Tuesday, 29 September 2009

delays in access to counselling

i've had a couple of posts up at the hand mirror today, one on an interesting post i found talking about transnational feminism, and another on delays in accessing ACC funded counselling for sexual abuse victims.

Monday, 28 September 2009

one who knows little shares her knowledge

tonight i lead a session about blogging. yup, technologically illiterate moi opened up the world of blogging for others. actually, for people who know little or nothing about blogs, there's quite a lot to learn. and that's just about finding blogs, figuring out how they work, commenting etc. i managed to fill up an hour without actually telling anyone how to set up a blog and write their own posts.

one of the things i ended spending a bit of time on was internet safety. particularly about the permanence of words put up on the internet, and the potential nastiness of comment threads.

i'm thinking that internet safety is something that should probably be emphasised at a much younger age. i know that my kids did get taught about safety around chatting with strangers online, and around accessing inappropriate sites. but i don't know if they're taught enough about the dangers of the stuff that they create themselves, and how it could come back to haunt them in later years. increasingly, people are leaving more and more of themselves in the public sphere, in words, photographs and video. the consequences of which are not always thought through.

[ETA: just came across this link about protecting your privacy on the internet thanx to david do!]

but in happier news, research shows that the internet is improving the writing skills of children. so much for all those who lament the use txt speak and sitting in front of the computer!

Thursday, 24 September 2009

policies for the working class

this post is a follow-up to the discussion that's been happening over at the hand mirror on the post i put up yesterday. probably best to read through the post and comments there if you want a background to this little rant. in particular, i wanted to respond to this comment from hugh:

Yes, everything you've outlined above was positive. But conversely, we had steadily rising university fees, the outlawing of party pills, the near impossibility of home ownership for first time home owners, the continuing lack of a capital gains tax, increasing immigration restrictions, and of course the steadily rising cost of basic household food items.

i'll take each of the issues in turn. on university fees, the labour government had a cap on fees and kept tight control on rising costs, much more so than the previous government and let's see what this one does. at present, this government is capping numbers, which means we have infrastructure and human resources lying idle, while some of those who want a tertiary education won't be able to access one. the cutting of allowances that helped beneficiaries gain a tertiary education has also been a stupid move.

the removal of interest on student loans was a way of keeping costs down, and i was totally in support of the universal student allowance that would have been brought in had labour won a fourth term.

of course more could have been done. i'd like to have seen free tertiary education, but that would have required an increase in taxes, which i don't think the electorate would have accepted. it's a hard-sell when the opposition and media were so belligerent in their campaign of tax cuts. but yes, i'd accept that there is scope to do more in this area.

on outlawing of party pills, that's mostly a moral issue & i personally agree with that one. there was also a health aspect involved, and as far as i know, the advice given by health professionals supported the ban.

the home ownership problem was an extremely complicated one, and a lot of work has been done on it both within the party and by government officials. policies put in place were the kiwisaver government contribution of $5,000 after 5 years of investment in kiwisaver, to help with the deposit. there was also the welcome home scheme, which the current government has kept and expanded.

the capital gains tax wasn't favoured because evidence showed that such a tax hadn't proved effective in australia in reducing the speculation that was leading to higher prices. also, given the rules that already catch people who buy and sell rental properties regularly, it wouldn't have generated much revenue. there is an argument around equal treatment for all investment types, and that one is probably the most compelling. however that issue of equality wouldn't solve the problem of rising house prices.

another option was to ring-fence taxable losses, so that they couldn't be offset against other income. i'd favour that one; the only downside being that it would raise rents which would have a negative impact on those on lower incomes.

that in effect was one of the major problems. any policy solution would have the effect of either raising house prices (ie if you gave people more cash to buy a house, you stimulated demand and prices would rise) and/or raising rents (as landlords would try to recover costs). so again, i'd disagree with the notion that nothing was done in this area. and as more policy was being developed, the bubble burst and house prices started to fall, which meant it was no longer so much of a priority.

on the immigration restrictions, this is one area where i'd agree with hugh. i didn't like the direction that the immigration bill was taking. but the select committee never reported back on the bill, so i have no idea what changes they might have made. not sure what the new government is doing with the bill. in terms of policy, the current policy is much more restrictive, and the treatment of those on work visas has become particularly harsh. but overall, i think the previous government could have done better on immigration.

in terms of the rising costs of basic household items, agreed that this is definitely a problem. the most effective way to deal with it (bar price controls a la muldoon) is to have increased incomes, and there is no doubt that real wages increased over the term of the labour government. working for families has also had a major impact - i know, because i'm doing plenty of returns for farmers with kids, who are getting around $8-10,000 back just on WFF this year. raising the minimum wage and strengthening collective bargaining provisions were also helpful.

one policy proposal i've seen in this area is to remove the GST on food items, and that won't work. apart from the administrative nightmare, the likelihood is that it will be the retailers who benefit most. they won't be passing on the full benefits of a reduction in GST, in fact i expect very little of it would be passed on to the consumer. i say this because we have most recently seen this problem with subsidies for home insulation: costs have gone up to swallow up most of the subsidy, and this government has had to issue some pretty stern statements about that. there was a similar issue with GPs, and hon annette king had a real fight to ensure that subsidies for doctors visits were passed on to patients.

in this area, i think those in the workforce with lower incomes were pretty well served by the fifth labour government. not only did real incomes increase, but the fact that there were record levels of low unemployment meant that more people were getting a working wage. the weakness was beneficiaries, and i would dearly loved to have seen the basic benefit level rise. out of all the issues i've covered above, this would be my greatest disappointment.

so, on the whole, i don't think labour abandoned the working class nor did it fail to deliver for those on lower incomes. i'll always accept that more could have been done, i think everyone accepts that. nobody is perfect after all.

Wednesday, 23 September 2009


i have to confess to watching "dirty dancing" tonight. yes, i know. it's not that i've been a patrick swayze fan, more that it was a film that took me back to younger days - a bit of indulging in nostalgia more than anything else. i can't say it was a great film, but it was a good one with a strong female character. we really need more of those!

i put up a post at the hand mirror last night, about the defence used in the david bain trial. and another one up tonight about the labour party and the women's vote.

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

celebration time

well, it's been a hectic few days, preparing for eid-ul fitr (for all those lovely people who wished me a "happy end of ramadan thingy", you now know what it's called!) and then celebrating the day. most people were expecting the celebration to be on sunday, but i was actually happy for it to be on monday as i had an extra day to prepare.

we start the day with prayers at the hamilton gardens pavilion, and from there spend the day visiting friends and eating. i think we managed to visit about 10 houses in 3 hours, before heading home to receive our own visitors. there were a steady stream of these all afternoon. and it's not over yet, we've had a bit more visiting to do tonight and tomorrow night as well.

the kids get plenty of presents, mostly of money as well as everyone having something new to wear for the day. a few days prior to the celebration, mosques will start collecting the "fitra" donations, which are set this year at $10 for every person earning an income. that money is then quietly distributed to the poor in the community, so that everyone can have new clothes and nice food to celebrate.

so yes, not much time for blogging or politics or keeping up with emails and the news. although, i see that the case against "double-bunking" has started, and am hoping that it goes the way of the prison workers. i don't see why they should have to face greater risks because the government won't look at better options for dealing with prisoners. like more investment in rehabilitation so that they can be sent out into the community, or like more home detention (which also decreases recidivism), or shorter sentences where appropriate.

and also, i'd like to offer solidarity to the open country cheese workers who have been treated very shoddily by their employer. yet another way for employers to drive down the earnings of their employees, and it's sickening. monetary donations to support these workers can be sent to the solidarity fund at BNZ, account number 02 0320 0082084 026.

in the meantime, to all my friends out their, eid mubarak, happy eid, selamat hari raya and i hope you had a successful ramadan.

Friday, 18 September 2009

social inclusion

decided to have a night away from the internets last night. it's good for the soul sometimes! and i thought i'd put something up tonight cos it's going to be a pretty busy weekend.

back to labour party conference, and one of the sessions was called "social inclusion", where we got to hear from one monsignor david cappo. i went into the session thinking it would be about discrimination, and how to overcome it. but no, it was something else altogether. i'm going to write about it from memory cos i didn't take notes, so will likely have some of the details and the terminology a bit wrong. but hopefully you will get the main points.

mr (cos i don't know what the short form of his title is) cappo spoke to us about social exclusion that results from poverty, homelessness, truancy and crime. it was, in fact, a session about social justice, and a pretty illuminating one at that.

in south australia, which is where mr cappo resides, the new labour premier appointed mr cappo to head a social inclusion board, back in the year 2002. said board now has a good number of staff, and some pretty impressive powers. they can go into any government department and require them to implement policy developed by the board. they collect data on the effectiveness of programmes, and do hold departments, their heads and their ministers to account. seriously to account, as in hauling their asses in front of the board to explain themselves, and requiring them to change policies.

members of the board sit with on a particular cabinet committee, which is unheard of. non-elected persons don't get to sit on cabinet committees, but these people do. whether or not they have voting powers, we didn't find out.

the board has developed some pretty unique initiatives which have resulted in positive movement in statistics around, for example, truancy and homelessness. it has meant that people who are otherwise deemed "problematic" become engaged with society and feel as if they are part of the community. and one of the main ways this is happening in south australia is by making the community take responsibility for them.

yup. none of this "personal responsiblity" stuff. none of the "if you fall by the wayside then it's your own damn fault and you can stay in the gutter where you belong". no, it's an approach where the community is required to come together to help out those who are less fortunate.

one of the first things the board does is "active listening" ie consultation with a purpose. for a start, those who come to the consultation meetings are not allowed to discuss "the problem". mr cappo was quite clear that everyone already knows what the problem is. the purpose of the consultation is to come up with solutions. also, these meetings aren't open to the public, but are specifically targetted to those who have a background or expertise in the area.

the one example that i remember most clearly is around truancy. this was treated as a community problem, and so the community was asked to be involved in the solution. they set up these committees within local communities, and gave them both a budget and the authority to spend that budget. these "innovative community action networks" (ICAN)would include businesspeople, social service agencies and others. all members of the ICAN acted on a voluntary basis.

the ICAN would have local knowlege (or get it), and would then work on local solutions. so one example mr cappo gave was finding out where the truant kids went. in one particularly community, the kids went to the local mall and hung out in a cafe. so the local ICAN committee came up with the solution of putting a cafe in the school, and changing teaching methods so the kids would feel more engaged. mr cappo also talked about providing different forms of education for teen mums (which i think we already do well here in some schools), ensuring that these young women got some kind of education, even if it wasn't the traditional model.

the solutions were non-conventional, and they worked. the key was local knowledge, proper resourcing and the willingness to do things differently. and the results, from the statistics he gave us, were pretty overwhelming.

it's definitely a refreshing approach. in dear old nz, we'd have to hear endlessly about "pandering" to certain groups, about "one law for all" even though we know that a single approach doesn't work for everyone. there would be all these middle class and upper middle class people here feeling hard done by because their darlings weren't getting special treatment, like the poor kids were. but it seems that they have avoided all of this in south australia, cos their labour government keeps getting re-elected.

the only one little thing that bothered me about this set-up is that this all-powerful commission (which is one of three i think, another one being an economic one) sits outside the democratic process. the people on the commission are appointed by the premier, and i guess they are accountable to him and he is accountable to the voters, so there is some control in a roundabout way. it just seems to me that there is potential for such a set-up to go horribly wrong if you had the wrong people doing the appointing. and i wasn't entirely happy with mr cappo's response to a question on aboriginal issues.

but on the whole, it's such a different and better philosophy. mostly because it's about community, about collective responsibility, and about caring enough to put in the resources to get the results. it's about treating all members of society with respect, even those who have fallen off the rails. and it's also about getting results.

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

almost there

i've posted at the hand mirror today about the clayton weatherston sentencing. i don't have energy to do much more. about 5 more days to the end of ramadan, and then we'll be having our major celebration for the year. just now, i'm hanging on during the final stage. i was fasting for friday and sunday while at rotorua for the conference, even though i didn't have to fast when out of town. however, i'm now thinking that was a mistake, cos i'm feeling quite drained. oh well, not long to go now.

Monday, 14 September 2009

back from conference

whew, what a weekend! i've been in rotorua on friday, saturday and sunday at the labour party annual conference. the most important day for me was friday, which is sector day. i had to be at a couple of sector meetings during the day, both of which went well. women's sector was particularly excellent, very well-attended with a lot of buzz in the room.

i've also, this year, been elected to nz council from my region - which is a big responsibility. i'm still new to the role and finding my feet, but i feel honoured that the waikato-bay of plenty region chose me to be their representative. i'm probably the first person from an ethnic minority community (being not maori or pasifika) to get to the council, and what's really inspiring for me is that i've done it via a generally contested position.

so yes, that also took up a bit of time. the friday night conference opening was a cracker, and andrew little really stepped up to the mark. he spoke so well about labour values, and with real passion and conviction. and then there was jim anderton, who was, well, jim anderton. full of common sense and practical ideas.

the saturday workshops were great, and there's some good coverage over at red alert. i'll cover some of the issues over the next few days, as i get time. today, i wanted to talk about the economics workshop, where we got to hear from lachlan mckenzie of federated farmers & selwyn pellet of endace.

first of all, let me say that i was really pleased that mr mckenzie presented at a labour conference, and that he got a pretty fair hearing. i didn't get to hear his speech myself, it's covered very briefly by trevor mallard. but i was there for the questions, and there were a couple asked about the ETS and the delay for the agriculture sector.

mr mckenzie didn't directly answer one of these questions, and to another his reply was something along the lines of the fact that the technology to reduce agricultural emissions hadn't been developed yet, so the sector needed more time. he said that if there were measures that farmers could take, then they would be taking them, but unfortunately these measures hadn't yet been found.

i thought that was incredibly frustrating. who does he think is going to find those measure, and where is the technology supposed to come from? fed farmers were pretty virulently opposed to a small tax that would fund such research. they have supported a government that campaigned on scrapping the $700 million fast forward fund and the R&D tax credit, which said government actioned as soon as it could.

he showed no responsibility, on behalf of his organisation or his sector, for coming up with any kind of solutions, and that's what angers me. after all, even if you put aside all the social and moral arguments (and i don't think that we should), the economic success of the farming sector depends on them reducing emissions. i remember rod oram making this point several times, and stating that he couldn't understand why the sector wasn't rushing to develop and embrace climate change policy. we're already on the back foot with our geographical distance from major markets, so we have to work hard in other areas to remain competitive.

it's doubly annoying because this lack of action and of taking responsibility (and mostly downright oppostion) by the agricultural sector will mean that we all suffer, as a country. while mr mckenzie did talk a lot of sense about other areas, this is one that left me feeling pretty disappointed.

Thursday, 10 September 2009

open day coverage... not!

shama had it's open day last week. i was fully intending to go, but found myself just too tired after work so missed out. by all accounts, it was a successful event, with some moving presentations from ethnic women who had benefitted from the services we provide. we use the open day to recognise our staff, volunteers, the women who use the centre, and our funders.

this year, we invited the waikato times to attend and cover the event. the coverage we got was a few photos in the "schmoose" section of the paper (yup, that's what they call the society page). there was absolutely no mention of shama, and the photos were labelled "ethnic women". neither was there mention of an open day, but there was mention of an AGM, for reasons that aren't apparent. meh.

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

getting tired

ramadan is nearly two thirds over, and i'm really starting to feel it now. mostly it's the tiredness that's getting to me, and i find that i'm less productive. which makes me wonder how those with a genuinely inadequate diet arising from poverty cope with their days. especially if they have the knowledge that there really is no way out.

i know i'll be back to normal in another 11 or so days, and that makes it so much easier to cope.

in the meanwhile, i've been putting a few posts up at the hand mirror, one linking to catriona maclennan's paper on consent laws, another on the rather odd decision to have nigel latta be part of the review team who will determine whether or not the new s59 is working properly, another on ACE protests happening around the country this saturday, and a last one on the success of collective action which has seen a back down from a clothing manufacturer.

and one final note. i was thinking, in response to the gang patch ban in w(h)anganui, that 5,000 should turn up there with patches. maybe do it once a month. it'll clog up the court system so fast that they might want to have another think about the sanity of that particular piece of legislation. we really don't have mass civil disobedience happening in this country, but this is one that i think would be quite interesting in terms of a non-violent protest.

Tuesday, 8 September 2009


this seems to be my year for free stuff. the girls were given free make-over vouchers from farmers, to be used at the elizabeth arden counter. so off we went a few weeks ago, and they got made-up to the hilt. i counted at least 14 products that were used, starting with the cleanser and toner, moisturiser, foundation etc etc. if you're a woman, you'll know the whole routine.

knowing the general price range of each product, i thought of how many hundreds of dollars it would cost if you were to buy all of them and use them daily. for a person who gave up on all make-up quite some years ago, i'm thinking that it seems like an awful lot of time, effort and expense. but i can also see the seduction aspect of the process - the girls did look quite stunning after it was all done.

even more seductive was the $60 voucher from professionail, which bought a manicure each for myself and the girls. it was the first time we'd had a manicure. it was very nice. the pedicures looked great as well, with the massage chairs and the foot spas. yup, i can see how easy it is to get hooked on this stuff.

and today, i picked up the free photograph i won from seddon portrait house. it's beautiful, with a lovely wood frame. over $1,500 worth of photograph, but it definitely looks like it. the staff there were wonderful, and i never did get any kind of hard-sell when i went in for the viewing 6 weeks ago. i totally showed off the photograph at work, and at a dinner function i was at tonight. why not? they deserve the publicity. so if you live in hamilton and want to get professional photograph done, i'd definitely recommend them.

i'm thinking at this point i should say something deep and meaningful about our consumerist society, and how easy it is to get sucked in to buying stuff. but no, not today. today i'm just going to enjoy my photograph, and remember fondly the other experiences. sometimes it's ok to be frivolous.

Monday, 7 September 2009

a special place

my mum has a special place in our mosque, by which i mean her own particular physical space. it's at the right hand end of the first row, in the women's section. this is where she likes to be when she prays. i don't know why, i guess it's just that part of human nature that makes us creatures of habit.

my mother's special space is respected and protected by the rest of the community. and particularly the somali community. they make sure that space is available for her. apparently, it's a well-known fact amongst the somali women that no-one else should take that space. women of other communities are much the same, they just don't take her space if she happens to be there.

my mum goes to the mosque regularly, pretty much every day. so when she isn't there, people notice. when she was overseas at the beginning of ramadan, i had an elderly somalian woman ask me, in her broken english, "where your mum?". another pakistani woman told me that praying in the mosque just didn't feel right without my mum standing in her special place.

i find these connections to be fascinating. these are women that never socialise, that never see each other outside the mosque. they don't converse much inside the mosque either, because many of the senior somali women don't speak english. but despite that, there is that sense of closeness, of concern, of belonging that i find really touching. it's such a little thing, the protection of a little bit of space in the corner of the mosque. but it seems to say so much about human connections, that i can't adequately describe.

our mosque is special. it's special because of the mix of colours and races you find there. from the white europeans, to the ivory of the arabs, to the golden bronze of the malays and indonesians, to the darker brown of the south asians and maori and right across the spectrum to the various shades of black that make up africa. it's all there in one room, particularly noticeable in ramadan because more people come to the mosque for prayer.

this not something you see in many countries. mosques in muslim countries will be dominated by the ethnicity of the people native to the land. you may get a bit of diversity, but not so much. mosques in other western countries tend to get drawn along ethnic lines. as an example, i remember attending a RISEAP conference in sydney back in 1989. it lasted 7 days, and each evening, dinner for delegates was hosted by a different mosque. so, we went to the lebanese mosque in lakemba, to the yugoslav (as it was back then) mosque, to the south african mosque, and so on. you get the picture.

it's not that the ethnic groups don't get along, and anyone is always welcome in any mosque. it's just that people tend to drift towards others who are similar to them in culture, language and religious practice.

a bit of that happens in auckland, where it's mostly south asians that go to the stoddard road mosque, fijians who go to the south auckland mosque. but even then, there's still a reasonable amount of diversity. in a smaller community like hamilton, we don't have the numbers to have different mosques for different ethnic groups.

so we all come together in the one mosque, and it's a pretty amazing feeling to be in that bunch. it's amazing because race and colour truly don't matter, and not being able to understand one another really doesn't matter much either. we understand enough, we understand that we belong together in that place. i wish that was how the rest of the world could be.

Thursday, 3 September 2009

diversity awards

one thing about ramadan is that it is a very social month. muslims love to invite one another for the evening meal to break their fast, pray and then share dinner together. to the extent that when one 5 year old was asked at school what ramadan was about, she said "oh, that's the time of year we have parties".

so today, i helped to cook for 28 people. i did some of the preparation last night, hence no energy to post, when i finally got to bed at 10.30pm! but it's all worth it, it adds to the specialness that is ramadan.

in the meantime, i've put up a couple of posts at the hand mirror, a brief one with links relating to the cartwright inquiry, and another one about the case of the muslim woman who was barred from a hastings courtroom.

i really missed not being at the diversity forum this year, it's such a great opportunity to catch up with people and to see the wonderful work going on in this country to reduce discrimination and to increase a sense of community and belonging for all nzers. the diversity awards are an opportunity to recognise the best of these, and i'd highly recommend a read through of this year's winners.

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

another case of "we don't know how lucky we are"

i've just finished watching the two documentaries broadcast on maori tv, the first about uighur activist rebiya kadeer, and the second a chinese government documentary broadcast in response.

i was moved by the first if a little disappointment. the latter stems from the fact that i would have liked to have been provided with more history of the uighurs and their current situation. but it was, after all, more a documentary about one woman and her family, with contextual bits thrown in. and i can imagine that it is extremely difficult to get any detailed information out of china - ms kadeer herself spoke about video tapes being destroyed as she left the country.

nonetheless, it was an incredible story of someone with a lot of determination, resilience and courage. the price of freedom for her has been and continues to be extremely high. i can't imagine what it would be like to have four children in a jail where there is no independent prisons investigation authority, closed media and little chance of appeal against abuses of basic human rights.

also telling was the fact that at least one of her children was not entirely supportive of her stance. that must be even more difficult situation, with the daughter more concerned about her siblings than the overall struggle. it's an entirely understandable position. sadder was her desire to just get on her with her life, which she expressed early on in the documentary. obviously she hasn't chosen to be part of the movement her mother belongs to, and again, i can understand her desire to put it all aside. being the child of an activist is no fun thing, especially when the consequences of that activism can be so devastating for other family members.

it's hard to see where the struggle for self-determination will go for the uighur people. the central chinese government, like it's indian counterpart, can not allow one region any kind of independence without seeing the whole country break up into many parts. after all, if one region is successful in gaining independence, then other parts of the country will want the same.

layered into all of this are the global politics. while america was keen to have china as an ally during the initial phase of the war on terror, strong economic growth has lead to china becoming a threat. hence the policy of developing strong alliances with countries bordering china. having china becoming more unstable or even splitting up would see a greater reduction in any percieved threat. so seeing a turn-aound from george w bush in recognising ms kadeer was not entirely heartening.

the counter documentary produced by the chinese government was pretty disturbing as well. pretty graphic in the depiction of violence, it definitely made a point. there is absolutely no way to defend the senseless violence against unarmed people who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

it's a pretty ugly situation all around. on the one hand, we have a government that commits gross abuses of human rights and will go to any lengths to preserve national unity and stability. in such an environment, there are very few options when it comes to the struggle for self-determination.

well, i'm really glad that maori tv didn't cave in to pressure and screened the documentary. if nothing else, i do feel better informed about the situation, and it's great to have a voice from the uighur people giving us their perspective on the situation.