Hopeful reading

Highlights of people power and progressive change for June 2018

Kia ora ActionStation whānau (family),

Can you believe that it’s July already?! Time is flying by and we have so much to proud of, and hopeful for, as a community and country.

Earlier this month, Wellington had a visit from a tohorā (whale) that postponed the Matariki (Māori new year) fireworks. We had the birth of baby Neve and the families package announced by our down to earth and make-up free Prime Minister on Facebook. Over the weekend, we saw hundreds of thousands of people in London rally against Trump and his policies that seperate whānau (families).

As always, at the beginning of each month we send out a highlight reel of all of the incredible people-powered activity that has been happening across the ActionStation community,

So settle in, get comfortable, and enjoy reading about the victories and nudges toward progress for people and planet that you helped create:

$200 million more for cleaning our rivers and helping all whānau to thrive

Judith Collins with our giant postcard

Whenever we campaign for better public services — whether in mental health, state housing, public broadcasting or environmental protection — we’re met with concerns about how we pay for these services. But the solution to underfunded public services isn’t very complicated. We simply need to ensure that our tax system is fair and that massive corporations and the mega-wealthy are contributing their fair share to these services, which they all benefit from.

Last year, among lots of other creative tactics to push for fairer tax, we delivered then-Minister Judith Collins a giant postcard (pictured above) urging the government to implement a crackdown on multinational tax fraud.

The National-led government at the time responded with steps to clamp down on tax cheats, and the Labour-led government delivered on those changes last month with the passing of the Taxation (Neutralising Base Erosion and Profit Shifting) Bill.

This law change will bring in an additional $200million per year. That’s money that can be spent on cleaning our rivers or paying our nurses and teachers a fair pay. And it likely wouldn’t have happened were it not for all of you, so well done!

Teenager Zoe is campaigning to save mental health services in Nelson

Zoe on the steps of Parliament facing media, with MPs Paul Eagle (left, Labour) and Gareth Hughes (right, Greens). Photo supplied by the Green Party of Aotearoa.

Zoe Palmer is a Nelson teenager who has been leading the campaign to save the Child Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS).

CAMHS is a unique service that connects young Nelson people in crisis with specialist staff at all hours and has a proven track record in saving lives. Yet the Nelson-Marlborough District Health Board is threatening the service with closure. It would blend the service it provides into the adult service where the staff do not have specialist training in working with young people.

At a time when the Inquiry into Mental Health and Addiction is seeking input into how to improve the way mental health is supported and regarded, the plan to dismantle this service is seriously wrong.

Zoe has led an amazing campaign to change the minds of the Health Board members — surveying young people, organising public events, connecting with politicians, speaking to media and even making a documentary! On Thursday she went to Parliament to deliver her petition and is hoping to meet the Health Minister David Clark. We’ll keep you posted on her progress!

In other mental health advocacy news, a community-led campaign for mindfulness education in schools was given a boost when Nigel Latta shared this submission to fund the Pause, Breathe, Smile and ATAWHAI mindfulness and resilience programmes.

Supporting locals in Whakatāne in their fight to save their water

(L to R): Water protectors on mobility scooters with signs that read “Save our water”, a young water protector and a local with a sign that says “Stop plundering New Zealanders resources

In June Whakatāne resident Lenae Cable started a petition to save the local natural spring, after the council granted approval for a corporate bottling giant to expand its profit-hungry factory.

The company, Nongfu, wants to extract five million litres of water a day, or over one billion litres a year. This is five times more than they presently take, for which they pay next to nothing.

Lenae wants to protect the mauri (life force) of Otakiri Springs. She says the expansion of the bottling plant is unsustainable by creating more plastic pollution in the world and also risks over-extracting the precious spring water.

Almost 10,000 people have signed the petition so far and 235 of you contributed to help Whakatāne locals appeal the resource consents at the Environment Court.

Petition starter Lanae will now be waiting on the outcome of the appeals. We’ll help her deliver the petition to the District Council once the result is announced.

Our people powered movement to save New Zealand’s precious wai (water) has only just begun. We’re about to put into motion our plans to protect our water sources, all around New Zealand.

The Otakiri case is just one local example of a national problem. We need to ensure water quality standards are adequately enforced by Councils and hold Councillors politically accountable if not. We need to look at how water is allocated, and acknowledge the role of local hapū and communities to be kaitiaki (guardians) of our rivers and lakes.

If you want to turbocharge our plans please consider chipping in just $5, $10 or $20 a month. Regular contributions enable us to plan ahead while rapidly responding to moments for change.

Leroy made the case for better privacy laws in the 21st century

(L to R) Greg O’Connor, Priyanca Radhakrishnan, Virginia Anderson, Raymond Huo, Maggie Barry, Nick Smith, Mark Mitchell.

The Privacy Act is being updated to reflect our digital age, and we had over 600 members of the community give their thoughts on how it should be done.

The overwhelming majority of our community supported the modernisation of the 25 year old law. Almost all supported corporations and organisations being required to provide notifications to users for privacy breaches, higher fines for companies breaking privacy laws, and the adoption of more rights for people to control their information online (especially in the case of things like sexually explicit images that have been uploaded without permission).

Leroy presented your views at his first ever Select Committee hearing. This is the process where you deliver an oral submission to the politicians in charge of making recommendations of how government should proceed based on research, advice and public submissions. They seemed mostly receptive to our input, and we will be keeping an eye on how it turns out.

Transforming our justice system to be more compassionate and evidence-based

Left: Our research partner Dr. Keri Lawson-Te Aho with Matua Moana Jackson, Anne Waapu and Ngawai McGregor. Right: Victor meeting with his local MP, Finance Minister Grant Robertson to talk about our justice system

We’ve partnered with JustSpeak to mobilise people to take the conversation about transforming our justice system directly to MPs. Last month we hosted an online training about how to best approach local members of Parliament.

After the training, one awesome volunteer, Victor Komarovsky met his MP Grant Robertson (also the Minister of Finance who will be making funding decisions on the proposals to move away from punishment to rehabilitation). He says it went really well, and that:

“Meeting with Minister Robertson reaffirmed for me that MPs are just people who have cares and needs of their own, and who happen to have a job which involves working closely with the public. And it reminded me that my job as a citizen is collaborate with MPs, to help them make the right calls which benefit society.”

Nice one Victor! If you would like to sign up to meet your MP to talk about justice issues, please do so here.

We’re also working with fourth year medical students from the University of Otago in Wellington to conduct research into Māori attitudes towards our justice system.

Our aim is to better understand Māori views on Māori incarceration, so that ActionStation can be better informed in our advocacy in this space. The research is being conducted in three ways: an online survey (please fill it in/share it with your whānau if you’re Māori!), in-depth interviews (like the one with Matua Moana Jackson pictured above) and a literature review (that is reading a bunch of the existing research in this space and drawing conclusions and connections).

At the end of the research project, we will deliver a report of our findings to the Minister of Justice, Minister of Police and the Minister of Corrections. I am also hoping to deliver the findings at the recently announced Justice Summit at Parliament on August 20 if I can wrangle myself an invite.

Rallying behind medical students to make gaining qualifications more accessible to all

Kera O’Regan (right) and Jibi Kunnethedam talking to media on behalf of the NZ Medical Students Association and Auckland University Medical Students Association to lift limits on student loans.

Last year students training to be doctors launched a high profile campaign to lift the limit on how many years they could take out a loan to be able to study.

The ‘student loan cap’ meant students could apply for loans for up to seven years of study but after that had to find the rest of the funds themselves. This meant that for many who had done previous university study the cost of finishing a medical degree was too much of a barrier, resulting in fewer doctors in our communities.

Over 4500 of us got behind the campaign by teams at Te Oranga, the Māori Medical Students Association Aotearoa, and the NZ Medical Students Association. They organised the petition, wrote letters to ministers, got media interviews, and filmed and shared their own personal stories to engage directly with the public.

As a result of all of this great work, the government announced they will extend the time limit on loans to ten years meaning that over a hundred more people on longer courses such as medicine will be able to finish their studies.

Kera is an ActionStation volunteer and medical student who helped lead the successful campaign, and here tells us what it means for herself and for medical students, and for making our health system more fair.

We helped save an essential advice and support service for citizens in Pōneke (Wellington)

Lucy, the Wellington CAB manager, and one of the CAB’s volunteers smiling and holding signs saying ‘Thankyou, ngā mihi nui’

The Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) is a free service run by volunteers that offers essential help on anything from resolving a tenancy dispute, understanding an employment contract, working out how to pay off a debt, or finding information about our rights in a relationship breakup.

Over 30,000 Wellingtonians used the service last year, however the Council was proposing to remove funding, putting its existence under threat.

Over 4500 of the ActionStation community based in Wellington got behind the campaign to put pressure on the Council to stop the cuts and we were successful! CAB secured a 3-year funding contract that enables it to continue and whole they work out an ongoing funding model.

“We were overwhelmed by the number of people who showed their support and we really appreciated the comments from people that demonstrated how valued the CAB service is,” — Sacha, the campaign leader.

If you’re a Wellingtonian and happy to hear the news too you can say thank you to the mayor Justin Lester or your local councillors (via email at councillors@wcc.govt.nz).

Unleashing the power of people one online training at a time

Erica (top left) leading an online discussion with community campaigners

For each month of 2018 we’ve been organising online campaign training sessions for people who start petitions on our community petition platform OurActionStation and allied activists.

Every other day, a new person finds their way to OurActionStation with an important cause and a passion for creating change in the world. But they may be new to the skills and tools needed to help make their vision a reality.

Last month Erica Finnie, an experienced campaigner and volunteer with 350 Aotearoa led a training on how to organise volunteers to gain petition signatures. Previous trainings have been on writing great campaign emails, getting media stories and combining offline activities with online petitions.

If you’re interested in getting updates on upcoming campaign trainings contact eliot@actionstation.org.nz.

Speaking of campaign training opportunities…

The cohort from 2017 enjoying some sunshine

Are you someone aiming to be effective in making change in your community? Designed specifically for leaders in social change, the Aotearoa Fellowship will super-charge your skills and energy, help you gain further confidence as a social change leader, and connect you with a community of your peers from across Aotearoa.

The Aotearoa fellowship is bookended by two intensive 4-day retreats, with five interactive expert webinars in between. The first retreat will be within 2 hours drive of the Auckland CBD.

For the past three years the Fellowship has been run in collaboration between Hāpai Te Hauora Maori Public Health and the Centre for Australian Progress. At the completion of the fellowship, all participants join a remarkable Trans-Tasman network of change-makers.

Our Director, Laura O’Connell Rapira, will be co-facilitating the training fellowship.

Spaces are filling up fast, apply here.

And taking a stand against hate speech and racism

There’s been a lot of talk about free and hate speech over the past week. We’re doing something about it. Over the next 12 months, we have a long-term campaign plan to:

  • Uncover the impact of hate speech on human rights and minority voices by collecting people’s stories and generating a people powered report like the one we did last year on mental health;
  • Protect democracy from mis and disinformation by researching the spread, influence and patterns of fake and misleading news and its impacts on public harmony;
  • Unleash the power of digital tools to build a vibrant, transparent democracy by modelling a better way.

You can read more about the work we are doing in this space here.

You can donate to it here.

Finally, we’re supporting our young people to flourish on a national stage

Porirua College students Tiresa Foma’i, Rosetta Lopa and Anastasia Sirila

When singers Tiresa Foma’i, Rosetta Lopa and Anastasia Sirila (of the group Le ART) shared their version of the national anthem on social media it went viral.

In his day job, Ross Bell leads the change for common sense conversations around alcohol and other drugs at the Drug Foundation. But when he heard the girls sing he jumped on the OurActionStation campaign platform to ask NZ Rugby to invite them to sing for an All Blacks test.

Tiresa, Rosetta and Anastasia are young people from Porirua who Ross thought on a national stage could represent the strength and diversity of our young people. And they can really sing!

In just a few days over 2800 people signed his petition, Porirua-born All Black TJ Perenara tweeted support and John Campbell featured the three on his Checkpoint show again.

This week NZ Rugby announced that Tiresa, Rosetta and Anastasia will sing the anthem at a provincial game — not the All Blacks yet, but their music mentor Jonny Viliamu has said “It’s perfect for them and they are so excited.”

“Hi Ross, Thank you so much on behalf of Le ART and I for spearheading the ActionStation campaign! We are humbled and very appreciative of you and your teams work. The outcome is great for us as it allows us to transition into ‘the goal’ by getting a good feel for the huge undertaking should/when the opportunity arises to take that next step up. Thank you so much again!”

— Jonny Viliamu, Le ART music mentor

“I’m excited too. So while it’s not an All Blacks test, Le ART are really happy with the outcome. I reckon they’ll blow everyone away, and we’ll see them on bigger stages. My final note is to you and the ActionStation community — thanks for supporting this petition and for backing those young women. It won’t be the last time you hear about them!”

— Ross Bell, campaign starter

“The richness and beauty that’s in their voices is part of the richness and beauty of this community.”

— Ragne Maxwell, Porirua College principal

You can check out their beautiful harmonies here.

We know there are a tonne of big issues to tackle every single day, and all around the world, but we thought what better highlight to finish on than a community of people supporting our young people to follow their dreams and share their talents. That’s the kind of society we all want to live in.

As for behind the scenes updates for this month, we welcomed four new Board members to our governance team:

  • Wendy Reid who was the Chair of the Greenpeace New Zealand Board for nine years;
  • Niamh O’Flynn who is the Executive Director of 350 Aotearoa;
  • Daniel Haines, who is a policy advisor in the Treaty Settlement team at the Auckland Council and prior to that was president of the national students’ union; and
  • Hazel Hape who serves on the Board of Te Whare Tiaki Whare Refuge ki Porirua, and is the Operations Manager at Tauranga Women’s Refuge.

And we said farewell to the wonderful Lani Evans, who is the CEO of Vodafone Foundation, and has served our Board for the past three years. Ngā mihi (gratitude) for everything Lani.

The new Board members were voted in by our Incorporated Society members at our AGM — a process which more than 150 people took part in. We were delighted when we received a lovely card in the mail (and a $100 cheque!) from ActionStation member Angus for our robust and democratic process. Thanks Angus! It really made our day :)

Finally, thank you to each and everyone of you, from the bottom of our hearts. We cannot do any of this work without you.

Ngā manaakitanga (Take care),

Madeleine (who joins our team from 30 July) Eliot, Ann, Yvonne, Vim, Laura, Leroy and Polly (not pictured) — your ActionStation team.

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ActionStation

ActionStation

Community campaigning organisation bringing people together to act in powerful and coordinated ways to create a fair and flourishing Aotearoa for all.