Tuesday, 31 March 2009

what's it worth?

i've posted again at the hand mirror on a training session i attended today.

also, in case you missed asia downunder this week, there was a clip about the crescent moon exhibition in porirua. you can watch it here, it starts at the end of chapter 2 and finishes at the end of chapter 3.

Monday, 30 March 2009

democracy for some, but not for others

i've posted over at the hand mirror, about people not being free to participate in our democracy.

i was pretty saddened at the office of ethnic affairs workshop today, which was focussed on informing people about making submissions to a select committee. the staff did a great job under the circumstances. i've already mentioned that the selection of bills that was presented to the workshop was pretty objectionable. worse was the fact that the presenter was only allowed to talk about government bills. she wasn't allowed to talk about private members bills, or the fact that people could go to their local MPs and ask them to prepare a written question to a minister, nor could she mention parliamentary petitions.

in other words, they were not allowed to discuss all the various ways that citizens can be active in a democracy. the fact is that the select committee process isn't accessable to everyone, and particularly not to those with low written and/or oral language skills (as is often the case with migrants). other forms of political activism will suit such groups better, and they should at least have all the options in front of them.

but the presenter wasn't allowed to do that. i felt really sorry for the staff who had to work under such conditions. it's absolutely appalling.

Friday, 27 March 2009


ok, i've decided that i have some problems with this supercity idea put out today by the royal commission on auckland governance. i can understand the problems with getting things done across the city, for example with roading, when you have to go through various different bodies for consents and things. i can understand the efficiencies to be gained by combining functions that are simultaneously being carried out by all councils.

but the problem i have is the fact that, under one structure, the poorest parts of the city are likely to get less funding. right now, the manukau city council (just as an example) has to rate manukau and spend in manukau. under the supercity structure, the one big council would rate manukau but could apply that funding to other parts of the city.

sure, the people in manukau could kick up a stink, and try to influence the outcome of the next election. but the fact is that people on lower incomes don't tend to vote much. part ly it's because they are less educated and partly it's because they don't believe that their vote will change anything. one of the negative impacts of poverty is hopelessness and a disconnectedness from the society around you.

also, those on lower incomes generally have much less of a media voice. they are less likely to have PR companies and/or expertise available to get their message out. they are likely to be less articulate and have poor written and oral language skills. they are likely to organise less effectively, because they have less experience with management or involvement with committees and boards where such skills are gained. they are less likely to understand how the system works, which will impact their ability to influence the way that system works.

so it's unlikely that you will see strong lobby groups emerging from the poorer areas of the city to fight against unfair spending decisions. i don't why, but when i think about this supercity concept, the first thought that comes to mind is slums, and much worse ones that we have now.

for other concerns, this is a good summary. i particularly liked this from councillor leila boyle:

I am worried about the idea of electing ten regional councillors at-large across the region. We have had smaller models of this before, for example the old Auckland City Council prior to amalgamation in 1989, which had councillors elected at-large and most of them were men who lived in the wealthy inner city suburbs of the Eastern Bays, Remuera and Epsom. The outer lying suburbs such as Glen Innes in the south and Pt Chevalier in the west had no representatives at all! I can see a real danger that this could happen again at a regional level where most at-large councillors are male, Pakeha and living in the existing Auckland City Council area. How representative is that?!?

finally, going back to the media voice, the best example around this issue is the amount of speaking time given to john banks. sure he's an important voice on this issue, but not so important as to drown out the others. it's very obviously that mr banks wants the job for himself, and it's pretty sad that the major media outlets are providing him with free campaigning time.

Thursday, 26 March 2009

police deal with diversity

have posted over at the hand mirror on the personification of nations, and how these most often tend to be women.

also glad to see that the police have launched a religious diversity guide to be use for training purposes. i have to say that the police have been very active in taking on diversity issues and incorporating this at various levels in the organisation. the appointment of ethnic advisors in the last few years and the push to recruit from ethnic communities both have been extremely positive steps.

i have to say that i had a small hand in looking over the muslim section of the guide, and thought it was presented really well. this from the race relations commissioner is particularly pertinent:

“While we live in a secular state in New Zealand, this does not mean public servants should be ignorant about the beliefs of the communities they serve. To deliver public services effectively, public servants need to understand their clients and gain their confidence.”

so well done nz police. let's hope that other departments will be as proactive.

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

security issues

well, i'm finally back home & trying to recover from the jet lag. got to sleep around 3am yesterday & still feeling pretty woozy. i always find it harder to recover when i get back from an overseas trip than i do when i get to the place i was visiting. probably just because of the pressure of the daily routine when i'm home again.

as it happens, my home got broken into a couple of days after my last post. i was really lucky though, because the alarm went off and my watchful neighbours called the police. the culprit wasn't caught, but nothing was taken either, so that's a big relief. it made me a bit cautious about blogging though - not being anonymous, it's pretty easy for someone to follow my movements if i blog about them. i've mostly avoided mentioning when i'll be away from home on the blog, and of course this could be a total coincidence that the break-in happened when i had been open here about my absence from home. but it still feels a little spooky.

also spooky was the security as brisbane airport. we had a 40 minute transit there when flying back from brunei. in that 40 minutes, we had to take all our hand luggage with us, go through a full scan of the luggage & go through the metal detector thingy - all of this was about 10 metres from the gate we had gotten out of.

my elder daughter then got randomly selected for some extra checking in another room. i didn't realise it was random (just not paying attention to the people before me), so was probably a little more shirty than i should have been. they did ask me for my consent as her parent (wonder what would have happened if said no!) & the male staff member stepped out while the search was done.

i just thought it was totally over the top, but having seen the news since i got back and hearing about some gang violence at sydney airport, i guess they were on high alert. even so, it makes travelling through aussie a real hassle & can't be good for their tourism. having heard many reports of muslims being harassed at airports, i must say that the extra check on my daughter gave me a big scare (until i saw how quick and easy it was) & made me realise how helpless we can be in the face of authority.

on another note, i'm also less than impressed that the office of ethnic affairs (OEA) is using what appears to be training sessions on preparing select committee submissions as an excuse to push the national government's law and order programme. this certainly looks like an example of politicising the public service, and i also got a strong sense of this when i attended an OEA meeting for ethnic women recently. the law and order thing is especially nasty because most of the policies will not make anyone safer, but just plays on the insecurities of racial minorities who feel particularly vulnerable to hate crime.

Thursday, 19 March 2009

architectural magnificence

i've been having a wonderfully busy time here in malaysia, though managing to get on the internet every now & then.

night before last we went to
putra jaya, the new capital city of malaysia. it's beautifully designed with impressive buildings and an amazing bridge. but the most outstanding feature is the putra jaya mosque, done in coral pink and simply breathtaking in its magnificence. i've been to visit it several times now, and it's a wonderful experience every time.

except for one little niggle, which i have for a lot of architectural magnificence. i often think that the money would have been so much better spent on the poor, on social programmes or simply on food. when i look at all the effort put into places of worship - temples, churches & mosques - it's hard not to think that the effort is misplaced. even architectural wonders of the non-religious kind seem to me to be nothing more than ego-trips for the corporations that commission them. many of the tallest buildings in the world are so suspiciously shaped like phallic symbols that methinks there are persons in the world who feel they have something to prove.

but having said that, i do appreciate the beauty and the sincere efforts put in by architects, planners, engineers, artisans and the other thousands of people employed to construct each project. is it possible to both be wowed by the effort and the artistry, but still be frustrated at the fact that those resources may have been better spent elsewhere?

after putrajaya, we drove out to kajang, where they make the best
satay. it's one of my favourite dishes, and the atmosphere was a distinctly asian one. it's also probably one of the healthier things i've eaten in the last few days, which shows just how bad my diet is at the moment! but the hours of shopping and walking around make me feel a little less guilty!

yesterday morning, we got into kuala lumpur early to visit the
petronas twin towers. see above for my thoughts on another architectural marvel! we got there at 8.20am, and there was already a queue of about 100 people. it was free to go up to the skybridge & look over the city, and very well organised. but we did have to pay by sitting through a 3-D promtional video about the petronas company. it was only 7 minutes long, so hardly much of a punishment.

afterwards, we wandered around the KLCC complex and only drooled over the prada handbags, gucci, dior and all from the outside. we decided not to embarass ourselves by going in and pretending we could actually afford that stuff! and then we walked over to the aquarium, which was also quite wonderful.

it was quite a wonderful feeling to be exploring the city by ourselves, making wrong turns and asking strangers for help. one of the strangers who guided us to the towers (she luckily happened to be walking the same way) happened to have an uncle settled in christchurch. and there's lots of stuff from nz here too - from nz cheese on iced doughnuts (ewww) to nz ice cream, nz lamb and nz mussels.

after the acquarium, we managed to find the underground and took a train to
jalan masjid india (more commonly known as "little india"). the shopping there is great, lots of stalls and bargaining. we tried some more local food, with nasi ayam (rice & chicken), murtabak (another favourite) and fresh watermelon juice (at least this was approaching healthy!). our feet were pretty sore by this point, but you can always walk a little more when there's the chance for a bargain!

we've got a much quieter day planned for today, which is a good thing. probably just a little more shopping in the afternoon & dinner out at a seafood restaurant built over a lake. i'm finally getting to the bit of my holiday where i can actually relax!

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

rights or wrongs

i've just posted at the hand mirror, during a break from relaxing and having fun!

Monday, 16 March 2009

on holiday (again)

i've been away from the internet again, and this time my excuse is that i was on a plane to malaysia. which is where i now sit, with air-conditioning so i don't feel the heat, and in a beautiful home in a lovely suburb of shah alam.

we havd a 5.30am flight (ouch), which stopped in over in brunei for an hour or so. the airport there was smaller than wellington, with only 10 gates and a few shops. we'll be spending a night in brunei on the way back so i hope to see a little bit more of the place.

i love malaysia, and i know it's because i'm having, well, not the normal experience. as i've mentioned, it's an upper class experience where we get to see the best that the country has to offer. malaysia is a wonderful blend of east and west - many places are so typically asian, others have a totally western feel.

but for me, it's a little more than that. i love to hear the call for prayer 5 times a day. i love that there are so many lovely mosques. i love that i don't stand out in my hijab but just blend nicely into the environment. i love that there are prayer halls in every shopping centre & public building, so that i can stop for prayer whenever i need to. i love that the food is halal, and we've been busy pigging out on big macs & all those other fast foods that we can't eat in nz. and the shopping is great. it's so much easier to find clothes that suit my lifestyle & beliefs, and that actually fit!

the thing with life in nz is that i'm so used to being a minority, so used to standing out & being different from everyone else. even in india, i'm part of a minority group - yes, it's a large minority that has had a significant impact on that country's development, but still a minority with all of the harassment and discrimination that comes with it.

here in malaysia, indians are hardly a majority but still, i just don't feel out of place. i know it would be different if i had to live and work here, but as a visitor i really enjoy the place.
so you may not hear much from me (again!) as i enjoy my holiday here.

Wednesday, 11 March 2009

"celebrity is as celebrity does"

i've been posting over at the hand mirror in the last couple of days, about work place issues and a petition by the service and food workers union to save jobs at sealord fisheries.

the indian cricketers have arrived in hamilton and i find myself totally uninterested. in previous years, we've gone to the ground and met the players, invited them home for dinner, taken a multitude of photographs. i didn't collect autographs though, so managed to stay on this side of sanity!

i've realised in recent times that i've managed to wean myself off the cult of celebrity worship. not reading women's magazines really helps, as does the avoidance of "entertainment" sections of newspapers. which is not to say that i wouldn't be excited to meet an actor whose work i respect, or a talented sports person, or a famous scientist who had made a significant contribution to our body of knowledge. but i'd hope that i could respect them and their achievements without being overwhelmed by their fame.

Monday, 9 March 2009

conquering fears

well, i've finally reached the end of my very busy phase, and was hoping to write something substantial tonight. but here it is at 10.30pm and i've only just finished dealing with all the emails piling up since last week.

i've had some really interesting experiences over the last few days. the muslim girls camp at pirongia forest park was definitely something else. we nestled at the base of mt pirongia, but high enough to have a fantastic view of the waikato basin, out towards te awamutu and hamilton.

i've spent the last 2 summers touring around nz, up in the far north this summer, and around the south island last summer. but really, the beauty of the waikato can match any other part of the country. it's not entirely natural beauty, as there's a lot of human intervention in the tidy fields and paddocks. but those rolling green hills with the small lakes and streams in between do make for a lovely sight.

the girls were quite a challenge. they make so much noise! and had quite an aversion to sleep. but they really took up the challenges of rock climbing, abseiling, the flying fox, archery and a bush walk. it was quite amazing to watch these women conquer their fears and make genuine attempts to do things they felt quite uncomfortable about. they didn't always succeed, but that was hardly the point.

and i too had a go on the flying fox. even though i'm afraid of heights, i thought i had to match my daughter who had conquered her fears and thoroughly enjoyed it. i can't say i enjoyed it: i was screaming at the top of my lungs & had my eyes closed most of the way down. which only served to convince me that the abseiling would definitely not be a good idea...

the international women's day events were a mixed bag. unfortunately i couldn't attend much of the hamilton event, since i need to keep my day job. but it was quite well attended, and it was great to have ethnic women taking an active part. the wellington event was a mixed bag, but i'm not going to say too much about that just now. i really enjoyed meeting some awesome ethnic women who are contributing in many wonderful and varied ways to this nation.

if you didn't catch it, i did a post at the hand mirror about labour's record on pay equity. one of the common national party lines on just about any issue is that "labour did nothing in it's 9 years about ...". it's a totally dishonest line to run, as there is a long list of things in just about any area you think of. which is not to say that they did everything perfectly - that would be impossible. but the government was active and putting in measures to make life better for people. it's frustrating to see those measures being overturned with little care about the impact it will have on those who are low-paid and struggling.

Monday, 2 March 2009

in which i propose to take a short break

it's very frustrating, i have much i want to blog about but no time in which to do it. a few things coming up:
  • strategic planning for community radio hamilton tomorrow, in which we face up to an environment where funding may become increasingly hard to come by. how will that impact on our ability to provide radio access for a wide range of groups that usually don't get too much access? how do we continue to keep up with technological changes, when our main concern is to keep afloat through a recession? it'll certainly be a challenge, and i'm looking forward to some serious planning around these issues.
  • international women's day symposium on friday afternoon, organised by hamilton city council and featuring rosslyn noonan (chief human rights commissioner) and hon pansy wong. i'll be doing a speech as part of a workshop being organised by shama (the hamilton ethnic women's centre) during the event. i'll be focussing on the experience of migrant women of colour, and issues that should be taken into account when developing social policy & programmes
  • muslim girls camp being held in the waikato from friday night. i get to be a camp leader (hmm, i think i'll have to ingest large doses of patience before friday) to a bunch of girls in their late teens & early 20's. as part of the camp, i'll be taking a workshop on leadership. i'm hoping to avoid the abseiling, obstacle course, flying fox & other more physical activities on account of the fact that i'm hopelessly unfit and afraid of heights.
  • relay for life is being held this weekend in hamilton. if i have the energy, i'll pop in on saturday night to support the labour party team & maybe even walk a few laps...
  • flying to wellington for the day on sunday for another international women's day event. don't have to speak at this one (yay!), but active participation will be required.

since i have a bit of preparation to get done for these things (although i will recycle old material where i can! thank goodness i'm a thing-keeper), i won't have time to post. so, instead, here are some things to keep you busy:

  • the 10th down under feminist carnival is up at queen of thorns' blog. looks to be a great carnival, and here is a list of blogs she's compiled of contributors to previous carnivals.
  • if you haven't been across to the hand mirror lately, you may have missed the pay equity faxathon. please take time to spread the word about this, and encourage as many as you can to take part.
  • it turns out that the dispute of the invercagill cafe owner with the 2 israeli women he refused to serve has now been resolved. joris de bres, the race relations commissioner, has put out a media release stating "The parties have met and reached a mutually satisfactory agreement. An apology has been offered and accepted in the spirit in which it was intended. In arriving at the agreement the parties have come to a greater understanding of the discrimination provisions of the Human Rights Act. The parties recognise that this has been a matter of public interest and they want it known that they both value and support harmonious race relations." i'm glad that there has been a successful mediation - it shows the power of the peace-making process when you have a strong independent external party ready to help the two opposing groups work through their issues.
  • i've been really impressed by these two pieces of writing at kiwipolitico regarding the controversy over the adding of an "h" to wanganui. poneke also does a nice piece here. i just can't believe that this issue can cause so much angst. i mean really, nothing of import will be lost through the adding of an "h", so why all the shrieking hysteria? i think it's time to start my campaign to have hamilton's name changed to kirikiriroa, on the grounds that it sound so much nicer, predates the current name, is unique (i believe there's 5 cities in the world called hamilton?) and distinctly kiwi.

so that's it from me for a bit. hope you have a great week.