Kiwi Hero: Jazmine Heka
One thing that I find about writing this Blog, is reporting on all the unpleasant things that are happening in our country; our communities; at this very moment. Whether it’s high unemployment; pollution in our rivers and coastline; constant attacks on welfare beneficiaries; racism; cutbacks in our social services; the growing gap between the wealthy and the poor; a rather nasty anti-union campaign on Auckland’s waterfront… after a while, I can fully understand why 100,000 of my fellow New Zealanders shipped off to Australia.
Half the time I wonder why I’m still here.
Nah, I ain’t going anywhere. It’s too hot over there; they have snakes; crocodiles; spiders the size of a small car; dinosaurs, mutant kangaroos, and god knows what else. Plus, they speak funny. (It’d take too long to teach our Aussie cuzzies how to speak proper English – like we Kiwis do.)
Anyway, every so often, there is a ray of sunshine that pokes through the gloom of bad news. Like this one, the story of Ms Jazmine Heka. She’s 16 years old. And she has more compassion and wisdom than half the adult population in this country. She certainly shows greater awareness than our current batch of political leaders.
Because Jazmine Heka, at age 16, and when other young women her age are out flirting with post-adolescent boys with acne and over-powered cars, is different.
Jazmine Heka cares.
Jazmine watched Bryan Bruce’s document, Inside Child Poverty – and came away disgusted; angry; and confused as to how something like this could be happening in our own country. And well she might; New Zealand was supposedly a wealthy country with an abundance of food and resources.
What has gone so terribly wrong?
Jazmine’s response to the documentary was perfectly normal. Any sane, compassionate, person would have viewed Bruce’s documentary about our crisis in poverty, with similar feelings of outrage and disgust.
Those that viewed it – and simply shrugged it off – did so because they have become inured to life’s hardships and uncertainties. For many of us, poverty and other social ills have become a normal aspect to everyday life. For many well-off, middle-class folk, poverty is “somewhere over there” and “beyond our ability to deal with“.
For many of us, we have “normalised” poverty; inequality; poor housing; lack of food; lack of adequate incomes; and lack of hope.
Those living in poverty live the same “train wreck” of their lives; day-after-day; week-after-week; their families; their community – and no hope of ever getting out. For these families, a life of poverty is also “normalised“.It’s all they’ve had and all they are likely to ever have.
Meanwhile, products and images of products of a wealthy, consumerist society is all around these poverty-trapped families.
Eventually, those who suffer such hardship cannot cope any further with the constant stresses, of their dismal lives. Some cease to care. Others lose themselves in anger, fueled by cheap, plentiful alcohol and drugs. Brutalised beyond any measure of comprehension by Middle New Zealand, they commit acts of self-harm and violence to others that the rest of us find inexplicable.
Try to explain to Middle New Zealand why a bunch of young people would torment an infant until it died from it’s injuries and internal bleeding – and you’d get a blank look.
Or, most likely, it is blamed upon the parent(s) and immediate family for abusing to death their child. Only then do we, as a society, take an interest in that family, as they are put through the Court system; paraded on our television “news” each night; and we shake our collective heads in dismay and wonder what kind of “animal” kills it’s own young.
A stressed, abused, mal-treated “animal” – that’s what kind.
When things go terribly bad in poverty-stressed families, it is not the start of a crisis – it is the end-result; a culmination, of years of living in squalid conditions that few of us have ever experienced.
That is poverty. Or, at least, a visible part of it.
Most families, of course, don’t end up killing or bashing their children. As Jazmine quoted, 22% of children in New Zealand live in poverty. And most families do the best they can, with limited money, and constant demands for that money; rent, electricity, food, medical bills, school costs, transport…
Most families survive. Even our Prime Minister grew up as a child to a solo-mother in State House. Of course, John Key not only had a state house over his head, but had the benefit of a free, tax-payer funded tertiary education.
That’s right folks. Mr Key went to University prior to 1992, before student fees were introduced. He may even have had access to a student allowanvce that was commonly accessible those days. And his mother didn’t have to pay for prescription medicines – those were free, before Rogernomics came into play.
State house. Free education. Free prescription medicines.
That was all replaced with User Pays. National sold off about 13,000 state houses in the 1990s. And medical care became more and more expensive.
At the same time, taxes were cut seven times since 1986; gst was introduced; and User Pays and higher government charges made living more and more expensive for those on low incomes.
As the economy was de-regulated in the late 1980s, factories that had once employed locals to produce locally made goods closed down – and instead we had them produced and imported from China, India, Pakistan, Vietnam, Fiji, and other low-wage economies.
That’s called “exporting jobs”.
In return, we got cheap shoes from China – and growing poverty in New Zealand. Most unfair of all, it is children growing up in poor families that bear the brunt of our 27 year old free market economy.
Though that’s not to say there haven’t been success stories. For a few, anyway,
It’s not hard to see who benefitted most from seven tax cuts in the last 26 years.
In turn, Fonterra plans to re-introduce milk in low-decile schools – something not seen in New Zealand since 1967. A return to school milk seems indicative where we have arrived as a nation: full circle since 1937, when free milk was first introduced in schools throughout the country to fight poverty’s effects on children.
And here we are – back again.
Even National was promising something similar, in February 2007, when John Key was Leader of the Opposition. Perhaps this was a political “stunt” – who knows,
But it’s even more of a harsh reality now.
I’ve even emailed John Key, to ascertain what happened, to his “Food in Schools” programme,
to: Prime Minister John Key <email@example.com>
date: Wed, Jan 11, 2012 at 9:16 AM
subject: National launches its Food in Schools programme
On 4 February 2007, you released a Press Release headed, “National launches its Food in Schools programme”.
As outlined in Bryan Bruce’s document, “Child Poverty”, there is a growing problem of poorly fed, malnourished children in NZ. Could you please advise what progress your government has made in the area of providing meals for children in low-decile schools?
This issue is a critical one. Poorly fed children do not do well in the classroom, and this results in difficulties further along in their lives, including social dislocation; poor education; unemployment; and more expensive interaction with government services.
Thankyou for your time,
Blogger, “Frankly Speaking“
I’ve received an acknowledgement and that the email was passed on to Education Minister Hekia Parata. But nothing further.
This, to me, is why it is so important that good men and women like Bryan Bruce, Jazmine Heka, Kidscan, Child Poverty Action Group, etc, raise our consciousness on these matters. These problems will not go away by themselves. They must be resolved with planning, determination, and money.
But more importantly, Bryan Bruce and Jazmine Heka need our collective voices to aid them, and to back them up. Bryan and Jazmine and many others are working to fix a problem that should never have been allowed to grow and fester. But it’s here now, and we have to deal with it.
As Judy Callingham wrote on Brian Edwards’ blog,
“The government has prioritised a number of policies to stimulate the economy in an effort to get us out of the current recession. None of these policies, to my mind, tackles head-on the most urgent task of all – eliminating ‘child poverty’.
This should be the number one priority. Nothing is more important. Nothing is going to stimulate the economy better in the long run than having our kids grow up healthy and well educated. It’s a damn sight more important than ultra-fast broadband and super-highways.”
“I think it’s amazing what you’re doing. A lot of our people are disheartened, they’ve given up. The standard of living of people in New Zealand is shocking, people are struggling. It’s something the government needed to address a long time ago. If adults say it they think we’re just complaining, or it’s our own inadequacies. Her voice will get through, that’s the cool thing. “
Last year, the combined raised voices of Wellingtonians stopped the Wellington Airport from erecting a silly sign on the Miramar hillside. (Instead, they erected a marginally less-silly sign.)
And the year before that, in 2010, the collective anger of New Zealanders stopped the National government dead-in-its-tracks to mine on Schedule 4 Conservation lands.
I believe that with the same support for Bryan, Jazmine, and other community groups fighting poverty, that this government can be made to pay attention to this problem.
I believe that, acting together, there is no reason why we cannot achieve our common goal of beginning to solve this growing crisis in our communities. None whatsoever.
So let’s help Jazmine to help New Zealand.
Snailmail: PO Box 585, Whangarei 0140.
For a better New Zealand…
~ Cleaner rivers
~ No deep-sea oil drilling
~ Less on Roads - more on Rail
~ A Living wage at $18.40/hr
~ Marriage equality - Yay! Got that one!
~ Strong, effective Unions
~ No secret free-trade deals
~ Breakfast/lunches in our schools
~ Introducing Civics into our school curriculum
~ Cut back on the liquor industry
~ A fairer, progressive tax system
~ Fully funded, free healthcare
~ Ditto for education, including Tertiary
~ Fund Pharmac for Pompe's Disease medication & other 'orphan' drugs
~ No state asset sales!
~ Rebuild public TV broadcasting!
~ Keeping farms in local ownership
~ Reduce poverty, like we reduced the toll for road-fatalities
~ Jobs, Jobs, Jobs!
~ Being nice to each other
- December 2013
- November 2013
- October 2013
- September 2013
- August 2013
- July 2013
- June 2013
- May 2013
- April 2013
- March 2013
- February 2013
- January 2013
- December 2012
- November 2012
- October 2012
- September 2012
- August 2012
- July 2012
- June 2012
- May 2012
- April 2012
- March 2012
- February 2012
- January 2012
- December 2011
- November 2011
- October 2011
- September 2011
- August 2011
- July 2011