook here , or the merch On TradeMe here .

This has been a busy fortnight, and I’ve been ‘doing’ more than ‘writing’.

The second reading of the Bill to sell off our energy companies passed through last Thursday, there’s Hansard on it here if you want to find out who voted which way.

It has now moved through to the Third Reading; there was a scandalous one hour of Select Committee deliberation of submissions received before it was passed back to the House for the Second Reading debates. This is an abrogation of democratic process to a degree hitherto unequalled by this Parliament.

There are anti-sales protests happening all over the place, with Peter Dunne’s Ohariu electorate coming out in arms, placards and puppets.

There's even a puppet ...

There’s even a puppet …

People’s Power Ohariu‘s John Maynard has had quite a bit of media coverage in the past week, to the dismay of the PM, who is beginning to suggest that he may agree that the economy is tanking faster than his advisers told him it would, and that maybe we need the income from our assets more than we need to keep campaign promises to National Party backers.
Funny, Russel’s been saying that for months … and this, most recently.

Russel spoke at the protest last Thursday, and Gareth Hughes has also met with representatives of People’s Power when they first aired their placards and the new puppet (just after Dunne’s effigy in the Back Bencher pub was scorched by their unfortunate kitchen fire.)

Gareth Hughes at Parliament Rally

Gareth Hughes at Parliament Rally

There are bigger protests happening every few days, I recommend Thursday this week outside Parliament, from 12 noon. There’s even a FB event here, if you want to see how People’s Power roll currently.

Then, of course, there’s the Keep Our Assets Campaign, a coalition of interested groups including CTU, NZUSA, Labour, Greens, Grey Power, and many interested individuals.
These folk are collecting Citizen’s Initiated Referendum petition signatures, which I’ve mentioned before when it launched in May.
There will be KOA blitzes happening around the region, but may I draw your attention to one coming up this weekend in the eastern suburbs of Wellington.
FB event page here.

I admit that my writing skills have been taking a back-seat as I have been doing a lot of running around lately.

The have been some excellent episodes of Back Benches, I’ve had a look at Court Report fronted by Linda Clark, and then there was that big Hikoi arriving in Wellington, and an ‘Aotearoa is not for sale’ march from Te Papa to Parliament, protesting against the proposed asset sales.

I made it to most of those, but due to other circumstances, won;’t be posting pix with this story. Meh, go search Facebook, there’ll be thousands of albums of pix of that march.

One more plug for TV7, and the episode of Back Benches airing this Wednesday 9th May. (If you’re in Welli, go down to the pub in Molesworth St, and join in, while you still can!)

Last week I went to my final episode, as I’m leaving town for a while. Wallace and Damian were very sweet about my apologies for not being able to attend the final show filming on 26th June; after letting me take a souvenir shot, they came back over a few minutes later and presented me with an impromptu gift.

So all those who have ever been even semi-regular – get down and watch the show, there will be goodies for people who have supported Back Benches over the years, and I’ll be sitting on the couch somewhere in Canterbury, looking to see what kind of bedlam ensues on the night.

So here’s this week’s line-up:
Green Party MP Catherine Delahunty, Labour MP Shane Jones, New Zealand First MP Brendan Horan and National MP Mark Mitchell.
There’s more info here.
Here’s Back Benches episode 11 from 26th April, and here’s episode 12 from last week, 2nd May.
And what the heck, here’s where to find Court Report.

There is a lot of talk about the Government’s plans to sell our remaining energy SOE’s. The Green Party are heavily opposed to this plan, and along with several other concerned groups, are collecting signatures this winter to petition the Government for a referendum on asset sales.
There’s a place to sign-up to help this campaign here, and an excellent frogblog post about it here.

That should be enough to keep you busy for a while 😉

Tomorrow (wed) on

Back Benches

– Rangitikei MP Ian McKelvie makes his debut (Nat), with Kris Faafoi (Lab) & Gareth Hughes (Green).

The C-word..Casualisation, civilianisation of workforces, MFAT and other job cuts, and school discrimination of those with disabilities. Come for a pint 8.30 pm

Update:

Due to another piece of direct activism conducted during the day, I didn’t actually make it to Back Benches this week.
However, Gareth and the crew did, so looky here to see how they handled the topics of the week.
Fun times spotting greenie regulars in the crowd. Green MP Stefan Browning makes an appearance in the crowd, midway through his tour of organic producer regions discussing the up-coming Food Bill.

Travel and relaxation

January 8, 2012

Well, that was an optimistic title, really.

I had some time on the West Coast over the New Year break, and while absolutely enjoying the hospitality of my various hosts, visiting friends and family of my son-in-law, I also had some opportunities to explore some of the less satisfactory side of life on the Coast.

But first: the good bits.

Here’s a lovely picture of natural beauty, the Hokitika Gorge (I’ll leave out the pix with people scattered through them, you’re just getting the unadulterated glacier-fed river and bush-clad gorge).

Hokitika Gorge from the swingbridge

Hokitika Gorge from the swingbridge

Then we wandered along towards Greymouth, and discovered Shantytown, which has gone up in price 500% since my son-in-law last visited a couple of years ago. As we weren’t a busload of asian tourists, we had a quick look, used the conveniences and left. It seemed like a good business, and the gift shop was doing a roaring trade in the smallest pieces of gold-flake I’ve ever seen in my life, but there you are, to each his or her own. The working small-guage gold-fields train from Kaitangata looked cute.

Kaitangata engine steaming towards the station, Shantytown

Kaitangata engine steaming towards the station, Shantytown

Further down the road, on our way to have a look at Lake Brunner, we stopped at the roadside info for the Brunner Mine disaster, the big news of 1896, and the reason we have any mining legislation at all, really. I popped across on the bridge that spans the Grey River, to check out the site remains and the memorial to the 65 miners who died in that incident, and found that there were also memorials to the 19 miners who died in the Strongman mine disaster in 1967, and the very recent Pike River disaster in November 2010.

Pike River Miners Memorial at Brunner Mine Disaster Memorial

Pike River Miners Memorial at Brunner Mine Disaster Memorial

In conversation with a local woman who was also by the memorial that day, I wondered whether the choice to work in the mines was not as real as she posited, due to the lack of other industry investment in the region. We discussed that one from opposing angles for a few minutes, before both coming to agreement on the fact that Pike River Coal had distinctly transgressed current mining legislation around safety, and that they would have to answer for that in Court in the remainder of the Commission of Inquiry. Meanwhile, there is at least one little boy born since the accident who has never met his dad, and many more family members who still grieve the loss of their brothers, sons, husbands and workmates and want an answer to why it was allowed to happen. Mr Whittall still has some actions to account for.

Greymouth is a pretty town, if prone to ground-level fog for much of the winter, according to my hosts. We had a late-afternoon lovo, the fijian version of hangi, but with a chilli-basted twist to satisfy the spicy palates of my relatives and their friends. With the afternoon sun glinting off the children’s paddling pool, and the surf crashing in the distance, I could fully appreciate why families would come to this part of New Zealand and relish the life it offers them. I left small-town New Zealand behind me when I moved to the city to study in my early adulthood, but I often find myself looking at provincial towns and seeing the beauty in their simplicity, their proximity to recreational areas, the unspoilt compact urban areas, and thinking ‘What if?’. Even the local newspaper had an attractive air to it!

Carpark wall mural at the Greymouth Evening Star

Carpark wall mural at the Greymouth Evening Star

Two days on the West Coast was hardly enough to satisfy me, and my traveller’s bug wants to be sated with a trip to Karamea, a look at Punakaiki Rocks, maybe an expedition to see the Denniston mine historic site before too much longer – there’s a lot to see in this area, and I can see myself coming back again.
Perhaps that is a fitting way to give some help to the Coasters, too – building tourism and art/craft enterprises, showing off the history without degrading the lives of those who remain engaged in local industries, making a sustainable future for those who live in this beautiful but often harsh environment.

There have been some insights into the issue of global responses to Climate Change during this year. The Durban round has highlighted that the rich nations, particularly the USA, want to keep denying reality, denying science, and continue with ‘business as usual’ until their activities constitute genocide for those who live in ‘less favoured’ nations. Good roundup at Hot Topic shows the inconsistency in the NZ Government position.

The resource wars have been going for nearly a decade now.
If there’s anyone left out there who thinks there really were WMD in Iraq when Bush invaded, now would be the time to check into that hostel for the delusional, and settle into the nice padded room with abundant security staffing and food service.
Iraq was a genocidal war to control oil resources, as is Afghanistan/Pakistan currently, as have been the insurgencies in the whole ME region.

We sit on our hands and ignore the rapacious and genocidal mania of the USA at our peril.
They have sunk, by means of their own economic policy of stealing from the poor, killing foreigners to gain resources, and lying to their own countrymen (and women) in order to extract the greatest profit from every human being within their sphere of influence, from being the great hegemony of the 20th Century to being a genocidal, imperialist facist state for whom surveillance and control of their own citizens is becoming a higher priority than any of the many wars they have engaged in on many fronts in the 21st C.

So as we roll towards NYE 2011, and New Years’ Day 2012, here’s my New Year’s plea:

To our neighbours in the Pacific Ocean, I pledge that we as citizens of NZ, and myself personally as a member of the Green Party, will do our utmost to reverse the decisions being made by selfish, greedy, over-consuming rich people in our country.

We will fight to get climate refugees from Tokelau, the outer islands of Fiji, Samoa, Rarotonga, Tonga, Kiribati (and other Pasifika nations who were not historically under the protection of NZ) some justice, some recompense, and above all, a safe haven to come to.

We in New Zealand have benefitted for decades from the willingness of our pasifika neighbours to come to our country, to work in our factories and fields, to do the jobs that our nice, pakeha, middle-class and educated children don’t want to do [because they’re ‘worth more’ to us working in corporations overseas, paying back their student loans] which is why we need a brown underclass to clean office buildings, work in biscuit factories, and pick fruit and vegetables during our harvest season while our office workers holiday at the beach.

In short, for all the racism and class warfare we have inflicted on our pasifika neighbours (and I’m speaking here as a university-educated pakeha, a seventh-generation NZ’er of predominantly UK extraction, so there’s a large ‘we’ who identify in that category, you know who you are!), we owe a future to those who have not been driving SUV’s and European sports cars around the car-obsessed suburbs of our major cities.

In 2012, when the argument comes up about bringing the inhabitants of Tokelau to NZ in one big block, I don’t want to hear about your petty racism. I don’t want to hear you say that it’s a huge drain on our country to allow in the elderly grandparents of Tokelauans who have worked here for decades.

Have some compassion, the islands are salinating to the point where food cannot grow, and even the racist fiction that keeping the old people in the islands where they are ‘comfortable’ and have ‘familiar routines of life’ isn’t going to wash any more.
Remittances from their children and grandchildren who work here in NZ for minimum wages are not going to compensate for the inability to grow food that has been engendered by our carbon-rich, resource-greedy lifestyles.

Why am I getting rude and angry about this now, you ask?

Because christmas in my extended family has been about these issues, as my son-in-law’s father has flown back to Fiji to visit the old folk who remain, while his wife stays here and works through the christmas period, caring for elderly white folk in a provincial NZ town.
She can’t get her own mother into the country to look after her, because our immigration laws are so strict for brown people with the normal conditions of infirmity of aging.

Before you ask, every member of my extended family who has moved here from Fiji is in work, as is my daughter.
It’s all minimum wage or deeply working-class work, but it’s work.
They are exemplary citizens, plugging their way through the paperwork loops from work visas to residency, and eventually to citizenship, and they are the most uncomplaining, grateful, and apolitical members of my family, including my blood relatives who are much better off materially!

So as you pop the cork on a bottle of bubbly this New Year, listen to music at a festival, or just relax on a beach with family and loved ones, count your privileges and acknowledge them, and consider the possibilities:

1) that a small reduction in your life consumption over the next twelve months might be achievable,

2) that sustainability in business and personal life is not only acceptable but necessary, and

3) that Labour wasn’t just stealing policy points from the Greens in the run-up to the election to score media points, but because the time has come when these things have to be faced, and the Greens have already thought it through, in excruciating detail, driven by members with a conscious and conscientious input to policy development.

Firstly, to all my paid and unpaid colleagues in the Green Party around Aotearoa/NZ, let’s leave behind the many tragedies of 2011, and work towards a better year in 2012. Because we’re worth it, and so is every single citizen of our country, and every single worker who is here propping up our low-wage economy without the benefits of citizenship that we so blithely bestow upon our children at birth.

Secondly, to the fourteen Green MP’s who were sworn in before christmas, thank-you for standing, for campaigning so strongly, and for stepping up to serve us for the next three years. I’ll try not to be on your office threshold every week, but you may be seeing more of me, lol.

Thirdly, thank-you to every candidate who stood, campaigned, and contributed to this historic rise in our representation in Parliament, your efforts all around Aotearoa lifted the water-level for everyone who got in. Some of you are now my especial friends, we will work together in the future on issues of importance, arohanui a koutou, you also know who you are.

Arohatinonui ki a koutou katoa.

See ya in the other side in January 2012, I’m going bush, don’t expect replies to comments. 😉

This was the one we’d been waiting for, and with the excellent (for Greens) polling figure that came out in Wednesday’s paper (Fairfax), the Wellington branch and campaign team were firing hot.

James is a happy chappy

James is a happy chappy

The line-up was Grant Robertson, sitting MP for Wellington Central (Labour), Paul Foster-Bell, (National), James Shaw (Green), Stephen Whittington (ACT). And so the fun began.

There was high excitement after the experience of the Auckland Central Candidates on last week’s episode, and a little crowd-calming instruction by producer Damian Christie went a long way. There was a lot less shoving, barging and/or disruptive heckling, which is not to say that is was a quiet night, just a slightly better controlled one than the Britomart Country Club threw up. I ended up in a crush of very keen Young Greens, having gone over to talk to someone then found I couldn’t get back through to where I’d been discretely out of the way. Oh, well, the show must go on … and usefully, our Japanese visitor Hiroshi had need of some explanations and translations, so I was glad to be standing beside him in the final count.

Despite a rainy night, the bar was full to standing-room-only levels, and there was a lot of coreflute signs in the hands of youth wings of every party – except for ACT, who had a very hastily handmade wooden number, stencilled with their logo, with an authorisation written on in Vivid marker. Interesting, I wonder whose trust fund ran out of publishing funds at the last minute?

The first round was “Why I should be the MP for Wellington Central”, with social housing, economic growth and child poverty coming up for Robertson & Shaw, with some blustering from Foster-Bell posturing John Key as the saviour of the nation while avoiding supporting any actual policy, and then Whittington gave a set-piece reminiscent of his spiel at the WYFC forum last night.
Best quote from this round goes to James Shaw, once again, “twelfth level elven war-mage” (view from 4.56 mins to get this in context…) which provoked cheering and chanting from YG supporters, and even a risqué quip from Damian (5.19..). James’ suggestion for an ACT party sign on the Wellywood site was a close second (5.45…).

So as you may have guessed from the timing marks I’ve quoted, there’s a lot of very good moments stacked up in this episode. See it here on TVNZ7 On-demand.

If you’ve been enjoying Back Benches this year, despite my erratic posts, do also go to the petition to save TV7, which is the subject of cuts at TVNZ due to ‘budget restraints’ imposed by the overseas owners.
Public service broadcasting in Aotearoa/New Zealand is under threat of cuts and privatisation, it’s time to stand up and say we want it, we need it, and we’re going to fight for it, including by voting out this National Government on November 26th.

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