Thursday, March 10, 2022

How it began and how it is going now...

Last week Annie and I were at the opshop when we found this embroidery hoop. 
We looked at it in astonishment because it was our family as it used to be. 
Even with Mondo (our dog who died) and Kenny who lives with us now. 
It was so weird, we could not work it out, who else had a family just like ours?
 but it was $4 so we took it home to ponder over.

I have been making a conscious effort to talk about the times before with Annie, 
the fun things that we did and things like the camping trips we had.
A 22 year relationship was a mixture of things and now that it is 
seven years in my rear view mirror, it is easier to remember the good things.

I think it is a good thing to be able to recognise the good parts of a relationship.
To notice the times when we had fun together,
and the things that we did that made us a family.

Like the time when we first got Mondo and we took him around to visit all our friends.
Or the overnight tramps that we did before my hips gave up.
We did a lot of renovation projects and ate a lot of microwave popcorn.
We had Nana come every Monday night for dinner,
and she always brought Arnotts Animal Biscuits and a carton of Just Juice.

Speaking of Nana, she is 99 now and a bit poorly. 
She moved to a different room in the rest home.
I think this embroidery was actually hers, and it was our actual family.
I'm guessing they had a clear out and it went to the opshop.

We have just recently starting hanging photos of ourselves on the wall.
It's the first time in seven years that we have and I think it is a sign that
we are feeling like a family again. 
I've hung the picture of our family as it used to be on the wall too.
Because that is how it all began.

It looks a bit different now, but that is ok.
Have no regrets they say, and it is true.
It is also true that things will not always be the same.
They change, both for good and for bad.

But either way, the past will always be part of us
and I think it is a grand idea to make peace with it.


Tuesday, March 8, 2022

Thanks to the great women in my life...

Today it is International Women's day.  It might be a day overtaken by businesses using it for marketing, but I for one am so so grateful that I have so many amazing women in my life. For example, today I have...

  • worked with some amazing passionate women
  • talked to women, I listened to women and I advocated for women
  • listened to some excellent advice from my manager (a woman with presence)
  • took some treats to my sister who probably has Covid
  • messaged my women friends
  • took my youngest daughter with me in the car and we did chores together and chatted about stuff
  • listened to my strong wonderful friend talk about women who never found the limelight
I'm not usually that keen to celebrate International women's day, but this year I am working in a new role and I share this role with an incredible woman. I was initially very anxious about what it would be like, sharing work with someone else and I joked that it was like an arranged marriage. I have discovered that it is a wonderful thing to have a coworker in management who listens to what you say and does not feel obliged to belittle you in any way. Someone who truly has your back and that you can trust.  Someone who is working every bit as hard as you are. Someone who you genuinely like and can be honest with. 

So this year, I'm just taking a moment to be so grateful, and to celebrate the truly good women in my life. I know I have always had good women in my life (hi mum, hi to my sisters) but it is a new thing for me to work with women and it's so so good.

(The photo is a picture of my friend Miriam Fisher's work. She has done a thesis that includes hours and hours of handwork. Her exhibition is called A Whakapapa of Faith - conversations in stitch and poetry and you can see it till Sunday March 13  from 10am - 4:30pm every day at the Pūmanawa Gallery at The Arts Centre.)

Tuesday, December 14, 2021

Final Assignment

Today I give my final presentation of my practice framework to my Fieldwork Educator and to the University of Canterbury Placement Supervisor.
It's been a long journey these last three and a half years
and this year has absolutely been the hardest.
But it is worth it.

I've come a long way from that Playcentre mum who was doing the courses
and finding that she could! Up to that point, I was not sure that I had any brains at all.
It was my sister Sharon who suggested that I apply for university.
Such a thing had never crossed my mind.

I wondered what I could give up so that I could fit it in.
I decided to give up sleep and enrolled in a Massey University paper.
I got up at 5am and studied for two hours for a whole semester
and passed with an A.

I was amazed.
So then I made a lot of changes and enrolled part time at University of Canterbury.
During the time I was studying my BA I become a single parent
and then I supported my family writing websites for a few years.

During this time, I was in Pysch Emergency with someone,
and there was an amazing social worker there (I've forgotten her name)
She was so good. I thought, I could do that.
So when I was made redundant from one of my jobs,
I signed up to do my masters.

 And here I am three and a half years later,
about to do the final task.
I've had a lot of support from my friends and family,
or I would not have made it.
It's been truly hard mahi.

But I'm so so grateful to be at today.
I made it.

Sunday, November 21, 2021

A post about my garden because I love my garden

At the beginning of this year we cleared all the rubbish off our back yard
and a friend built some garden beds.
Our neighbour sourced some free bark for the paths
and helped us lay it.
Another friend sprayed the weeds.

Yet another friend gives us plants.
And Annie and I work away at keeping the weeds at a semi acceptable level
and plant as many things in our garden as we can.

Quite a lot of our stuff bolts straight off to seed
or gets infested with white fly.
But we don't care because our chickens and our neighbour's chickens
eat the greens and give us eggs.
We planted 15 fruit trees (thanks to our family and friends
who gifted us $$ to buy them)

We wanted flowers and we have flowers.
We have a beehive too which we love far more than we ever imagined we would.
We eat lots of parsley and mint and silverbeet.
We ate about 70 leeks.
We grow chives and celery successfully.
And lettuce very badly.

But mostly Annie and I just love being out in the garden.
I pull weeds for the chickens and Annie chats about her day.
It's been an absolute lifesaver this year.

It is the cottage garden of my dreams.
It is perfectly imperfect.

Wednesday, November 17, 2021

Not an argument

I finished my last big assignment this week, a 7000 word research report. 
And now the words that have been wandering around in my head
are starting to collect together and here I find myself at my blog again.

Some of you know that I grew up in a cult. 
I spent my growing up years believing that our way was the right way
and everyone else was going to hell.

I spent my growing up years knowing that we were different from everyone else
and thinking that was the only way to be.

I spent my growing up years, following rules that someone else set
and believing that it was ok to be miserable in this life
because apparently heaven was going to be worth it.

But now I've been out in the big wide world for quite a while. 
Longer than I was in the closed world actually.

I've learned that life is not black and white.
I've learned that even though it is scary to live in the grey areas,
that there is so much possibility and grace there.

And now here we are living through a once in a life time event (hopefully)
a Global Pandemic.

Unprecedented times they say.

It feels a bit like the end times we used to hear about in church to be honest.
Lots of fear and plenty of misinformation.

And I think because I've been living in the wide world for a long time now,
I find I don't want to engage in that kind of fear mongering.

I'm double vaccinated and so are all my family.
I work in social services, my clients are vulnerable.

There are 101 reasons why I think it is a good idea to be vaccinated.

I'd hope if you love me and I love you,
that we can be friends. I just want everyone to be safe.

I don't have it in me to argue. I spent my growing up years doing that futilely.
Sometimes we have to realise we don't have all the answers
and do the best with the information that we have at the time.

And I can't forget all of my upbringing.
Jesus said to follow the rules of the land.
I'm pretty confident he would have been vaccinated
after all his parents went to get counted when they were told to.

Monday, August 30, 2021

Pom pom joy

When I was a child I remember making a pom pom. In my memory it took months and months to carefully thread the wool round and round the cardboard circle, poking the wool through the centre over and over. But it was like magic when mum cut down the centre and suddenly it was a fluffy pom pom.

My mum isn't really into being crafty, although she's a fantastic knitter. But I'm thankful that she made the time to teach my tiny self a few things. There was a cardboard with a seahorse punched in that I "sewed" around. The pom poms, lots of scrap books and lots of playdough.

I can remember mum hammering nails into a cotton reel and teaching me how to do what we called french knitting through the centre of the cotton reel. I can't remember every doing anything with it, but I've always been more about the process than the finished product!

I'd been thinking about making a pom pom for a while. Annie has a half done one lying around somewhere and I had a bunch of little pieces of wool left over from doll cardigans. Last night I used the cardboard box from a packet of disposable face masks (very 2021) and sat down with a basket of wool and a safety pin and made a pom pom.

I was amazed at how much fun it was, and also that I could make five in one evening! These are so random, made from all sorts of odds and ends. I don't know what I'll do with them, maybe a garland; or maybe I'll just hang the on the wall and admire them.

I heartily recommend spending some time on the sofa with some scraps of wool and turning them into a little ball off fluffy goodness. 


Tuesday, July 7, 2020

My essay reflecting on my learnings from the Bicultural and Indigenous Studies paper

I wrote an essay reflecting on my key learning from a paper on Bicultural and Indigenous studies that I did as part of my social work training. I was writing it against the backdrop of the consequences of the murder of George Floyd by four policemen in America. It seemed appropriate to be wrestling with what I learned about what racism means and what systems underline it while Black Lives Matter protests are being held all around the world. I decided to share an edited version of my essay here.

For most of the semester I walked around with a pain in my heart because of the things I was reading and hearing and because I couldn’t see how any of us could make a difference. However in the last two weeks of the semester, things have changed and although I will not even pretend to have all the answers, I am starting to see what my part is and what I can do going into the future. I have learned that the feeling of powerlessness was me making this about me and my feelings; whereas this is not about me, this is about an underlying racist system that I benefit from and that I need to be open to listen and to have the knowledge what to say when I need to speak up.

On reflection, there are a handful of stand out moments for me from this paper. The first was the lecture by Emma Maurice on generational trauma. This was the first time I had heard about the effects of colonisation in this context. I knew that colonisation created systemic inequality for Māori, but it was the first time I had heard about trauma as a consequence of the loss or injury of their lands, culture and traditional manner of living (Reid, Taylor-Moore & Varona, 2014). I learned that it is well recognised that generational trauma is carried in our bodies leaving lasting consequences across the years till today (Menakem, 2017). Trauma combined with an underlying racially biased system contributes to the inequality that we see in society. As an example, one of the effects of trauma is that it leaves you vulnerable and unable to process when things go wrong, it means you are one step closer to not being able to cope; and understanding trauma, puts into context things like mental health statistics for Māori (Te Puni Kōkiri, 2017).

I was really impacted by a reading where I realised that bi-cultural in a New Zealand context meant Māori and then everyone else, especially seeing the “everyone else” was basically a european/pakeha framework and system. Unfortunately because of Covid I wasn’t able to print my readings and underline them and so I cannot find this reading again to reference it, however I still want to mention it because it made such an impression on me. Once it was pointed out in such a clear way, it is easy to see that the political and social systems are overwhelmingly set up in a Pakeha model as opposed to a Māori model (Sibley & Liu, 2007). Recognising my white privilege is the starting point to the work I need to do to learn where I fit in this and what I can do differently.

“White privilege doesn’t mean your life hasn’t been hard, it means your skin tone isn’t one of the things making it harder…. White privilege exists as a direct result of both historic and enduring racism, biases and practices designed to oppress people of colour. White privilege means you actively benefit from the oppression of people of colour.” (Ahn, 2020).

Next there was a zoom meeting in my group project where we were discussing tina rangatiratanga especially in relation to whakapapa, tikanga and mana (Kōkiri, 2010). We talked about what could be achieved if we could write policy that gave Māori the tino rangatiratanga to use their cultural ways and traditions to make decisions for themselves (Durie, 1998). In our group we imagined a New Zealand where Iwi were properly funded to set up education and health and corrections with a marae at the heart of it all. The next week we listened to Sacha McMeeking give us a lecture over zoom and in it she articulated the story of the marae that developed an after school program, a school and a food business and how all the things fitted together (Manaaki, 2017). We discussed it after the lecture, how amazing it was when Māori did things their way and the mana it gave the project and how all of the values fitted together for the benefit of everyone (not just Māori). It was encouraging actually to hear about the principles in action when there is the appropriate funding and resources.

The last aspect I wanted to mention was for me the one I struggled with the most. If you had asked me at the beginning of the year what racism was, I would have said it is the way that we treat someone differently because of the colour of their skin, their religion or where they came from. I would have said I was not racist. But through the process of learning in this paper, the lectures, the readings and the discussions, I have come to see that it is much much more than that. Racism is really a whole system of oppression that I benefit from (Oluo, 2019). A political and social system set up in a European based manner on the land that was stolen from Māori with no regard for the tangata whenua of New Zealand. Worse than this, it was a sustained and deliberate attack on Māori language, culture and way of living that carried on from almost the moment the ink dried on the Treaty of Waitangi until now (Reid, Taylor-Moore & Varona, 2014). When you think about white privilege and racism and hold them up against tino rangatiratanga, it makes me ashamed to even be here. It feels so wrong to be growing vegetables in my little house on land that was stolen from Ngai Tahu (O’Regan, Palmer & Langton, 2006). But my great grandparents came to New Zealand long before I was born, I cannot change that. But what I can do is recognise that the system is set up in my favour, that I am privileged by my skin colour in a manner that I do not deserve. The fact is, that Māori are over represented in every single negative statistic (Marie, Fergusson & Boden, 2008). I can understand that all of these terrible statistics are a result of colonialism, trauma as the result of colonialism and a deeply flawed and faulty system that still discriminates against Māori today.
“Racism is a complex system of social and political levers and pulleys set up generations ago to continue working on the behalf of whites at other people’s expense, whether whites know/like it or not. “ (Woods, 2014).

How will this learning influence my future social work practice? The role of a social worker in New Zealand is covered by a code of ethics (Aotearoa New Zealand Association of Social Workers, 2013). Article 1.7 states that “Members accept the responsibility of their status and are actively anti-racist in their practice.” This sums it up really quite neatly: first accept the responsibility of the privilege that my white skin and the way society is structured and then secondly be actively anti-racist in my practice. In a practical sense, this means that I need to listen more and talk less. I need to be aware constantly of my own bias and world view; and actively listen to my client or service user to see what their world view, their own goals and their own motivations are. I’m ashamed to say that it really has been a revelation to think about what informs privilege in this way and I am acutely aware that I have a lot to learn. In the words of Rabbi Sandra:

“You are either racist or anti-racist. Those are the two choices. The latter meaning you are working everyday either emotionally or physically to dismantle the racism that we all have been taught since day one…”
In conclusion I learned about the relationship between colonisation and generational trauma and how it affects all of the statistics regarding Māori such as health, wellbeing, crime and so on. I learned about white privilege and how the system is a Pakeha system set up to benefit the Pakeha. I learned about the power of tino rangatiratanga and how the Māori way is actually so powerful and inclusive for everyone, not just Māori. And finally I learned about a system of oppression that disadvantages Māori. I recognise that I have a lot to learn and I accept that it is my responsibility to do the mahi and to commit to continuous learning. Or as the Code of Ethics says, “to actively promote the rights of Tangata Whenua to utilise Tangata Whenua social work models of practice and ensure the protection of the integrity of Tangata Whenua in a manner which is culturally appropriate (Aotearoa New Zealand Association of Social Workers, 2013).


Ahn, C. (2020). A Guide to White Privilege. Retrieved from June 2020.

Aotearoa New Zealand Association of Social Workers. (2013). Code of ethics. ANZASW National Office.

Durie, M. H. (1998). Te Mana, Te Kāwanatanga: the politics of self determination. Auckland, Oxford University Press.

Kōkiri, T. P. (2010). Arotake Tūkino Whānau: Literature review on family violence. Wellington, New Zealand: Author.

Manaaki (2017). About us. Retrieved from June 2020.

Marie, D., Fergusson, D. M., & Boden, J. M. (2008). Educational achievement in Māori: The roles of cultural identity and social disadvantage. Australian Journal of Education, 52(2), 183-196.

Menakem, R. (2017). My Grandmother's hands: Racialized trauma and the pathway to mending our hearts and bodies. Central Recovery Press.

Oluo, I. (2019). So you want to talk about race. Seal Press.

O’Regan, T., Palmer, L., & Langton, M. (2006). Keeping the fires burning: grievance and aspiration in the Ngai Tahu Settlement. Settling with indigenous people: modern treaty and agreement-making, 44-65.

Rabbi Sandra. (2020, May 31). Let me be clear. You are either racist or anti-racist. Retrieved from June 2020.

Reid, J., Taylor-Moore, K., & Varona, G. (2014). Towards a social-structural model for understanding current disparities in Māori health and well-being. Journal of Loss and Trauma, 19(6), 514-536.

Sibley, C. G., & Liu, J. H. (2007). New Zealand= bicultural? Implicit and explicit associations between ethnicity and nationhood in the New Zealand context. European Journal of Social Psychology, 37(6), 1222-1243.

Te Puni Kōkiri. (2017). Māori Family Violence Infographic. Retrieved fromāori -family-violence-infographic, March 2020.

Woods, S. (2014). Five things no one is actually saying about Ani Difranco or plantations. Retrieved from June 2020.