Four personal stories

Written By: - Date published: 10:24 am, June 23rd, 2016 - 38 comments
Categories: class war, human rights, national, quality of life - Tags: , , , ,

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?

Ummm.

Why do so many children go to school without being fed?

Ummm.

Why does a Kiwi kid die about every five weeks at the hands of parents or caregivers?

Ummm.

Is it true police are called to domestic violence incidents every seven minutes?

Ummm.

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?

Ummm.

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.

38 comments on “Four personal stories”

  1. Muttonbird 1

    Particularly revealing are the accounts from New Zealanders returning in disbelief at what has changed, and those of foreigners shocked that the great New Zealand social paradise is now just a myth.

  2. save nz 2

    Good post. It is scary stuff – the governments answer to everything seems to be to add more people, pretend there is no problem with poverty and violence and to try to suck more money out of the locals in hidden taxes to pay for more infrastructure such as road tolls or to price them out of town so a more deserving foreign student, absentee investor or low paid worker can take their place – not sure that’s working as part of their decade long economic strategy. Beat their chest every day on housing, but fail to build any, just get a few consented, and those being built are laughably expensive and out of reach of people on local wages without equity. Not even having a debate on how low our wages are so that the government is subsiding them anyway. All while selling state houses. What a joke!!

    It is pretty clear worldwide neoliberal policies are failing but as we have the chairman of the IDU as well as our PM, the scale is far more dramatic in NZ. The problem is, that people know they are being ripped off, but not sure how to put their finger on it, and that too is dangerous especially when people do not have an honest media, do not allow people avenue to discuss reasonable solutions and just keep on going with their decade long policy – which is not working!

    What needs to be done, needs to be done very carefully because if the government keeps going with current strategy or do a massive reversal of strategy too quickly then there are going to be other problems occurring. They have created a knife edge situation.

  3. This is all down to too few jobs, poor opportunity and low low wages for people.
    Houses are now brought on how much you can get as leverage then rented out at excorberent prices. If you rely on only your wage then forget it. Wages are so pathetically low in relation to cost of living it’s not funny.
    Food is priced to support all the middleman clipping the ticket, same with power. They are all priced to support nice fat profits for greedy corporations that feed their shareholders with dividends made from others misery.
    Our standard of living is going down, down, down.
    It amuses me how CEOs attract huge salaries and we are fed the line that the reason for this is to attract the right person for the job. Yet that theory never applies to workers. It seems their wages don’t need to be based on attracting and the right people.
    More representation on these issues is desperately and urgently needed if we want an equal society.

    • What you have said is so very true.

      The situation NZ finds itself in, through rotten mismanagement by our elected representatives is despicable.
      We were sold the lie that MMP would be good for democracy , but that has not turned out to be so.
      When we have a couple of very minor parties waging the tail , like the two buffoons, Dunne and that other little nasty fellow from ACT sucking up to the National Government, then how can this situation be democratic in any way ?

      And this has allowed Key and his Henchmen do what they have done, which is very great harm to New Zealander’s way of life.
      The income levels are now so out of touch with the every day life, we are paying international prices for every day living, but our incomes are far from international, we are being screwed.
      That is , apart from the greedy elite at the top, the ones being well looked after by Key and his Henchmen.
      I just hope that there really is karma, and it comes back to bite those who have created this situation, and there are many off them.

      • The New Student 3.1.1

        Yes, rotten mismanagement all over the place, not just within Govt.

  4. Greg 4

    John Key’s far right ideology and the free market is a success, just for some should see the end of of it right. Its a lie he is anywhere near center right. Then we hear how the wonderful FTA is going to raise wages, and improve our cost over living, sometime in the near future, is this like some Amerikanism manifest destiny.
    Its a lie increased exports raise workers wage, in fact the opposite happens, and prices increase in the supermarket, so where does it improve our standard of living, for stuff the 99% cant afford.

    Then theirs the constant calls to raise our expected retirement age, while theirs high youth unemployment,, why not just the age for women, they are living much longer than men,

  5. Alicia G 5

    While a couple of those stories have merit, I’m not exactly sure how the “17 and homeless” story serves the purpose you were hoping it might. I’m sorry, but the predicament the young fella finds himself in has more to do with his poor personal choices than any lack of government action.

    Won’t accept help from govt agencies and instead hustles.

    • Gangnam Style 5.1

      Says more about yourself than you probably realise Alicia G. Good luck for the future “Rua”, I found your story the most moving, hope life treats you more fair in the future than it has in the past, kia kaha.

    • joe90 5.2

      poor personal choices than any lack of government action.

      Yeah, he just needs to line himself up for more of the government action that saw him go to school with black eyes and stuff.
      /

    • b waghorn 5.3

      Yeah useless little shit imagine choosing to be hit in the head by his aunty and abused by his uncle, youff of today

      Sacrc / just in case your to thick to get that I was taking the piss out of you ya moron

    • One Anonymous Bloke 5.4

      Perhaps you can help me understand it, Alicia. Why it is that so many more people start to make bad choices whenever the National Party forms a government.

      Can you account for it, or are you just mindlessly repeating right wing hate speech like a gullible fool?

    • UncookedSelachimorpha 5.5

      Just how clueless can one person be??

      The judgmental, unhelpful and ignorant attitude shown right here in this comment demonstrates a lot of the problem we have in NZ right now.

    • Kelly-Ned 5.6

      Really? You did read the story didn’t you?
      Subjected to abuse at the hand of his Mum.
      Put into CYF care and ill treated by them.
      ACC not effective in providing support.
      Being on the street becomes safer.
      Perfectly logical to me.
      Let down by family and system.

    • The New Student 5.7

      Indeed. How dare this young man chance his arm at independence.

  6. esoteric pineapples 6

    “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 think that is exactly how he envisioned it.

  7. john 7

    Where to start:
    Story 1
    Sounds like a D- story from a secondary school creative writing class.
    Story 2
    Self inflicted, and inconsistent bull. A homeless person with $100/week place to sleep that doesn’t use it but has an internet account and can afford drugs…..really???
    Story 3
    Another bull dust story. There are plenty of benefits from the tax payer for parents to get shoes and rain coats for kids. If parents wont take care of THEIR kids then why is it the taxpayer’s/workers fault? We can’t be in their house forcing them to use the benefits to get THEIR kids shoes!!!!
    Story 4
    So outlandish as to be farcical, Sudan – NZ comparisons…really???
    Sudan where children have to walk miles to get polluted drinking water.
    Also seem to remember the Waiwhetu stream in Lower Hutt…..Once considered one of the most polluted waterways in the southern hemisphere…..Labour/Greens defunded the clean up and refused to complete the work the council began….took a National Govt. to finish it.

    • Gangnam Style 7.1

      “You know nothing John…”

      • john 7.1.1

        actually….I do. Unlike these stories, I have seen actual poor people.
        Trust me none of them were over weight. None of them gave up on a place to sleep, food or clothes. and NONE of them lived in New Zealand!!!

        • One Anonymous Bloke 7.1.1.1

          Can you account for the fact that so many more people start to make bad choices under National, John?

          The bad choices brigade were only ~3% of the population in 2007. Now they’re 6%, and have been joined by a legion or two of homeless people.

          Is the National Party a bad choices factory or something?

          PS: If you can’t account for it, I hope you don’t mind me regarding you as hateful trash.

          • john 7.1.1.1.1

            Sure…..when idiots choose to count adults that live with their parents as homeless.
            ie you bull s**t the numbers.

            • One Anonymous Bloke 7.1.1.1.1.1

              That isn’t an account, John.

              ~3% unemployment in 2007 has doubled. According to you that’s because the people you hate are subhuman, or something.

              Your drivel doesn’t stand up to serious analysis, John. That’s because you’re a dupe or a liar.

              Which is it, John?

              • john

                neither….the account is obvious or are your reading skills deficient?
                They have added numbers to the account like adults living with their parents counted as homeless. This increases the numbers so they an make it look like they have an increasing problem.

                • One Anonymous Bloke

                  Meanwhile, on Earth, I am citing official unemployment statistics.

                  According to your hateful rhetoric, the reason for the increase in unemployment since 2007 is that the unemployed made worse choices.

                  That’s why I think you’re scum.

        • Gangnam Style 7.1.1.2

          Nice story bro, those Koru Lounges are nice & comfy, free food there too! Why do right wingers like to spend their days reading left wing blogs, self flagellation maybe?

    • Macro 7.2

      Also seem to remember the Waiwhetu stream in Lower Hutt…..Once considered one of the most polluted waterways in the southern hemisphere…..Labour/Greens defunded the clean up and refused to complete the work the council began….took a National Govt. to finish it.

      Bullshit
      http://www.gwrc.govt.nz/Waiwhetu-Stream-clean-up-trial-starts-next-week

      Waiwhetu Stream clean-up trial starts next week
      Posted on 12 February 2008 by

      The first stage of the works to clean-up the Waiwhetu Stream will start in the week beginning Monday 18 February. This is the beginning of the project to remove the contaminated sediment from the stream bed and other works which will protect the local residents from devastating floods such as the one that swept through the community in 2004.

      The clean up of toxic sites is a long and involved process – it doesn’t happen overnight and it requires planning and preparation so as not to endanger the people caring out the work nor damage other sites in the process. The work was begun by the Greater regional council and the completion of the work was carried out with Govt funding under a MOU with the support from the Green Party. In fact all of the toxic sites being cleaned up are being done as a result of that memorandum – although progress has slowed considerably over recent years because of lack of funding from National budgets. A recent Insight programme gives more information on toxic sight clean ups if you want to learn more.

      • john 7.2.1

        And labour STOPPED funding it and the council couldn’t afford the whole project until the change of govt. in 2008.

    • Kelly-Ned 7.3

      Real John.
      Only John’s (ie. Key) close friends would possibly agree with you

  8. nukefacts 8

    John, don’t you get it mate? What will it take for you to open your uncaring, blinkered eyes?

    She affords drugs through prostitution and was abused repeatedly by caregivers & relatives. These are all VERY strongly correlated to homelessness. Similarly, veteran soldiers who have seen conflicts are homeless too. Some people suffer from society and need help or this is what happens.

    There’s real poverty in NZ, it’s getting worse, and it’s blighting lives right now. What the current government is doing doesn’t work and they just don’t care for the poor and underprivileged.

    And unfortunately people like you add to the problem because you live in your bubble and refuse to see the reality all around you, and you decry and denigrate anyone that draws this to your attention.

    • john 8.1

      All around me. I don’t live in an affluent suburb, I am not in a high paying job, and I don’t see ANY poor people, especially those that are not as a result of their own laziness, or stupidity…WHY should taxpayers/ workers pay toward people who WON’T help themselves and take responsibility for their own lives and the lives of their families.

      • UncookedSelachimorpha 8.1.1

        Yep, I’ve noticed that often times the worst for beating up on the most vulnerable, are those just one or two rungs above them. But not always, the very well-off do it too.

        • Pat 8.1.1.1

          has a lot to do with an inability to look any further than the immediately apparent and a complete lack of imagination.

          • One Anonymous Bloke 8.1.1.1.1

            The grossly engorged amygdala* might be a factor too. Far from stunting imagination, it’s possible that this condition results in deviant and morbid antisocial behaviour, which is a pretty good explanation for the National Party.

            *Kanai et al 2011.

      • One Anonymous Bloke 8.1.2

        Why oh why are there so many more of these people under National? Your pathetic whinging won’t help, John.

        It’s all very well you being duped by low-life trash into the shit you believe. Why should anyone excuse the prejudice you’ve been spoon-fed?

        Come on, John, what’s your defence? Are you a cretin or a sociopath?

        • john 8.1.2.1

          I’m not whining, I’m getting on with it.
          The rest of you including these pathetic contrived stories are the whiners that want someone else to do and pay for the things they should be doing for themselves.

          • One Anonymous Bloke 8.1.2.1.1

            Why have so many more people started to make bad choices, John? Eight years of National makes more people choose to be unemployed or homeless?

            Nah, you have something wrong with you. You are the problem, John: your crippled emotions deserve our charity, but not our indulgence.

            • Stuart Munro 8.1.2.1.1.1

              In fairness, eight years of National are causing many people to kill themselves. When social dysfunction is great people will stop playing the rigged game – only to find that not playing also doesn’t work.

      • framu 8.1.3

        “especially those that are not as a result of their own laziness, or stupidity”

        and how do you even know this john?

        are you digging through their rubbish and spying on them? getting to know them? or just judging by appearance?

  9. mauī 9

    Powerful stories that are food for thought. Hopefully they open a few more eyes.

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