Monthly dose of hope

What the ActionStation community achieved in July 2018

As we do every month, here is a roundup of all the amazing community-powered efforts for a fair and flourishing Aotearoa New Zealand that have been taking place across ActionStation and the broader movement for progressive social change over the past four weeks.

It will take you about 10 minutes to read, but we promise it’s time well-spent and you’ll finish feeling more hopeful by the end!

Lauren and Ruby won their campaign for better sex education in schools!

Lauren and Ruby presenting their petition to members of the Labour, Greens and National parties last year outside Parliament

Last year almost 6,000 of us got behind (then) high school students Lauren and Ruby’s call for better sex education in schools, especially around consent. They asked that Mates and Dates, a healthy relationships course for secondary school students, be introduced into all high schools in New Zealand.

The programme consists of five hour-long sessions on healthy relationships, consent, gender and identity, what to do when things go wrong, and how to keep safe.

A week ago the Government announced Mates and Dates will be rolled out nationwide with funding of $18 million provided to make sure it expands to reach 180,000 students, up from 37,000 young people.

This is great news! But the work isn’t quite over yet.

Te Whāriki Takapou’s are calling for school programmes that address the specific needs of Māori and Pasifika students.

Government funding for organisations that support victims and survivors of sexual violence have been underfunded for decades and schools still aren’t required to teach about consent or sexual violence prevention. It’s left up to each school to decide. This needs to change.

To find out more about the need for best-practice sexuality education in all schools read this great blog put together by Linley, a volunteer for ActionStation. You can also read this piece for RNZ from Fiona McNamara, General Manager at Sexual Abuse Prevention Network.

You can also sign our petition for changes in the way the government deals with sexual harm and funds it’s treatment and prevention here.

We had conversations with more than 1,000 young people about wellbeing, so we can better inform decision makers’ policy choices

A collage of some of the taiohi (young people) we spoke to at Festival For The Future

Earlier this year, the coalition government announced plans to develop a Child Wellbeing Strategy to make New Zealand the best place in the world to be a child.

While this is an admirable and excellent goal, we wondered what it would look like for Aotearoa New Zealand to be the best place in the world to be a tamaiti (child), a taiohi (young person), a pāke (adult) or a kaumātua (elder).

What if the goal was wellbeing for all?

Through research that was commissioned from us by Ara Taiohi we aimed to help answer at least part of that question.

Between 20 July and 7 August 2018, we gathered the views of more than 1,000 young people (aged 12–24) and a handful of youth workers and policy experts about what youth wellbeing looks like in Aotearoa New Zealand.

We gathered these insights in three ways:

  1. A 28 question online survey answered by 1,045 young people;
  2. 12 interviews with a diverse range of young people, youth workers and researchers with expertise; and
  3. 16 rapid-fire workshops with 149 young people and youth workers.

We’ve just finished the analysis, and I will be presenting our findings to 600 youth workers, policy advisors and politicians at the Involve 2018 conference in Wellington tomorrow morning. We will also be launching the report and a website with our insights shortly after that. Watch this space!

Hope trumped hate as 1,000 people gathered in Aotea Square to say no to racism

A crowd of all ages and ethnicities gathers in Aotea Square with heart-shaped balloons and a sign that says, ‘No room for racism’. Photo by John Darroch.

In response to two internet personalities who recently came to Auckland in an attempt to spread racist and hateful views in our country’s most multicultural city, 1,000 New Zealanders gathered to send the message there is ‘No Room for Racism’ here.

Over the past few weeks, the headlines have tried to position this as a debate about free speech. But it’s important to look at the speech that Southern and Molyneux actually promote.

Southern was part of a group that, in 2017, went to sea to try and block boats of people seeking refuge from war at the height of the Syrian crisis. More than 1,000 men, women, children and babies died at sea that year trying to seek refuge.

While Molyneux believes women, specifically mothers, are responsible for men who harm their families. He also believes and promotes the idea that white people are genetically superior to people of colour.

Reassuringly, the pair were unable to find a venue in Auckland willing to accomodate their hate speech, after hundreds of people, including many well-known New Zealand musicians and promoters, flooded the Facebook page of The Powerstation calling on them to cancel the event.

The ‘No room for racism’ rally was a lovely evening, with sign waving, passionate speeches, and waiata (songs). It was a perfect example of how our free democracy should work.

Congratulations to the community groups involved in organising the safe and peaceful event.

Hundreds of us made submissions to make elections more accessible to people with disabilities

At ActionStation, we believe democracy works best when more of us participate. But currently there are many barriers to participation in elections for people with disabilities.

The Election Access Bill is designed to change that. It’s aim is to make our elections more accessible by creating a fund that people running for parliament, political parties and other groups (like ours) can apply for to make sure their election materials (e.g posters, videos, events, flyers) are accessible to everyone.

The Fund would be able to help with costs like:

  • New Zealand sign language interpreters
  • Accessible transport to and from polling places
  • Support people to help people with disabilities to vote
  • Accessible information (e.g. braille, Easy Read)
  • Inclusive venues for debates and community events

The idea gained unanimous support in its first vote in parliament, meaning it would be taken to select committee where it would receive public input. But we heard during that process there were some concerns about the cost. We think there is nothing more valuable than ensuring our democracy is open and participatory.

196 members of the ActionStation community supported our joint submission. The resounding feedback was that the bill is a crucial step to enable people who are deaf or living with disabilities to have better access to the election process that shapes our country.

We worked with Otago University medical students to amplify the voices of Māori on Māori imprisonment

Whaea Dr Keri Lawson-Te Aho, Laura O’Connell Rapira and the fourth year medical students at Otago University

For the past couple months, we have been collaborating with fourth year medical students from the University of Otago in Wellington to conduct research into Māori attitudes towards our justice system. This was a follow up to some earlier research we had done with the general population.

Here’s what we learned:

  • Almost everyone agreed structural racism,colonisation and intergenerational trauma are the reason those that make up what we call the justice system (police, courts, and corrections) imprison far more Māori than non-Māori. 90% of respondents told us this, compared with just 10% who said the unequal rates of imprisonment of Māori were down to individual choice;
  • Almost everyone thought people in prison should have the right to vote;
  • 76% agreed community-based interventions should be supported and funded instead of prisons, and 70% supporting a focus on interventions for rangatahi (young people); and
  • 65% supported the 100-bed mental health facility planned for Waikeria, but 63% also thought prisons are not good places to provide mental health services.

This quote from a survey participant summed up the general consensus on the final point above:

“Effective health services are needed outside of prison. While I understand that prison is at times, the only place a person is able to get help, it also highlights the need for services prior.”

So, what are we going to do next?

  • We will take your views with us to Hāpaitia te Oranga Tangata — the Safe and Effective Justice Summit the government is holding next week in Porirua. We will urge those in power to put Māori at the forefront of justice debates, developing solutions that will work best for Māori.
  • We will organise for the University of Otago medical students to present the full ‘They’re Our Whānau’ report to the government’s Justice Working Group at a public event in Wellington.
  • We will mobilise compassionate New Zealanders to meet with their MPs and discuss the need for community-based interventions and alternatives to the justice system.
  • We will review the way media are reporting on crime to find out how the myth of rising crime rates are being spread. We will use that research to inform best-practice and make sure New Zealanders see accurate stories of our justice system and stop the rhetoric of fear preventing ambitious reform in the justice space.

If you would like to donate to help make that happen, please chip in here.

We’re still adding our collective power to the chorus of calls for better mental health services

Left: Inquiry panelists Josiah Tualamali’i and Professor Ron Patterson with Kyle McDonald. Right: Mary O’Hagan, Peerzone Director delivering our joint submission

For the last three months, people like you — mums, dads, brothers, sisters, aunties, uncles, partners, grandparents — have been contributing their whakaaro (thoughts) about how our government can improve mental health services, and in turn mental wellbeing, in Aotearoa.

“The Government Inquiry gives us the biggest opportunity I’ve seen in my lifetime to change the system so that no-one is turned away and everyone gets more than just medication.”

— Mary O’Hagan, PeerZone Director

About 50 people gathered in Wellington to present and discuss our submission for a mental health system where no one is turned away with panel members of the mental health inquiry. The submission asked for a range of support to be available to everyone as well as psychiatry. From personal and whānau support; to income, work and housing support; talking therapies and treatments; spiritual healing; and crisis responses.

The recommendations in the submission were based on the Wellbeing Manifesto, developed by PeerZone, a social enterprise run by and for people with mental distress. Almost 2,000 of the ActionStation whānau signed in support of this submission.

Also over 5,000 of us also signed in support of psychotherapist Kyle McDonald’s submission calling for counselling and talk therapy be fully funded for all New Zealanders. Counselling and talk therapy is shown to be a highly effective treatment for mild to moderate depression and anxiety, and in many cases should be the first treatment offered.

People from this community chipped in to get Kyle to Wellington to the presentation this week.

You can hear how it went by catching up on the Nutters Club Show on Newstalk ZB!

We recognise the big challenge facing the panel members as they work towards presenting a report to government that will weave together the input, wishes and stories from us all.

But we also look forward to a time where there is support available for us, our friends and our whānau. We’ll be in touch with you again when the report is out in October or November.

In other mental health campaign news, in August last year 17 year old Zoe Palmer started a campaign to save the specialist Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service in Nelson — a campaign that went from surveying young people, organising public events, connecting with politicians, speaking to media and even making a documentary!

Click here to read more about how she did it: How to run a kick-ass campaign to save your local specialist mental health service (8 minute read)

Is there something in your community that you see needs to change? What have you noticed that needs fixing in the world? Did your friend just say “someone should do something about that!” Be like Zoe, and start a campaign today.

We’re volunteering in numbers to end homelessness for good

At the delivery of the petition for a national strategy to solve homelessness — from left: Shahd Mahmoud (AUT Human Rights), Laura O’Connell Rapira (ActionStation), James Crow (Gimme Shelter), Phil Twyford (MP, now Minister of Housing), Jacinda Ardern (MP, now Prime Minister), Tenisha Kumar (AUT Human Rights) and an ActionStation volunteer.

In 2016, we supported James Crow and the Gimme Shelter campaign for a national strategy to solve homelessness, and nominate a Minister with responsibility of the issue. Last year we achieved that in part, with Housing Minister Phil Twyford taking on homelessness as part of his portfolio.

An important part of James’ campaign was to get accurate data on how many people at any one time are trying to survive with housing. Consistent data collection can give a better understanding of the number of Aucklanders who are living without shelter (on the street and in cars) and their experience of homelessness.

Auckland Council is now supporting the Housing First Auckland collective to organise a census count of people sleeping on the streets.

The census count takes place on 17 September and the information collected will be used by the agencies working to end homelessness. The event has been designed together with people with lived experience and the expertise of the five agencies that make up the Housing First Auckland collective, which include Lifewise and Auckland City Mission.

The collective needs 750 volunteers to make the count work and so far they have about 390. 40 members of the ActionStation community signed up to help out.

If you’re keen to help the Housing First Auckland collective to help people in our community get a home, join us on 17 September.

Details are:

  • Monday 17 September 2018
  • 7.00pm to 12.30am
  • Locations are Auckland-wide

Please note: You need to be over 18 and agree to complete the online training.

We’re hiring a Community Organiser!

Last month, ActionStation was successful in gaining a three-year grant from JR McKenzie Trust to hire a community organiser!

Alongside our campaign staff, this person’s job will be to organise ActionStation members, and others, to hold political, cultural and corporate leaders to account for the things they say and do on Tiriti o Waitangi and race; increase Māori representation and participation in politics, and strengthen connections and solidarity between Māori and non-Māori for a fairer, more flourishing and vibrant future.

They will also support campaign staff to organise more online to offline actions across our healthy water/rivers, compassionate justice system, open democracy and ending sexual violence campaigns.

Applications close Sunday 18 August at 8pm. Find out more and apply here.

If you’ve got this far, thanks so much for taking the time to read about all of our favourite highlights from the past month.

We love writing these roundups because they give us such a wonderful sense of hope and possibility for the more beautiful, caring future we know is out there.

We hope it does the same for you too.

With hope and determination,
Laura, Madeleine, Eliot, Ann, Yvonne, Vim, Leroy 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.

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