- Date published:
10:24 am, June 23rd, 2016 - 38 comments
Categories: class war, human rights, national, quality of life - Tags: brighter future, Environment, global economy, personal stories, poverty
From the “Brighter Future”, four personal stories published recently are all well worth reading.
In The Spinoff by “Iain Stevens”:
You Shouldn’t Dream Here: On the tragic Auckland most of us never see
In a deeply personal essay, youth worker Iain Stevens [not real name] tells of the small joys and savage pains of his work with some of our community’s most damaged families.
I wondered what it was going to take to break my heart.
I’ve been a youth advocate for just on four years. Moving all around West Auckland, inner to outer, New Lynn to Helensville, I’m deeply involved with kids and families who have fallen apart but have nowhere to go, so they have to stay in the place where the pain began.
I’ve met no one bad yet. Busted-up and angry, suspicious and self-sabotaging, yes. But no one truly bad. The kids have trauma like soldiers have trauma. Exactly like soldiers: some of our streets are trenches, some of our interventions are weapons, some of our ideas are dangerous. The ones used in the past certainly were. Older workers talk about the way things have changed, how families are actually listened to now. I wonder how families survived the paternalism of the “old days”, when the state came down like a hammer.
And there are wastelands just next door, within earshot if you want to listen. All over the country there are big screens pulsing colours and energy into rooms that have neither. I can understand why you would want to get out of it, to remove yourself from these places for a while, at least in your mind. It’s hard to dream while staring at chipboard floors and walls grey-green with mould down to the skirting boards. Back and front yards just fences and grass, overgrown or perfunctorily mown, the edges tatty. Dead cars and broken furniture. The underlying smell of fried things.
You shouldn’t dream here; these places are not made for fantasy, they’re places that should be changed. Being comfortable with this type of environment will kill you; the mould will get in your lungs, the damp will give you eczema. Or maybe someone will explode with pent-up impotent rage and attack anyone within range. You should escape from it. People like me should help you leave. …
In The Wireless by “Rua”:
What it’s like to be 17 and homeless
Rua [not real name], 17, sleeps on the streets of Auckland’s CBD. He moved up from Wellington recently to start afresh.
I was born in born in Wellington but I got a head injury from my auntie, so I went to CYFs after that.
My foster dad would abuse me sometimes, I used to go to school with black eyes and stuff. He didn’t like me because they were white and I was the only brown kid in the family. I just lost it – I tried to kill him with a shotgun. So my foster family sent me back to my biological mum. They’d just had enough of me and sent me off: ‘See you later.’
My average day is probably sleep all day, wake up, have a cone of dope or have a joint, then just go hustle – go to New World supermarket, an internet cafe, or go buy another bag of pot or synnies. It’s like dope, but it’s got worse chemicals. They call it ‘bag life’ around here.
I’m trying to keep off the street, eh. I’m sleeping on the street, but I’m sleeping at my bro’s house at the moment, too – a friend. He lives on Anzac Ave; I sleep on his floor. Sometimes he sleeps on the street so more people can sleep at his place. I’m on a youth benefit, $175. I need an address to get it, so I’m paying $100 a week of rent in Wellington for a place I don’t even use. Then $25 goes onto my card for food. Then there’s $50 left.
I don’t want help, I just want to do it by myself. I’ve never accepted help before. ACC try to help me but I just say nah. I want to do it my own way. I’ll get there eventually, just when I’m ready.
No one [in my family] knows I’m on the streets. I try to keep that hidden. The youngest kids you see on the street are 13. I’ve been thinking about being a social worker, eh. Or working at a residence. A youth justice residence. You know, I’d tell them, ‘Stop all this try-to-be-gangsta shit, being on drugs all the time.’ I’d get them around, chuck them a feed, then I’d probably stand up and tell them my life story.
In The Bay of Plenty Times by Richard Moore:
Mismanaged NZ is no paradise
After moving to New Zealand 12 years ago I heard a lot from locals about what a great place it was to raise kids.
But, as I took my children to school, I saw huge numbers of kids heading to class without shoes – in the middle of winter. That was a shock. Couldn’t their parents afford shoes, I wondered? To add to the picture many of the children didn’t have raincoats, others didn’t even have jumpers. I didn’t think about it then, but now I would expect many of the kids didn’t have lunches and hadn’t had food for breakfast.
Nowadays when people say to me that New Zealand is the best country in the world to raise children I ask them why they think that? They cannot say exactly why, I guess most just parrot the myth of this paradise for children.
Then I ask them if this is the best place to raise kids – why are there more than 270,000 children living in poverty right now?
Why do so many children go to school without being fed?
Why does a Kiwi kid die about every five weeks at the hands of parents or caregivers?
Is it true police are called to domestic violence incidents every seven minutes?
And can a United Nations’ report possibly be true when it states that one in four NZ girls are sexually assaulted before they are 15?
That doesn’t sound like a child paradise to me.
Any one of those issues should have this country hanging its head in shame, let alone all of them.
But most Kiwis will avert their eyes from the issues as they are too unpleasant to deal with.
Some of the homeless are living in cars at the moment. Picture yourself in your car. Imagine how cold you would be overnight in winter. Think of how vulnerable you would feel in that situation.
And many of these people are working. They work and yet cannot get, or afford, a house. How disgraceful is that? In fact, it isn’t disgraceful – it is an outrage and New Zealand needs to pull its head out of the sand and have a good long look at itself. …
In The Spinoff (again) by Caitlin McGee:
I reported from South Sudan and Sierra Leone. What I’ve returned to in New Zealand still shocks me
As I wound up my life in the Middle East after five years with Al Jazeera English and eight years abroad, I turned towards New Zealand, knowing how lucky I was. As one colleague once said to me: “You Kiwis won the birthplace lottery”. My home was the first to give women the vote more than a century ago; social security was invented in Kurow in the 1930s; and we said no to the United States: we would not let their nuclear ships come to our shores.
My, how things have changed.
This is not an attempt to pretend that New Zealand has slipped so far down that it is in anyway comparable to the hardship playing out in the majority of the world. It is a peaceful, stable, democratic society with press freedom. But we are slipping. I am not only disappointed in what I’ve seen in the six months since I returned, I am angry.
To not be able to swim in our rivers because they are so dirty would’ve been unthinkable to me 10 years ago. In March, the Waikato River Authority said it could take up to 100 years for the Waikato and Waipa rivers to be restored to clean and healthy levels. I’ve seen first-hand waterways that run off the Waikato River blanketed in a creeping toxic algae, festering like a black drain, lifeless. …
Above ground, New Zealand’s reported rate of intimate partner violence is the highest in the developed world. Our incarceration rate is also one of the highest in the developed world and more than half of the men behind bars are Māori. …
According to Infometrics analysis the health system has been under-funded by $1.7 billion since 2010, leaving it unable to keep up with inflation and population growth. …
Then there’s housing and homelessness. New Zealand has one of the fastest growing rates of income inequality in the OECD and it’s on show in our biggest city. In Auckland, families with at least one working parent are living in vans and cars, with marae and charitable trusts stepping in to fill the breach left by social services. How galling it must be for those parents trying to find a warm place for their children to sleep to then see the Prime Minister’s son in all his privileged glory, posing with a Lambourghini and helicopter in his music video.
John Key has long wanted New Zealand to be seen as the Switzerland of the Pacific. The Panama Papers showed we are, but not in the way he envisioned.
I know I am lucky. I may have not lived through injustice and hardship but I know what it looks like. And I am seeing more and more of it in the last place I expected: home.
Please check the original sources, each and every one of these stories is worth reading and contemplating in full.