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Te Whare Pounamu #1

Written By: - Date published: 9:21 am, September 2nd, 2019 - 17 comments
Categories: child welfare, culture, domestic violence, Ethics, families, Social issues - Tags:

Workers being harassed and bullied in a multitude of ways; workers resisting and sometimes succumbing to a culture of theft endorsed and promoted by management. Women and children being left twisting in the breeze.

That would be a very brief run down of the mere basics contained in Radio New Zealand’s top story this morning around the dysfunction of Te Whare Pounamu Dunedin Women’s Refuge. I suspect this morning’s piece is only reporting the tip of an ice berg and that a lot more will be revealed over coming days.

And of course, there will be the usual racist cankers jumping up to point accusatory fingers at, to them, yet another predictable example of a Maori organisation coming up short. And directing their bile as though a Pakeha led organisation would never plumb similar depths.

It’s a wholly dishonest type of attack motivated by racist attitudes that ignore systemic contexts.

In New Zealand, organisations tasked with providing necessary social programmes are pitched against one another to secure the funding that allows them to provide services. Funding rounds are a sharp elbowed lolly scramble, and those who successfully stomp and bash their way to ‘the loot’ are the self same people expected to oversee and guide programmes and services bent to social good.

It doesn’t take a genius to work out the disconnect.

It’s a certain type of person who will survive a dog eat dog environment, and that type of person is generally speaking not going to be the most sensitive or sympathetic of souls. In fact, the people best suited to ensuring that their fellow citizens are somewhat protected from various social ills will tend to remain on the bottom rungs of the various organisations tasked by government with providing for society. Or, as is often the case, they’ll leave that line of work altogether.

Hearing that workers at Te Whare Pounamu are ‘put upon’ by management isn’t hearing anything new when it comes to workers within the broader social services sector.

Whether we’re looking at those involved in rehabilitation services, emergency housing services or any number of other services farmed out by government in line with liberal ideas of how things should be structured, there’s a constant refrain of low wages, less than optimum management, burn out and inadequate frameworks being in place that would facilitate the provision of whatever service or programme is in question.

Let me be clear.

None of the context I’m sign posting here is designed to act as a defence for Te Whare Pounamu’s management. As far as I’m concerned, the sound of rolling heads should be heard merrily plinking down the streets of Dunedin.

Once was, we lived in a society. And in a society, people pull together and cooperate with one another at various levels to ensure that vulnerable and fragile people are protected. But beginning with Thatcher’s proclamation of liberal dogma – that there is only individuals and families and no such thing as society – social democratic modes of governance have given way to liberal ones, such that, if once we lived in a society, we might be more accurately described these days as living in an economy. And as suggested above, an environment that embraces zero sum competition does nothing whatsoever to foster ideas of co-operation or empathy.

In the broad field of providing social needs, management are focused on ticking boxes that satisfy future funding criteria, and securing funding at the expense of other NGOs they’d be cooperating with – were it not for the incessant lolly scramble for government cash and funding, where loss of funding to a competing organisation can result in the unsuccessful organisation winding-up with the resultant loss of jobs and institutional knowledge.

Te Whare Pounamu is a symptom of a far greater systemic malaise that has been infecting New Zealand since the death knell of social democratic government in 1984. In short, when everything is subjected to market sensibilities then outcomes tend to anything but sensible. Te Whare Pounamu may be a particularly egregious example of that, but at the end of the day, it is just another example of that.

17 comments on “Te Whare Pounamu #1 ”

  1. Molly 1

    No comment on Te Whare Pounamu – just good to see you back on TS, Bill.

    • Bill 1.1

      Thank you Molly. Unlike my previous brief return of a few months back, the decks have been cleared to the extent I should be in a position to make on-going and regular contributions.

  2. marty mars 2

    It has a Māori name – not sure it is a Māori organisation – may pay to check that.

    Nice you're back.

    • Molly 2.1


      I've just been looking into that as well, and can't find any information regarding it being a kaupapa Māori organisation – just a branch of the national Women's Refuge.

      • Rosemary McDonald 2.1.1

        I had a quick gander at their FB page (ignoring the full screen invites to actually join Faceache).

        A Maori name and a few 'nga mihi's doth not a kaupapa Maori organisation make.

      • greywarshark 2.1.2

        Is it a sort of brownwash that RW efficiency experts give Maori names to lead agencies that are targeted at delivering welfare? Oranga Tamariki, if it messes up becomes, in people's minds, a Maori mess-up.

        I think the system needs changing and fast – that is the system of contracting to do things and having to report on use of each paperclip almost. The welfare organisations used to apply for grants and were expected to be doing what they said they would, and report on their activities, and no doubt were inspected.

        But these days welfare puts people through the wringer and then may drop them after they have been successful for a number of years and been a bulwark to their society.

    • Bill 2.2

      From this link – "In 2018 the National Collective of Independent Women’s Refuges (NCIWR) was made up of over 40 independent Refuges, including 13 kaupapa Māori Refuges, which continued to meet a high level of need."

      My understanding is that Te Whare Pounamu is one of the 13 kaupapa Māori Refuges.

      The history of Women's Refuge in Dunedin is a bit fraught. My understanding is that there used to be two refuges and that Te Whare Pounamu subsumed the non-Māori refuge for reasons I'm not really knowledgeable enough about to go into here.

      In relation to the potential for racists to get all up in arms "because Māori" – I reckon the name itself would be enough for them regardless of what actual facts on the ground may be. 🙁

  3. adam 3

    There is also a culture of troughing in the upper management of these social services. People who see this see the social service as an industry they can get a easy high salary out of.

    In the disability sector to many organisations are full of abled bodied manages getting paid ridiculous high salaries, making them even more out of touch of the people the are 'helping'.

    The ceo of CCS disability action is the one I thought of first. But he is just one among a few sitting at the top of a very nasty culture. I think why I thought CCS Bill was they are doing the similar thing to their staff in Auckland at the moment – coupled with trying to remove any vistage of kaupapa Māori.

    • Rosemary McDonald 3.1

      There is also a culture of troughing in the upper management of these social services. People who see this see the social service as an industry they can get a easy high salary out of.

      In the disability sector to many organisations are full of abled bodied manages getting paid ridiculous high salaries, making them even more out of touch of the people the are 'helping'.

      Thank you, adam. I was mentally listing the disability 'charities' who could be similarly challenged on their culture while listening to this unfold on Natrad this morning.

      Perhaps this is an appropriate time to link to this… https://www.victoria.ac.nz/sacs/pdf-files/Fears-constraints-and-contracts-Grey-and-Sedgwick-2014.pdf … again.

      Describes how, amoungst other things, grass roots charities morphed into scrabbling corporates under the influence of government funding.

      • greywarshark 3.1.1

        I noted this from adam too.

        There is also a culture of troughing in the upper management of these social services. People who see this see the social service as an industry they can get a easy high salary out of.

        In this country economy everything is up for grabs for profit-making businesses. Even not-for-profit businesses can pay a nice management salary to the owner. Things are bad when hospital CEOs have their own businesses supplying to the hospital they are managing. Government should be in control, the lead manager, and any contracting out to an agency should have to be answerable to the government. Somehow it has got to be the other way round.

        Councils also need to have more say in what the administration do.

  4. florabunda 4

    Some of these organisations purporting to make life easier for people with a range of disabilities by finding employment, advising re accessibility. training etc have morphed into wealthy Auckland charitable Trusts top-heavy with well-paid CEOs and managers (often people with mild disabilities themselves) supported by Boards of well-known, well-meaning citizens who do not feel they need to ask hard questions about what these Trusts actually achieve. They should.

  5. A 5

    "It was considered normal and ok to just help oneself to donations that were coming through the door," she said." [Link from RNZ above]

    This is fairly common in charities. Salvation Army springs to mind.

    Inflating figures to be more certain of funding seems to be a desperate attempt to get what is needed in a stressful funding environment. In other words, as bad as it seems it doesn’t surprise or shock me.

  6. Im right 6

    Ha! Look at you all….more concerned about whether it's a Maori outfit or not, you all crossing your fingers and hoping it's run by non Maori and therefore not Maori stealing from a refuge….would that make you all feel better? If its non Maori stealing you can all pile in and say what dreadful awfull human beings to do that! But hold fire incase it's Maori run….can't be seen piling into Maori like that! 🤔

    • Bill 6.1

      And the context that the post seeks to provide puts the lie to that nonsense and bullshit you're asserting.

      An organisation that claims to assist abused people is abusing people. End.

    • koreropono 6.2

      I think the point of the post was to highlight the issue of abuse rather than making this a 'racial' issue and avoid comments like yours that want to racialise the issue. Frankly when writers can't deal with the substantive issue (organisational culture) but instead choose to codify it as something racial, well that smacks of low level intellect. Just saying.

  7. RedBaronCv 7

    Talking of charity- government funding & a trough.The so called white ribbon charity appeared to exist solely on a government grant, no need to line up grass roots support and the bulk of the funding seemed to go on on well paid exec & a bit of part time help. I could be wrongly interpreting but the the charities commision website has spme interesting struff on it.

  8. gsays 8

    We have a bully in our kitchen brigade. The difference when they are there and not there is remarkable.

    There have been two written complaints in 10 days from workmates.

    One of the business directors is doing an investigation.

    I have some empathy for the bully as anxiety is part of their make-up and I was reminded by a mate to remember the bully is the first victim.

    Also, welcome back Bill.

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