Monday, November 18, 2013

Reflections on 2013: part 1 - By Justin Latif

Over the next week or so, I’m going to regale you with some of my reflections on what has been both an exciting and exhausting year as the office administrator for The Salvation Army’s Social Policy and Parliamentary Unit.

The year began with two reports tracking the social ‘state’ of play within New Zealand as a whole and with Pasifika peoples living in New Zealand. 

It was my first State of the Nation with the Unit, given I only started in May of 2012. It threw up a number of challenges and some interesting learning experiences. 

There was a feeling within the team that given this was the 6th State of the Nation, it might be time to retire this format of reporting. However the resulting media interest, heaving crowds at the six launch events and the on-going positive feedback we’ve received has put to rest any thought to retiring the SOTN in the immediate future.  

My particular highlight from the release events was the Wellington event where, as part of a panel of four MPs, Winston Peters spoke quite eloquently about his own impoverished upbringing and the need for us not to let this be something future New Zealanders to share in. 

One particular learning for me, was always double check with your caterer to make sure they turn up with the food you ordered three weeks prior. With only 30 mins before the launch of the Auckland event we discovered our caterers had lost our order. After some hurried texts, our senior policy advisor Alan Johnson and I managed to purchase close to $150 worth of pastries, while the good folk of the The Salvation Army’s Auckland City Corp set up the coffee and tea. With the crisis averted the show moved on. 

In May, the Unit launched The State of Pasifika Peoples in NZ: More the Rugby, Churches, and Festivals. This was co-authored by Ronji Tanieul and Alan Johnson. My own involvement in this report launch was limited due to my grandfather dying a few days before it was released. However, this did not stop me attending what was a particularly inspiring and moving event. We heard from a number of Pasifika leaders who gave critique and constructive feedback to the report – but also shared their own perspectives on how Pasifika can overcome some of the particular challenges facing them as a people group. 

As I reflect back on these two successful report launches, while it was great that these publications have garnered a lot of attention for SPPU, the better outcome has been seeing these issues receiving hearty debate in the wider public. While it may be easy to say that there’s scant evidence of NZ becoming a fairer and more equal society. The growing debate around improving housing conditions, increasing wage rates and reducing child poverty shows the market-focused neo-liberal ideologies of the last century have failed to completely capture the public’s imagination. Despite the individual-first, ultra-competitive approach of many the Government’s policies through the 1980s, 90s and 2000s, there still seems to be a strong desire amongst everyday NZers for all to receive a fair go in this burgeoning nation of ours. And if we can continue to embody such a spirit of collective betterment then surely we can move forward as a country in these complex times.

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