Hopeful weekend reading

Highlights from the ActionStation community in May 2018

Every month, we roundup all of the amazing activity happening across our diverse community of compassionate and caring humans.

We suggest reading this when you have ten minutes spare, and a nice a cup of tea. It makes for uplifting and hopeful reading!

A community-powered win for New Zealand’s children

Associate Professor Susan Morton is research director of Growing Up in New Zealand, pictured here with four children.

Growing Up in New Zealand is a longitudinal study tracking the development of approximately 7000 New Zealand children from different backgrounds.

The study is important because it provides insights and evidence that help shape policy. Things like paid parental leave, immunisation, family housing and pre- and post-natal depression among mothers and fathers.

Katie Tuck is mum to a child participating in the study. When she found out the funding had been slashed she started a campaign on our community petition platform OurActionStation calling for the restoration of funding and won!

Last month, the government announced a $2 million boost to the study!

Katie says the campaign won because of the “great team of supporters behind the scenes, and various people picking it up and talking about it in the media.”

She says that OurActionStation “gave us a platform to be able to approach media and then something to show the public’s level of concern. It was a helpful vehicle to gather supporters and to demonstrate support for our study.”

A strong start to our campaign to end sexual violence in Aotearoa

Laura and Councillor Fleur Fitzsimons with a banner that reads: Absolutely Positively Sexual Violence Free Wellington

At the beginning of 2018, we surveyed the ActionStation community to ask where you think we should focus our campaign energy for the next 18 months. You told us:

We want systems change to prevent, treat, reduce and end sexual violence in Aotearoa New Zealand for good.

So, in March, in collaboration with Amnesty International, we organised a one-day hui (gathering) with 40 people who work in this space. From there we developed an ambitious plan for change.

In May, we coordinated 130 members of ActionStation to make submissions to Wellington City Council, asking them to declare the city ‘Sexual Violence Free’ and invest more funding into prevention and survivor support.

Then, we sent an open letter to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Finance Minister Grant Robertson calling for greater investment in preventing, reducing, treating and ending sexual violence. The letter has been signed by more than 100 survivors, students, and helping professionals.

We recognise that changing a deeply entrenched culture that has enabled us to have some of the worst sexual abuse rates in the western world requires all of us — local and central government, workplaces, whānau.

You can read our submission to Wellington City Council in full here and watch a video of the delivery here. There was also media coverage of the launch by Māori Television, the Dominion Post and NZ Herald.

We know that many MPs are sympathetic to this cause. Our job over the next 12 months is to give them the strong show of public support that is needed to make this a priority in the long list of work to do. We are looking for people who can:

Thousands of us are still taking action for better mental health services

A restaurant with a menu on a blackboard that reads “Personal and whānau support; income, work and housing; therapies and treatments; spiritual healing; crisis response”

Over 9000 people made submissions to the Government Inquiry into Mental Health and Addiction using our digital tools. The submissions asked for:

  • The need for a system change in the way mental health is treated and talked about in New Zealand. This was made as part of a joint submission with former mental health commissioner Mary O’Hagan;
  • Programmes that develop mindfulness for children. Tash, Kristina and Grant from Mindfulness Education Group and The Kindness Institute want to see more funding for mental skills training for all our children and young people; and
  • ActionStation super-volunteer and Psychotherapist Kyle MacDonald asked the Inquiry to recommend making counselling and talk therapy universally available and free to all New Zealanders.

While the last day for written submissions to the Inquiry was June 5, you can still have your say and meet the panelists at a public event in your town until July. Details here.

We’re working with comedian White Man Behind A Desk to make rental laws better for everyone

Everyone should be able to live in a warm, dry, safe and healthy home.

Yet with the freezing weather sweeping across the country, too many of us are facing cold nights in poor quality rental homes.

Don’t get us wrong, we know there are some great landlords out there who work really hard to look after their tenants. But there are too many who are breaking the rules and people are suffering as a result.

The Labour-led government is starting to take a more hands-on approach to fix the housing crisis. But we know more needs to be done.

We teamed up with the team at White Man Behind A Desk to make an explainer video on renting laws in Aotearoa New Zealand.

You can also sign our petition to ensure everyone in New Zealand can live in a warm, dry home here.

Together we stopped a billion dollar mega-prison

Left: JustSpeak Director Tania delivering 1400+ letters to Parliament. Right: Laura speaking to Māori TV about this campaign

You’ve probably already seen the news, but recently we celebrated the fact that the Government will not be building a mega-prison at Waikeria.

It’s a victory for people power, for evidence based policy, and for the future of our tamariki (children).

Along with our collaborators, JustSpeak, more than 1400 members of the ActionStation community played a part in helping this happen by writing letters to Justice Minister Andrew Little and Corrections Minister Kelvin Davis.

The new mega-prison would have cost a billion dollars. But we want billion dollar investments in our communities. Investments in initiatives that would genuinely help, like better housing, drug and alcohol treatment and community based rehabilitation.

30 years of ‘tough on crime’ rhetoric and policy has made it difficult for us to see the harm that New Zealand’s high rates of imprisonment are inflicting on families. But because it’s been the way our justice system has been for so long, and it’s such a sure-fire way to get fear-based votes, it’s tough for politicians to be bold and forge a new path forward. A path that’s based on prevention, rehabilitation and compassion.

That’s why making our voice heard on justice is so important.

We’re looking for people from all around the country to visit their local MP to discuss how we can transform our justice system to one that’s compassionate and evidence-based.

We will provide training, educational information and support you every step of the way. Will you sign up to meet your local MP?

We’re still working together to increase diversity at local government

Volunteers working hard to get out the vote for Māori representation at local council

Sadly, we didn’t manage to succeed in getting Māori wards established in Kaikōura, Whakatāne, Palmerston North, Manawatū or Western Bay of Plenty.

But what was incredible was the show of people power and aroha (love) among the ActionStation community for supporting local people in their efforts to get more diverse representation on Councils.

This is what we did together:

  • Built an educational website with information and resources;
  • Crowdfunded and distributed 75,000 flyers for local volunteers to hand out;
  • Produced videos for social media that have been viewed almost 20,000 times;
  • Coordinated six opinion pieces in local and national media making the case for Māori wards. Pieces from Whakatāne Mayor Tony Bonne, Western Bay of Plenty District Council Mayor Garry Webber, ex-New Plymouth mayor Andrew Judd, Western Bay of Plenty local Graham Cameron, Wellington-based philanthropist Kate Frykberg and one by me.

My favourite part of this campaign was when a 71 year old Pākehā man on a pension gave a $50 donation toward our work to increase Māori representation in local government.

In his email he said:

“New Zealand society is being a little/very two faced. At Wembley Stadium in London they are quite proud of the Māori tradition with the haka in the rugby. While at home, it appears to me as if the Māori people are treated like second class citizens.

I’d love to see a Māori prime minister, it is long overdue. I send my love and respect to the Māori people.”

It made my heart happy because that’s how you stand alongside and support marginalised and minority people. With pūtea (money), passion, awhi (encouragement) and manaaki (generosity and care for others).

It’s long past time to change the discriminatory law that enabled the referenda on Māori wards. No other ward (e.g. rural) can be subject to a referendum in this way.

That’s why we are asking Minister of Local Government, Nanaia Mahuta to change the law. Will you join us?

We’ve updated our website and added more photos and content!

The homepage of our new website featuring photos and the words: People Powered Change

After months of behind-the-scenes work from our Tech Lead Vim, we’ve moved to a more values-aligned and affordable platform for our website.

It now features more photos, more up-to-date information, and more information about important things like who funds us, who is on our Board and what our values and vision for the future of Aotearoa are. It also means that some of the pages you used to be able to access in the past aren’t available anymore. We’ll be making it even prettier over the months to come, but in the meantime you can check it out here: www.actionstation.org.nz

ActionStation was on TV!

Political scientist Bryce Edwards, Laura O’Connell Rapira and former National Minister Craig Foss on the set of Q+A

I was on Q+A over the long weekend, doing my best to represent the ActionStation community’s views.

The topics being discussed were:

  • The Mycoplasma Bovis outbreak: How did we get here, what do we do next, and what is the future of farming in Aotearoa?
  • Climate change: How does New Zealand reach zero carbon by 2050, and what role does agriculture play in that? Should farming be part of the Emissions Trading Scheme?

I have my own opinions on both. But I sent a survey out to ActionStation members prior to the show to ask for theirs, so I could do my best to represent this community on TV.

Our power and legitimacy comes from your collective action. Our job is to devote our limited resources to ensuring your efforts, your stories, your contributions, your ideas and your voices have the most impact possible — that includes doing my best to represent your views when invited to speak on platforms like this one.

You can watch the panels here and here.

Changes in staff, new Board members

There’s been a bit of change in staff here at ActionStation. We’ve welcomed two new staff members — Yvonne Desmond as our Operations Manager and Leroy Beckett as our Open Democracy Campaigner. Both of them are part-time with us, but full-time awesome! Leroy has led campaigns with Generation Zero Auckland, a youth-led climate solutions organisation, prior to joining us. Yvonne was the Executive Officer of the union that represents doctors and medical specialists for 21 years. We are very lucky to have them!

Rick Zwaan, who has been the Campaigner looking after our economic fairness and transparent democracy campaigns for the past 20 months or so is leaving for a role at the Green Party as the Senior Digital Advisor. Rick is passionate about ensuring a safe climate future for all of us, so while we’re sad to see him go, we wish him all the best in his new role!

I’m also ecstatic to report we had 20 amazing applications for the four available (volunteer) Board positions that we have. It never ceases to amaze me how much energy and wisdom there is in this amazing community of humans. I’ll be in touch after our AGM about who we elect.

We’re holding our AGM and you’re invited!

ActionStation is an incorporated Society with hundreds of members who are the kaitiaki (or guardians) of our movement. They help make sure our financial, operational and strategic choices align with our vision for a fair and flourishing Aotearoa New Zealand.

This year’s AGM will focus on introducing you to the new members of our team, voting for our Board members, approving last year’s financial report and learning more about ActionStation’s operational plans over the next electoral cycle.

You don’t need to be any kind of expert to attend, you just need to be passionate about applying your insight and experience toward guiding the decisions of Aotearoa’s fastest growing people-powered movements!

  • What: ActionStation AGM
  • When: 10am — 3pm, Saturday 7 July
  • Where: Enspiral Dev Academy, 275 Cuba Street, Wellington

Click here to register for our AGM. You don’t need to be an Incorporated Society member to attend!

Phew, that’s all for now! If you’re managed to read all the way to this point, well done you!

I hope you have a spectacular weekend full of aroha (love), laughter and warmth.

More power to you!

Laura, Yvonne, Rick, Leroy, Eliot, Ann, Vim and Polly — your ActionStation team.

We work together to create a society where people and planet are more important than profit and Te Tiriti o Waitangi is honoured.