Monday, February 27, 2012

Stop patronising us - Pacific leaders

Here’s something very encouraging that happened over the weekend: the reaction of Pacific groups to in NZ to Paula Bennett’s patronising “green paper” on so called “vulnerable” children.

At the national conference of the Pacifica women’s council over the weekend, the Minister of Social Development was told bluntly her suggestions the Pacific family is the solution to child abuse and neglect is based on “a romantic myth.” [AUDIO REPORT HERE]

Basically, Bennett’s report recommends “recreating traditional island villages in cities as a solution to Pacific Child abuse and neglect.”  But the response of participants at the meeting was essentially: “Get real.”

The chief executive of west Auckland’s Waves anti-violence trust [for example] told the national conference of the Pacifica women’s council it is a wonderful fantasy.

The assertion, she says, that “taking care of the Pacific family automatically ensures healthy, safe children is a myth.”

And Peggy Fairburn-Dunlop, lecturer in Pacific Studies at AUT, says the suggestion is the Pacific family is the solution,

but it’s time to stop ignoring that it’s also a big part of the problem… We all know there are things that are not so good that go on within families, and we can no longer hide those and pretend we don’t see them.

A refreshing honesty that if transmitted more widely should itself begin to be part of the solution.

Equally, she says, it’s dangerous to make policy on the assumption all Pacific families are the same—suggesting at least implicitly that it’s time to start treating people as individuals rather than as “members” of some community predicated on skin colour.

And South Auckland youth worker Katrina Mika reckons young families of whatever colour  just need good parenting help, not (in my words, not hers) more patronising mush from Ministers.

And many suggested even the idea of calling these children “vulnerable” was itself patronising, which it is, and all children should be treated equally, whatever their race.

I couldn’t agree more.

And I couldn’t be happier hearing sentiments like these from those one so rarely expects it.

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