This one is about the politics of dispossession, poverty and incarceration in neoliberal New Zealand. It is no secret that Māori, Pasifika and working-class families generally carry a disproportionate burden of social suffering in our society. Look around you if you don’t believe me. We need to dismantle the structures that perpetuate social inequality.
This guest blog post is by Kendra Cox (Te Ure o Uenukukōpako, Te Whakatōhea, Tūhoe, Ngāti Porou), National Advocacy Co-Coordinator for People Against Prisons Aotearoa and BSW (Hons) student at the University of Auckland.
A fortnight ago, the Department of Corrections proudly released their new Māori strategy, Hōkai Rangi. The strategy was created with the aspiration to reduce the proportion of Māori in prison from the current 52% to 16%, reflecting the make-up of the general population. Corrections aims to do this by focusing on six key domains outlined in the report: partnership between the Crown and Māori; humanising and healing; involvement of whānau; incorporating te ao Māori; supporting whakapapa and relational identity; and participation in society on release. With Hōkai Rangi, Corrections rightly identifies that the current prison system is failing in its supposedly rehabilitative and reintegrative aims. The strategy notes that reimprisonment rates are unacceptably high: 35% of tauiwi people return to prison within two years of release, and this is much higher for Māori at around 50%. However, the plans presented by this strategy, which centre largely around supporting whānau connection and tikanga Māori-based rehabilitation, are totally incapable of achieving the desired outcome.
As I get longer in the tooth, I am sometimes accused of repeating myself. Funnily enough this often happens with reference to things that people didn’t much like hearing the first time. For example, the message that social work is complex and contradictory is disquieting when you are looking for some clarity of identity and access to the moral high ground. Nevertheless, social work is often conflicted.
This week the following notice was distributed by email to members of the Aotearoa New Zealand Association of Social Workers:
The Abortion Legislation Bill has passed its first reading and has been referred to the Abortion Legislation Committee with submissions closing 19 September. It is recognised that members have a wide range of views about this legislation which would have to be reflected in an ANZASW submission. For this reason, members are encouraged to make their own submission.
A Guest post by Zoe Holly – Ngāti Pikiao and Ngāti Pākehā – Final year Bachelor of Social Practice student – Unitec.
I have read through the comments left underneath several recent news articles with a heavy heart – particularly in relation to Anjum Rahman’s call for inclusivity of Muslim communities in Aotearoa, Oranga Tamariki listing Māori children on TRADEME/Seek for foster care and the Christchurch gunman pleading not guilty to the murder of 51 innocent people.
The overwhelming sentiment held by a majority of those commenting on these articles is that the people who are targeted need to ‘get over it’, ‘blend in’, ‘assimilate’ and change themselves to fit “New Zealand’s culture”. You’d think they’d never thought for themselves. Does the word colonisation mean anything to them? You think when British settlers came to New Zealand they ‘assimilated’? You think settlers tried to ‘blend in’ even remotely? You think New Zealand Pākehā have more of a right to be here than any other immigrant?
Like many of us recently, I have watched the ‘baby uplift’ footage story featured in Newsroom and read some of the avalanche of concerned and outraged commentary that has followed. I found the story disturbing on many levels – extremely disturbing but, sadly, not surprising. I think that the practice on display and the media responses from the Oranga Tamariki hierarchy illustrate deep-seated systemic problems within the state child protection system in Aotearoa New Zealand.
A guest post by Kendra Cox and Eileen Joy, University of Auckland
On February 25th, Tracey Martin, the Minister for Internal Affairs, announced that the much-anticipated Births, Deaths, Marriages and Relationships Registration Bill (‘the Bill’) has been parked until further notice. The Bill contains, among other small changes to deaths and divorces, a number of amendments to the current Act that would make it significantly easier for transgender, non-binary, gender diverse, and intersex people (‘gender diverse and intersex people’) to change the sex marker on their birth certificate to better reflect who they are. According to a Parliamentary press release, the Bill was deferred to clarify some legal concepts and to increase public consultation. There has been some talk over the fact that after public consultation—a standard select committee process—the specific section relating to sex self identification was added. This type of addition (specifically ss22A-J), after public consultation is completely normal, and reflects a democratic process whereby the committee responded to a large number of submissions who requested this change.
The Labour-led coalition government has provided some relative respite from the overt demonising of those who are excluded from what Simon Bridges describes as the “Kiwi way of life”. This way of life, it seems, is epitomised by tax-free speculation in the private rental property market. Is this our communal cultural lode-stone? Unfettered profits from investment in rental properties? Really? Do we really all hold a sacred place for what is a fundamentally exploitative, unequal and unfair practice? Give me strength! It has been pleasant to have a break from all that banality about “good” mum and dad “Kiwis”which John Key was so fond of. The interests of the good Kiwis that Bridges has been talking about are in fact the interests of a privileged class of people. Conservative political parties have erroneously conflated the interests of private property owners with the well-being of us all since early colonial land grab times. It is the cornerstone of political Liberalism after all (Duncan, 2007). It is high time to stop milking the politics of fear in the golf clubs of an imaginary middle New Zealand Simon.
When thinking about the past, present and future of social work it is instructive to bear in mind that its theory and practice is politically located (Gray & Webb, 2013). More specifically, social work in the Western context is embedded in the historical evolution of capitalism. Capitalism is a dynamic, often mesmerising, means of production and distribution which is both creative and destructive. There are some major difficulties with it as a model of development. As Karl Marx pointed out, it exploits working people, extracting surplus value from their labour (Hollander, 2008). Why do you think manufacturing has shifted to distant sweat-shops over the last forty years or so?
We have been talking, in varying ways, about social work and social justice on this blog for a long while now. Is this relationship possible, sustainable, realistic? We do need to keep talking about this and, more importantly, we need to start doing something about it or you can probably forget about it in ten years – the project will have been eradicated! I would like to know what others think – can social work be a force for progressive social change?