Food and success on a shite income.


This is not a conversation about fresh fruit, vegetables, organics, consciously consuming, sugary foods, fat or obesity.  It is a conversation of eating while you can, and when the opportunity arises, eating until you are full. This is a conversation about pride and dignity and wanting to offer food to your visitors and skipping meals to stretch out what’s left. This is a conversation about Food Security.

There is a rationale to food choices on low incomes, it is quite simply the largest number of individual food items that be purchased for the sum of money left after rent and utilities. With three kids at school this is about packing lunchboxes with numbers of items because the fear that someone will think you cannot feed your children is real. Filling is far more important than nutritional value.

Weeks with canned baked beans, creamed corn or spaghetti for 89cents are akin to unexpected winnings.  These are the weeks that the loaves of the cheapest bread will be eaten with something other than jam.  The ability to enter a supermarket and leave with six bags of groceries instead of two bags for the week defines success for parents raising children on low incomes in Aotearoa.

This is where you discover that adults can get by without breakfast, hell there’s people out there who choose not to eat breakfast or choose to restrict their food intake by measuring calories and then there are people who choose not to eat in order to ensure there will be two meals a day for most of the week. This is a privilege check not a health check.

Collecting day old food rescue bread from the community house means there is another $8.40 to spend. The bread is always hard though and pretty tough to eat but it doubles as dinner when you pull out the insides and bake a can of cream corn in it. That $8.40 really matters.

Food security walks hand in hand with the abuses perpetrated against people accessing financial support from Work and Income and the abuses of employers who refuse to commit to regular permanent or even full time hours for their lowest paid and most vulnerable staff. The abuses committed by those employers who claim they can only afford minimum wage pay rates and a guaranteed 6 hours a week of work. It’s the predecessor to moving house, to going without shoes, to almost any financial decision that could give away the real struggle going on at home.

As the rhetoric on poverty 2017 is being tested by politicians and variations of the usual soundbites are being rolled out, “poor people are druggies who don’t want to work, poor people are dirty and unable to care for a home, there’s work out there if you really want it and the perennial millennial favourite that young people just don’t want to work”. These pre-election narratives that repeated often enough will be believed as true,  setting up the shared belief that there is a common enemy – people who are unemployed or impoverished.

This year it’s more important than ever that we challenge the narrative – affordable $400k homes will not help us.  Decent affordable rentals, state homes, secure jobs with decent wages and ensuring the Social Welfare Act upholds the dignity and respect of people in Aotearoa are the short term necessities. Deliver a government that delivers these, then we can talk about the longer term possibilities of Universal Basic Income – not before.









Who are the Beneficiaries?

It’s time to stop labelling people who are entitled to WINZ benefits, pensions and allowances as beneficiaries.
The term beneficiary indicates a person or group that receives a benefit as in either a profit or advantages from a benefactor, insurance policy or inheritance. In other words, it infers a windfall that is not the product of my own labour and that I will benefit from whatever I receive. I have yet to meet anyone accessing entitlements from WINZ that has benefited from that arduous interaction and the subsistence to which WINZ condemns them.
The effect of labelling people as beneficiaries contributes to the construction of a social identity that supports a story of freeloading and profiteering and in turn upholds the neo liberal rhetoric which describes people accessing support as lazy bludgers who are somehow advantaged. This rhetoric also disregards the working poor who are reliant on allowances and supplements in order to maintain their own subsistence in Aotearoa.
Separating beneficiaries from low income earners sets up a relationship tension that pits low income earners against beneficiaries and deflects away from the shared experience of income inequality. This means that dominant power relationships are sustained as class constructs that define the deserving poor and the poor. I define low income as any person earning less than a full living wage because regardless of where that income comes from, subsistence and the inability to fully participate in society is the shared reality of low income people.
Bonnie Robinson wrote a paper for the Foodbanks conference of 1996 titled “Some Attitudes about Poverty in NZ.” The paper identified four attitudes towards poverty and each of those attitudes still exists and is expressed and perpetuated in political discourse and media commentary, both dominant influencers of attitudes. I recommend the article as a poignant reminder of how little progress has been made in the twenty years since that paper was written.
Robinson wrote of the plight of low income people and described the day to day live reality as “For such people, poverty is not a character-building activity. It is a daily and constant reality that wears their financial, physical and emotional resources to zero.”
I’m musing on this subject as a beneficiary advocate who worries that the very language we use to advocate on behalf of beneficiaries could further stigmatise and perpetuate attitudes and constructs about poverty and how that connects to low incomes. Beneficiary is an inaccurate label, these are people that subsist on low incomes and there are no benefits to living this way.


Pride and Protest

Pride marches and events are rooted in protest. They are the LGBTTIQ* version of “Fuck you! I won’t do what you tell me”.

The controversy surrounding the greeting of the National party representatives at BGO has been responded to by a number of representative groups, media commentators and individuals on social media. The presence of TPPA protesters, the participation of ‘straights’ and then the Prime Minister’s post BGO comments which focussed on Greens and Mana representatives discounted “gay and lesbian” participation and have provided a perfect opportunity to talk about how we report on and uphold our democratic right to protest as LGBTTIQ* communities.

The Prime Minister’s comment that, “with all due respect, the TPP (Trans Pacific Partnership) is not a gay and lesbian issue” is a common example of the way everyday citizens silence or reduce the needs of LGBTTIQ* communities to a single issue minority voice. “With all due respect” is an adverb politicians and debaters use to signal that they are about to disagree or in this case criticise an action or statement. It’s akin to that person that says “some of my best friends are trans* but . . . .” In the context of the Prime Minister’s comments this was an example of a heteronormative world-view that excludes LGBTTIQ* communities from having a view on anything other than marriage equality and HIV/Aids in healthcare.

We do it ourselves too. LGBTTIQ* representatives responded yesterday and made a connection with HIV/Aids drugs in order to make it easier for the mainstream media to get the ‘relevance’ to LGBTTIQ* communities. While this is an issue for our communities, so are homelessness, youth suicide, access to healthcare, workplace discrimination and exclusion, access to affordable education and living everyday in a fixed societal gender binary that excludes, silences and torments so many people within LGBTTIQ* communities.

The Prime Minister also neatly inferred that the Mana and Greens representatives were out of place, just a few straights, troublemakers who had no place at the BGO. The failure to recognise MP’s from the LGBTTIQ* communities alongside the importance of straight allies in regard to the advancement of rights is both disrespectful and divisive. One could be excused from thinking that it was a homophobic strategy to close down the voices of LGBTTIQ* activists and their allies.

The Prime Minister went on to say “there’s a hell of a lot of people there who are celebrating their sexuality and who are celebrating the gains that have been made for gay and lesbian rights”. We should be concerned that the elected leader of our country has an expectation that communities will annually celebrate historical movements in the achievement of gay and lesbian rights and not seek to improve the rights and everyday challenges faced by Trans*, Intersex, Bisexual, Queer and Takataapui communities.

The TPPA, Climate Action and all changes to the laws and acts that govern this country are not and never have been sexuality issues, they are issues of citizenship and democracy and if the rights of the LGBTTIQ* communities are as advanced as the Prime Minister would have us believe we would not be protesting alongside our straight allies and other concerned citizens of Aotearoa/New Zealand.

The gain of legislative equality has done little to protect LGBTTIQ* from either overt or subtle discrimination and bullying from families, work colleagues or other aspects of day to day life. The shock and horror responses that ‘it’s illegal’ do nothing to creating a more inclusive society that respects and accepts diversity in all of it’s colours, shapes and forms. What the Prime Minister has achieved is an illustration of how our communities continue to experience homophobia and oppression through both language and heterosexual privilege everyday.

This weekend the Pride March will take place in Auckland and the idea that Pride is a celebration of the gifting of rights to the LGBTTIQ* communities will be promulgated in all of the mainstream media. There will be screams of anguish from the sidelines as community activists use this one day in the spotlight to try and improve the lives of those who the Prime Minister and our heteronormative society make invisible every day by upholding their right to protest.

Protests did take place at the Pride March and unsurprisingly the media appears to have been selective in their sourced comments. The protest group led a successful inconvenience action that won some media coverage and  encouraged wider conversation among queer activists in Aotearoa. I look forward to being a part of progressing the Pride, Protest and Inclusion discussion.

I Voted Today

Kasey's Blog

As a registered elector in New Zealand at the age of 18, I cast my first vote today. Today I got to have my say on the issue of the New Zealand Flag and whether we should change it or keep it. As someone who has been excited about voting for a long time, I was pretty stoked to get a voting slip in the mail when I got home.

When I opened the packet, there was information about voting, how to vote written in most languages, images of the two flags in the same contexts flying proudly as emblems of New Zealand. There was a simple piece of paper that had two big boxes, one of which I would eventually tick. Emphasis on eventually.

Voting is tough. It’s official. It’s very real. When you cast a vote you set in stone that in the moment you ticked a box this…

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To the people- a reply to “Against Conservative Leftism”


On February 4th upwards of 20,000 people descended on central Auckland to protest against the signing of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement. Big sections of that crowd actively participated in blockades, shutting down the central city. It was an exciting and powerful display of popular power- as well as an active challenge to those wanting to drive radical change in Aotearoa. This massive exercise in popular power showed what is possible, the question facing radical leftists now is how can this energy be harnessed to bring forward a new generation of organisers?

However, not everyone sees it this way. In the aftermath of this rally, Fightback published an article by Daphne Lawless titled “Against Conservative Leftism”, which began with a decidedly pessimistic view of these rallies. The article begins with the rally- but rather than being upbeat at the unprecedented protest – it polemicized against its participants. Supposedly, too many people carried…

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Being A Girl: A Brief Personal History of Violence

The Belle Jar


I am six. My babysitter’s son, who is five but a whole head taller than me, likes to show me his penis. He does it when his mother isn’t looking. One time when I tell him not to, he holds me down and puts penis on my arm. I bite his shoulder, hard. He starts crying, pulls up his pants and runs upstairs to tell his mother that I bit him. I’m too embarrassed to tell anyone about the penis part, so they all just think I bit him for no reason.

I get in trouble first at the babysitter’s house, then later at home.

The next time the babysitter’s son tries to show me his penis, I don’t fight back because I don’t want to get in trouble.

One day I tell the babysitter what her son does, she tells me that he’s just a little boy, he doesn’t know…

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