New Zealand’s “tsunami of child poverty” came under the microscope at the recent Child Poverty Action Group hui at Manurewa marae.
The hui was designed to build activism to end child poverty in Aotearoa. Activism is clearly what is needed to bring about change, was the consensus of speakers and participants.
One of the overriding themes of the Na Ta Tatou Rouro: With our baskets the children will prosper conference was that the recession is far from over, the situation for poor people is worsening and that New Zealand has a shameful and enduring record on child poverty.
Many speakers mentioned The Spirit Level – Why More Equal Societies Almost Always Do Better by Richardson Wilkinson and Kate Pickett, a book that focuses on the consequences of economic inequality
Everything seems stacked against poor children. Low incomes are bad for the health and for life prospects. Many die early from preventable diseases.
The haters and wreckers syndrome was illustrated by Finlayson Park School principal Shirley Maihi, who outlined the positive work happening at her school, including providing food to hungry pupils, and teaching parents as well as children. But Shirley said that after every newspaper article or TV clip, people ring up to blame the parents and tell her she shouldn’t be feeding the children. Godzone huh?
The disparity between the haves and the have nots is growing, with greater income inequality in New Zealand. The outlook seems increasingly bleak for our most vulnerable children.
But the spirit of those working on the coalface of poverty was more buoyant than bleak.
Conference speaker Sue Bradford – who gave a well-received presentation on New Roads for Activists and was commended for her dedication on helping protect children from violence – was rapt at the energy and the commitment of those present.
“I thought it was really great to see so many people still committed to the kaupapa of working to end child poverty,” said Sue.
“These issues have been big since the early 1980s. So lots of people have been working on it for a long time and have to keep their energy up.
“It was great to see that energy more than ever from people in the health, social services and schools. There were lots of people on the frontline in Maori and Pasifika communities as well as Pakeha communities. And there were academics and university staff as well as frontline workers.
“I think CPAG has done an amazing job over the years. They have really good heart and a commitment to do so.
“I really appreciate their focus on activism, building networks and alliances between people working on poverty issues.”
* The Green Party’s Children’s policy is available at: http://www.greens.org.nz/policy/summary/children