Nettie Holm, Team Leader of Te Whanau Putahi, Waikato, is one of NZCCSS’s ‘champions’ for the Closer Together Whakatata Mai campaign. Nettie shares why she believes the campaign is important and what she hopes will be accomplished as a result of addressing the gap between the rich and the poor.
Growing up in the ‘50s in a rural community of relative comfort I was not aware of any families who were really struggling to feed and clothe their children, all the other children seemed just like me. Rich people were those who owned their own home or farm. We were share-milking at the time so were not yet in that category.
In reality it wasn’t until my adult years (mid 20s) that I realised, to my absolute horror, that there were people who were really struggling. They were ‘poor’ and it was nothing to do with not owning a house or farm!
Now that I live and work in a poor community in NZ I am daily reminded how much the gap between the ‘rich’ and the ‘poor’ is growing. I see and hear of all the options available to my friend’s families; in contrast, I sit with my friends in this community and recognise the huge disparity.
For the latter, choice is severely limited! Choice is a luxury when it comes
to healthy food, school trips/camps/electives, engagement in sports teams or music tuition. When there is simply not enough money these luxuries are beyond reach. What does this do to a parent who wants the best for their child? Children are the most vulnerable and it is they who ultimately suffer.
Their suffering should be our suffering. Their future is our future. We neglect the issues of inequality at our peril. We in Aotearoa are cultivating health problems, educational and social problems for the future which will cost us dearly. One focus of Closer Together Whakatata Mai is about addressing the gap between the rich and the poor so that all children have access to what is required for their healthy development.
What I hope will happen...
- That awareness of the growing gap between the rich and the poor will spread throughout Aotearoa and in response to that we will all be looking for opportunities to share our resources and advocate for the struggling.
- That there will be a commitment as a country to a ‘brighter future’ for ALL people of Aotearoa. This may well mean we need to stop our incessant comparing of ourselves with other economies. Find creative and generous ways of simply living and giving instead of being ‘market driven’.
- A fairer tax system over all forms of ‘income’.
- That places of employment are encouraged to develop a ‘wage formula’ so that there is less inequality between the lowest paid and the highest paid (including all extras).
- Remove GST off fruit and vegetables.
- Suitable housing for all people (space, insulation and location).
- Review of the adequacy of present benefits to live on.
- Benefits to include an ‘Activity Allowance’ (like disability Allowance) for school age children so parents can access funds for sports involvement and special school activities.
In the end Closer Together Whakatata Mai is a campaign which must start with us as individuals/families and the organisations we represent. We must ask ourselves what we are doing to reduce the gap both relationally and financially. What steps we can take as an organisation to reduce inequality among our own staff? How can we influence others beyond our immediate organisation?
From Kete Kupu Issue 20, December 2011. Used with permission of NZCCSS.
You can show your support for the Closer Together Whakatata Mai campaign online.