Friday, November 28, 2008

One in Three Maori Women on Welfare

Media Release
Friday, November 28, 2008

Latest Ministry of Social Development figures show that one in three working-age Maori women receives a benefit.

According to welfare commentator, Lindsay Mitchell, "Maori females are now the most vulnerable group in New Zealand to benefit dependency. At the end of September 2008, 55, 255 - or 33 percent of Maori women aged 18-64 - relied on welfare as their prime (and usually only) source of income. This figure is more than three times higher than for the non-Maori population."

"New Zealand now has two working-age Maori women responsible for welfare policy, Paula Bennett and Tariana Turia, respectively the Minister and Associate Minister for Social Development. National's Paula Bennett is reported as supporting work-testing for single mothers when their youngest turns six. Unfortunately most Maori females begin on welfare very young, before acquiring any educational qualifications or work skills. They also tend to have larger families and it may be many years before they are faced with work-testing, at which point they face real barriers to employment. In any case, if unemployment continues to climb as forecast, there is a question mark over whether jobs will be available."

The problem of dependency stems from a large and steady inflow of young mothers and this is where the focus should lie. The Maori teenage birth rate is also much higher than the non-Maori rate.

"I don't believe anybody thinks babies being born onto a benefit is a good idea - except perhaps for the Associate Minister who is on record as saying,

I am intolerant of the excessive focus on controlling our fertility. When I used to sit around the Cabinet table with colleagues, one of the many hot topics I got into strife about was discussion around the 'problem' of teenage pregnancy. My objection was to the problemmatisation of conception.

So just what effective policies will the Ministers adopt to reduce this highly disproportionate rate of dependency?"

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Transitioning on and off welfare

Statistics NZ yesterday released data relating to people transitioning on and off benefit.

Two things stood out. Only transitions onto the unemployment benefit have dropped - all other benefits are 'business as usual', including a 45% increase in transitions to sickness since 2000. So much for Labour's reforms to DPB and incapacity benefits.

This is more interesting. Look at the pre-benefit employment history and observe the remarkable homogeneity of the data. Doesn't matter which benefit, the (average) individual transiting onto it has a patchy work history.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Desperately seeking justice or revenge?

Thinking about the latest baby killing.

What motivates this relatively new trend whereby the family of victims sport tee shirts and wave banners emblazoned with their lost one's image?

Are they seeking sentencing justice and hope to influence the court, judge and jury? If so, is that legal?

Or are they seeking retribution through justice?

Are they assuaging their own guilt by 'honouring' and glorifying the victim? Or is it intended to induce guilt?

Is creating and displaying the image cathartic?

Is it a visual response to a gang patch or colours? A symbol of the side the wearer takes?

"... Jyniah's father Ike Te Awa, has also become estranged from his family, who have continued to support Kapea and not him."

The killer's family has their symbol in the flesh. The convicted one.

Am I struggling with this phenomenon because I'm Pakeha? Or is this development common to other cultures?

Does society in general respond to death in new ways which I am simply too sober to appreciate?

If I asked the person wearing this child's image on their chest, why, they may simply say, to remember her. Even then, I don't understand. You need to be reminded to remember??? For the sake of sanity I would be aching for a moment's relief from the memories.

I think there is a serious disconnect with reality going on here; in the courtroom fiascos we see, in the flashy funerals, in the utu-driven scrapping. Perhaps it's all for the media. One thing is for sure. Dysfunctional behaviour isn't just occurring between family members. It occurs between family groups.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

2 in 3 think new govt a "disaster waiting to happen"

Interesting Stuff poll;

The Maori Party and ACT have joined National to form a new Government. How do you feel about the left-centre-right coalition?

It's great to see (446 votes, 27.1%)

It's a disaster waiting to happen (1115 votes, 67.8%)

I don't know (83 votes, 5.0%)

Stuff polls are not scientific and reflect the opinions of only those internet users who have chosen to participate

This prompted me to examine my own expectations. As usual, being brutally honest, I am in the minority. I don't know. I am not overly optimistic that a lot can be achieved in respect of what I personally want to see. So no surprises there.

But I am surprised at the number of people who aren't just 'not overly optimistic' but down-right pessimistic.

How would you vote? Perhaps a fourth option would have been prudent. "To soon to tell".

Monday, November 24, 2008

What about CYF?

"Ethical boundaries for people who work with youth," is the title of a media release from NZAAHD. Heard of them before? No. Neither had I. They are New Zealand Aotearoa Adolescent Health and Development.

This will be about the CYF worker who had sex with a minor he was working with and made the news recently, I think.

A Child Youth and Family worker faces jail after being convicted of having sex with a 15-year-old girl in his care.

Additionally, "He is one of four CYF workers who have lost their jobs in the past year after inappropriate relationships with young people."

But no. I'm wrong. It is a response to the possibility of the Waipareira Trust employing Clint Rickards to work with young Maori.

According to NZAAHD, "Mr Rickards has not been convicted of a crime. We must remember that he was found not guilty. However in his admission he had repeated sexual encounters with a young woman while he was in a professional position of power. He has yet to apologise for this, or admit that he made a mistake."

An employer of any practitioner who is being asked to work with youth should consider this concerning, and at the very least put some processes in place to ensure this wouldn't happen again.

Yet the same organisation failed to criticise and offer this advice to a government department which seems to have a proven track record of employing people who go on to 'exploit' their position. (Note to self. Any organisation with 'Aoteoroa' in its name can reasonably be expected to exhibit a left-wing government bias.)

I wouldn't go to bat for Rickards. He can look after himself. But there is something of a witch hunt developing here.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Creating a portrait

It's been some time since I have updated my artist blog so I thought I would do a post showing how I create a portrait. These were the progress shots I was sending to Rodney while painting his portrait for the Adams National Portrait Award in 2007.

For this painting I selected hardboard (about 1 x 1.5 metres) and coated it with gesso, which is a little like liquid chalk. This has two purposes. It acts as a receiver for the first coat of paint. But more importantly I use it to form a relief. So instead of having a canvas tooth, I have uniform waves of brushwork creating an under-surface. Canvas tends to grip paint whereas gesso on hardboard lets the paint flow and blend.

When the gesso is dry I coat the surface with, in this case, yellow ochre. This has a unifying effect. Wherever the overlaying image doesn't completely cover the board, yellow comes through. Some artists use this technique very skilfully in impressionist work, overlaying beautiful lilacs and violets over ochre which makes for wonderful skies. As undercoat colouring (thinned with turps) I nearly always use ochre or burnt sienna.

When the yellow ochre is dry I start work with a series of photos and sketch in the rough image in charcoal. Then using paint I block in the major colours and a rough likeness of the face.

Next time I start attacking the background. Particularly difficult in this portrait is the set of wooden steps which I wanted to give depth and interest to. And I need to make Rodney look like he is actually sitting on them rather than squatting.

Of course there are many other interims steps but by now I am starting to hone it. Now I am looking for what I want in the face, which is the expression I perceive.

Final submission in which I have polished the shoes, added the watch details, lightened the grass and whitened the shirt. It's hard to get a photograph that doesn't distort a work of this size (eg this looks foreshortened) but this is a fair representation of the final work which was one of those accepted for exhibition at the end of 2007.