The Best Is Yet To Come
With the current change we are experiencing in our world, we believe it is important to recognise the gravity of the situation but also equally as important to recognise the possibilities as we reshape our futures.
This is a time to re-evaluate our lives and choices personally, but also look at the world as a whole - what changes do we believe need to be made? With this in mind, we bring you The Best Is Yet To Come. We chat to our friends & leaders within their industry and discuss their hopes for how we will reshape and evolve moving forward...
Eden Willow O’Leary, Mental Health Advocate
I grew up in Hawke’s Bay and had a typical Kiwi upbringing. My siblings Tyla, Reid and I were brought up to be authentic, honest and ourselves. We were all about fish & chips on the beach, Saturday night watching the All Blacks and days filled with sporting activities where my siblings were among some of my best mates. For the past four or more years I have suffered from severe anxiety and depression and I wasn’t open about that to anyone but my family.
Tragically on November 24th 2020, I lost my older brother, my best friend, someone I looked up to, to suicide. Reid’s death was a silent suicide, which some refer to as ‘the black dog’. No one knew he was in such a bad place. That comes from the stigma surrounding men thinking it’s weak to speak. He suffered without friends and family knowing and, when we did, it was too late. Whenever we said goodbye, Reido and I would always say “see you on the other side”. I just never thought he’d get there so much sooner than me. The loss of Reid sparked my passion and advocacy for mental health.
One in seven people in New Zealand have anxiety. About 25 percent have poor mental wellbeing and sadly 654 took their own lives last year. In its $1.9 billion Wellbeing Budget the government allocated no funding at all for mental wellbeing - but it’s going to build a brand new cycling bridge across the Waitematā Harbour at an estimated cost of $685 million.
What baffles me is if a child is born with cancer for example, society responds by offering help and asking if there’s anything they can do. But if a child is born with a chemical imbalance or a genetic predisposition towards mental illness society will either act clueless or cast a lifetime of shame on the person. Counselling sessions cost about $130 a pop. Many can’t afford that or are not ‘sick enough’ to see a therapist straight away. This has to change.
I can’t fathom someone in a dark place reaching out for help and being denied because of their finances. Should we not care about our communities? Should we not want to help everyone? Personally, I believe that it’s complete ignorance that the government is doing nothing to help. People are dying. Mental health isn’t being taught in schools because it’s thought it will encourage people. Encourage people to what? Stand up and say they aren’t okay? It’s okay not to be okay. I truly believe we can make a big change in the mental health system if we continue to shout. You have to start small to be able to achieve things on a larger scale. All therapy in New Zealand should be funded. I don’t believe it should be considered a luxury. No matter what walk of life you come from you should be able to see a counsellor and discuss your health, whether that be physical, mental, spiritual or emotional.
I still hold on to hope that our system will change. We can help our loved ones and possibly prevent as many families as possibly go through what my family has. My life has completely changed in the past seven months. While I can never have my Reido back, I will continue his legacy. I created my platform to be able to openly and honestly talk, rant, yell and cry about mental health. I use my Instagram profile to connect with others and to try to promote the taboo and stigmatised subject of mental health. A key factor that influences the stigma of mental health is ignorance – and this has a lot to do with mental health being taboo in many environments.
Public perceptions and belief about mental health are influenced by knowledge, the degree of contact with someone living with it, people’s personal experience and the coverage of mental health and suicide. People who live with it are the strongest people I know and I commend them for waking up each day and persevering. I think those who lost their fight with mental health are nothing but brave and I hope they’re happy and at peace.
When talking about suicide we often say the person who died “committed” suicide. You should avoid saying someone “committed” the act because it associates suicide with a crime or sin. Instead, use language such as “died by suicide or suicided”. My family and I are trying to get rid of the term “committed” within our community because there was once a time when suicide was considered a crime. With research I have discovered that if someone did die by suicide many years ago they could be refused a funeral or even have personal possessions confiscated. There was also huge shame cast on the loved ones’ family and friends. This is disgusting. This is why we need to use different terms and fix our language.
Where to get help:
Sonya Prior, A Forever Rubette
At the back of my parent’s wardrobe, next to folded sweaters was a weathered red, biscuit tin that I routinely rummaged through. I grew up as an only child for eight years so had a lot of free time to cultivate my nosiness. In the tin were photos, letters and medicine, specifically my dad’s. Sometimes it would just be my mum and I at home, with my dad simply being away. Not on business and never explained where. Just away because he was sick. This happened a lot before my brother was born in 1999. Any questions I asked were often met with more vague explanations that I learnt to stop and wait out bouts of missing him. His beloved uncle, who was the closest person I had to a grandpa, passed away when I was eleven, maybe twelve. I remember sitting next to my dad with my brother at his feet, thinking he’s going to go away soon. He did but this time I knew where to go for answers. I stole one of his pill bottles, typed it into yahoo answers and my chunky Dell computer screen read Schizoaffective Disorder. Confusingly, it made all the sense and none of it at the same time.
The conversation around mental health has and continues to change but I would be lying to say stigmatisation is gone and adequate support is available. You only need to look at the recent, respective conversations surrounding Naomi Osaka and Mike King to see how broken the system is. Like anything that deviates from what is considered ‘normal’, we have this overriding panic to neatly package and manage it with a one time fix. Mental health like any aspect of our personal health is continual. My mental health medley includes mostly dormant anxiety, high functioning depression and am a recovering bulimic who relapsed earlier this year. My finger keeps hovering over the backspace button because a part of me still feels embarrassed in admitting this. That is societal conditioning. That is generational trauma and the way to break it is to speak up and share. Humankind has shared stories since the dawn of time and now is no different. So here I am saying what I struggle with so maybe somewhere in the world, someone will read this at a time in their life when they feel no one understands and they don’t matter. You matter. The best is yet to come.
I sincerely believe that the best is yet to come for mental health. It has to because what we have now isn’t good enough. I will be the first to put my hands up and say - I am not a health professional nor do I claim to be, I only understand mental health through my personal and family history. I worry this is the case for most people because I don’t recall learning about mental health at any stage in my education within our core curriculum. Prime numbers and terrible dioramas I remember but I don’t remember ever learning about emotional wellbeing and mental health. Why not? Children understand so much more than we give them credit for and I think it’s important to include them in the conversation so they don’t think being condemned to silence is part of being an adult. Nearly 40% of young people who seek counselling through Mike King’s Gumboot Friday are 11 years old and younger, which illustrates the necessity to foster emotional intelligence young. There is no shame in children needing help to understand their wellbeing, the greater shame is seeing it and denying it.
With any expanding conversation comes the risk of misinformation and trivialisation. I think this comes with the territory of trending in a digital age. There has been a steady rise of Instagram ‘therapists’, not all qualified, since the outbreak of COVID-19. This area of social media is vastly unregulated and cannot be viewed as a replacement for professional, medical advice. It’s a double-edged sword. On one side speaking about and reframing mental health makes it okay to do so. It breaks the societal guard of shame and silence allowing those who suffer, personally or in support of, to feel less alone. It allows us to better articulate mental health and our varied relationship to it, which I think is necessary. On the other side, there can be an almost predatory nature to it in the means of profit over sincere help. Be wary of ‘therapists’ who repeatedly centre the narrative around themselves and offer emotional guidance through a paid-for subscription. Is it about them or you? Are they even qualified to do so? Does it feel performative? What I will say is do your research. Seek out peoples’ credentials and then research those too. Understand that someone who may have a positive impact on you now may not in six months and it is always within your right to choose what works for you. I routinely give my social media a digital colonic and if I can’t unfollow people for whatever reason, the mute button is a gift. Mental health support through Instagram is always going to be surface level. I don’t mean that in a negative way but it has to reach and resonate with so many and in doing that, dedicated personal care is impossible. Social media is a tricky landscape. I don’t believe a beige tile with a copy and paste quote will save us but I do believe mental health can be a silent killer. One that isolates and distorts. If we can read something online that sparks something in our real lives, if we can articulate how we feel and share that or support and say I understand when a struggling loved one comes to us, then that is a very good place to start.
So much has changed since I first learned about mental health and we still have a long way to go. We need to create the world we want to live in. For me that world is one that values and honours equality and supports the vast spectrum of people coexisting with one another to feel seen, heard and respected. There is no one way to live and for the most part, I don’t care how anyone chooses to live their life as long as it doesn’t come at the expense of another person or community. I have the greatest admiration for people who speak up and out about mental health from regular folks to people on the world stage like Mike King, Naomi Osaka and Prince Harry. Mental health doesn’t discriminate, people do. Our engagement and understanding of mental health are changing but we need governing bodies, workplaces, schools; we need the systems in which we exist, which can and do create mental illnesses to support and protect us. Speaking up and coming together is so important but how far can we grow in superficial, hostile environments? Mental health isn’t a trend, it is a necessity to our basic human rights. Creating the world you want to live in is also about sharing yourself with that world. So keep speaking, keep sharing, keep connecting until there is so much noise that society can’t ignore what is necessary. No profit is worth another person's life. That will always be true so take care of the people that fill your countries, all of them. Protect trans lives, refugees, immigrants, indigenous people, women, men, unemployed, employed, homeless people and our young minds.
I could go on about mental health forever. If you haven’t already guessed, I’m an oversharer particularly after growing up with so many sides of myself in the dark. Keeping yourself in the dark suggests you should be, that you aren’t deserving of the light and I don’t believe that. If we keep reading, hearing, seeing one way of being we lose the opportunity to learn from so many more wonderful perspectives that shape and uplift our world. I’m currently watching The Me You Can’t See where Prince Harry says, ‘pain that doesn’t get transformed gets transmitted’ which reminded me of Carrie Fisher saying ‘take your broken heart and turn it into art’. When we hold on to our pain, when we define ourselves through it we lose sight of the joy and strength that comes from it. I don’t wear my pain like a badge of honour but I let it guide how I treat others. To be kinder and softer where previously I may not have been. I understand joy is not always mine to hold so when I feel it I’m grateful and try my best to not be expectant or greedy. I’m doing my best to transform the pain I hold so I don’t pass it on. Sometimes it feels like I’ve watched my dad die a hundred times. Each time he comes home he’s slightly different. The dad I have now is but isn’t the dad from when I was five or ten or seventeen. I have loved him all the way through and each time he has come back stronger. He’s made me stronger. Besides my mum, he is the strongest person I know and when he doesn’t feel it, he has us and the changing landscape of mental health to keep him and us going. I know every time I come back to myself I’m a little different from before. Maybe that’s transforming, maybe that’s how we each make art.
Where to get help:
No one can argue with the fact that books are incredibly special. They are the product of an author’s creative mind spilled out amongst the pages over countless hours, weeks and years. And to think that the actual writing of the book is just the beginning! Next the book is shopped to publishers. Then enters the editing team who copy-edit, proofread, index in conjunction with other important checks. There’s also the cover artwork design, the distribution of advanced copies to press, book sellers and reviewers around the world all in an effort to ensure the word is spread about this upcoming release. The final book copy then heads to the printers and is shipped around the globe to bookstores who unpack and processes ready for sale. Eventually, the publication date arrives after years of work. It’s a long, intense process, involving countless eyes having already graced its pages. And yet when it reaches the consumer, why do we immediately expect a discount?
The sad fact is that the book trade has fallen victim to a consumer expectation of discounting. For so long here in Aotearoa our isolation has kept us booksellers relatively safe from the threat of the bigger global market of discount bookselling. Until now. I started writing this on the first day that Amazon opened their Australian distribution services to customers here in Aotearoa. Amazon and the Book Depository (also owned by Amazon) are the creators of this very consumer expectation that books should be discounted. The fact that you shouldn’t pay full price for a book is their founding business model. But when a books true value is what most other retailers rely on to operate, then we must look at the true cost of this small discount at the checkout. And ask ourselves why if we are willing to pay that little bit extra for free range eggs every time we go to the supermarket because we care about the chickens welfare, do we not see the same value in a book knowing it has come from a business that values its employees?
It comes down to conscious consumerism at the end of the day. And I am not in this instance wishing to dismiss the fact that not everyone has the means to make this choice, but I am talking to those who can. There is a shift happening right now in which we expect our moral values to be reflected in the businesses and the people we support, yet, Amazon continues to be the world’s number one retailer. And if price continues to trump moral consciousness then independent booksellers simply will not win. We aren’t even playing the same game. An independent bookstore will never have the buying power or be able to cut its costs to offer Amazon prices and free shipping. This cutting of costs comes at a significant human and environmental price. I am not going to relay the details as it is likely you are aware of the many claims of staff mistreatment and stock dumping that take place at Amazon, and if you are not, I suggest having a quick google. But we also must understand that what is driving the demand for these price cuts is us, the consumer. We must acknowledge the degree in which we choose overconsumption, instead of buying a little less at the true cost of the product.
There is tremendous value in supporting your local retailer. Not only does your money continue to circulate in your local economy, but they each offer something different and unique, whether that is the passionate staff, the curation, the ambiance, or the complete experience. All of it comes at a cost to the business and to maintain that level of service, the retailer needs to be able to sell their products at full price. There is also plenty you can do to support your favourite local retailer for free, like tell your friends, share your purchase on social media, or leave a google review. Positive word of mouth will continue to be invaluable to retailers.
For the best to come, it is imperative for Aotearoa’s consumers to see the value in buying from a local retailer in place of resorting to the likes of Amazon. Most of that value lies within the knowledge that you as the consumer holds all the power here. Bookstores are a special kind of magic, and when you support an independent seller you know you are feeding the mouths of your fellow book lovers, not shooting Bezos into space in a particularly phallic looking tin can. We need to continue to choose free range booksellers.
Sacha Young, Costume Designer
I have always had an interest in the power of clothing and how it makes me feel. I believe clothing is an extension of who we are and how we present ourselves. Intentional or not, it guides us in a first impression of how we view others, and others view us.
I work in the film industry as a costume designer in which I feel incredibly grateful to be in my line of work that I absolutely love. It’s a job that teaches me about history, cultures and deepens my appreciation of clothes in new ways.
I get to dig deep into the characters in a script and dream up their wardrobe. I specifically design each piece of clothing and footwear that belongs to each character. I love this part of the process the most as I get to research and break down the script before sourcing the clothes.
During this process the questions that I am asking are; Where did their clothing come from, was it inherited, bought or was it made? Is it new or old? How does each item make them feel? How are they presenting themselves when wearing different items, to different places, seeing different people. What colour clothing do they wear, does it help portray different moods or have specific references or help guide you on their journey?
The best thing about this process is being so intentional about each item that makes up their wardrobe. Each item is so important to help build their wardrobe to essentially help us know them better. The costume helps the visual storytelling in so many ways.
The intentional nature of the way I work always leaves me questioning my habits (and the wider societal habits) of the way we shop and build our own wardrobes. How intentional are we when we are purchasing clothing, footwear and accessories? Where are we shopping? Are we buying new or second hand? Do we ask ourselves how this item makes us feel? What colour is it and does that affect your mood or vice versa does your mood affect the clothing you are wearing! Is it an extension of who we are? Of how we want to present ourselves? Where will we wear it? How often? Do the company values align with our own values? What is the composition of the fabric? Is the fabric organic or sustainably sourced? Will the item last or is it fast fashion, made for one season only?
I believe all of these elements should come into play in how we approach building our own wardrobes. We need to start asking ourselves harder questions before buying and being intentional with our purchases. In film, clothes have the ability to transport us to different eras, and in real life, I believe clothes have the ability to transform us into better people.
Dr Lee Mathias, Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit
To say that I am passionate about health and healthcare would be an understatement. I am a nurse and have been for 50 years. Seems a very long time to have not achieved what you set out to as a raw 17-year-old student nurse. Healthcare systems are large complex organisations which, for the most part operate 24 hours per day, 365 days per year. Requirements of personal healthcare don’t wait for anything, not time and not random viruses. One of the key challenges for all healthcare systems in 2020/2021 is meeting all those ongoing health needs amid a pandemic.
And that is what brings me to my overall “yet to come” moment which is access. That is, access to everything healthcare from health promotion and education, to screening, of healthcare professionals especially healthcare professionals of your choice, access to complex services especially diagnostics which can mean a fast and accurate diagnosis and access to the right and best medicine for your diagnosis.
Over the years I have contributed to all over those key areas and I still focus on three which are hugely important and, which I believe, are best achieved by the private, entrepreneurial sector to effect change.
Firstly, access to healthcare professionals – I am an original shareholder director of Tend.NZ, a digital first full primary care service which offers access to doctors and nurse (and eventually the whole range of healthcare professionals) over a “long day” 0700 – 1900, but even that may increase. To do so, download the App Tend.NZand register. You can also enrol if you are needing a permanent general practice. From then on you can access primary services from both nurses and doctors via your phone. If you need to be seen in one of our clinics, you can make your appointment at a time that suits you and the practitioner of your choice. That is the sort of access I have been dreaming of!
Secondly, I have been involved with a diagnostics company as a shareholder director – yes, I just love start- ups! For almost 11 years. That company PICORDX aims to provide low-cost blood testing for economies in developing countries where people have not traditional had access to simple blood tests. We make miniaturised, multiplexed ELISAs – sounds confusing maybe but that is a well-known technology. We have made a difference because of both the miniaturisation and the multiplexing meaning we can offer up to 8 tests for biomarkers at any one time. Pictor tests have been in the market in India for some years.
Of course, like many blood test manufacturing companies, we have a Covid test – more specifically for SARS Cov2. Our test is so far unique as it can differentiate between naturally acquired Covid and vaccina acquired Covid. That will make a huge difference when assessing antibody levels and the rationing of vaccines as will have to happen in some countries. Our Covid test is currently being assessed in US for FDA regulation, and we are talking with organisations like GAVI which focuses on vaccines in 3rd world countries.
And my last big focus is access to medicines in my role as the independent Chairman of Medicines NZ which is the industry association for the innovative pharmaceutical companies. This is largely a lobbying role, especially of government and PHARMAC – the government’s purchasing agent. My key goals are to get Pharmac into the NZ healthcare system so that when service specifications are being designed ALL aspects of care and treatment can be included. The current system doesn’t allow this meaning that, quite often, the best treatment course can not be offered, that the most economically efficient course can not be followed costing more to the patient, family and wider whanau, the community including employers and, last but not least, the healthcare system especially DHBs. For someone like me, in business, but also with a health economics qualification and a doctorate in governance, this is frustrating. The caveat (on my challenge) is that unless the government is willing to take healthcare seriously and make a larger appropriation for medicines this is unlikely to happen, which will be so disappointing to New Zealanders.
So, I haven’t bitten off small challenges during my career – Birthcare was hard because it was new territory for the public sector as that was the first public sector contract for healthcare services to be let to a private provider. Labtests was really hard because the incumbent was recalcitrant and made every effort to thwart the establishment of an efficient and effective service to the people of Auckland. But, as I have always underestimated the time it takes to get large scale change in health services, I may just have to stay around for a while yet.
Look after your own health; stay safe out there; get your vaccination when offered and WASH YOUR HANDS!
'It’s November 2019 and someone tells you that in a year from now the world will be unrecognisable. They tell you that it will have suffered and changed and adapted beyond anything you could’ve imagined. The way we work, socialise, live and travel will have gone through dramatic deconstruction and now resemble a new normal. They will tell you it was tough but it was worth it because the change needed would save lives.
'The changes needed were far reaching, they were systemic, they required a global effort but they saved us. And now we have evolved to live in this new normal. But Covid19 is not the only global emergency this world is suffering from. Our climate crisis is just as detrimental and yet the approaches we have taken to mitigate the two are incomparable.
'For Covid, the approach was immediate. As of today we will: shut boarders, set restrictions, go into lockdown. For our climate crisis, our approach has been “we will set some targets”, aim to have done X in the next few years, next ten years, next twenty…
'What we did for Covid, when we sacrificed life as we knew it, was to save lives - human lives. What we need to do for our climate crisis affects so much more than just human lives. Our climate crisis impacts the lives of every living thing - our flora, fauna, marine life, birds, mammals, everything. And there is no vaccine for climate change, there is no quick fix. We can't just jab the planet with something to make it more resilient. In fact, jabbing the planet, with little considering the consequences, is part of what got us into this mess…
'There is going to come a time when we, and future generations, look back on the way we treated this planet and be horrified. We will be horrified that we thought it was ok to do what we wanted without consideration for other living creatures. That we could act in a way that destroyed whole ecosystems, killed who species. Imagine having to explain what a frog is to younger generations? The way we currently live has a rate of extinction nearly 1,000 times the natural rate. By mid-century, as many as 30 – 50% of the world's species will have disappeared. This is a crime against nature.
'Here in New Zealand we are beyond lucky. We look out the window and see green for miles. We have a climate that is not just tolerable but enjoyable – winters aren't too cold, summers aren’t too hot – but the way WE live impacts other, less fortunate communities and countries.
'The World Bank estimated that three regions (Latin America, sub-Saharan Africa, and Southeast Asia) will generate 143 million more climate migrants by 2050. People are forced from their homes because the climate has become unlivable – whether that’s literally the climate causing too many temperature related deaths or that sustaining a food economy becomes impossible.
'This isn’t the first time civilisation has lived a certain way, accepted a certain norm, that now horrifies us. We used to think owning people, owning slaves was acceptable. To be able to treat those slaves however we wanted was our right. We used to think it was acceptable that women had no rights, that they were not intelligent enough to contribute to democratic decisions so we simply won’t let them vote.
'We used to think it was all good to drink and drive. We have accepted certain unacceptable things because that was the norm and the way we treat our planet today has become one such unacceptable thing.
'This isn’t me, on some high-horse, telling everyone they should be doing more. This is me encouraging everyone to have an open mind when it comes to change. We have experienced unimaginable change with Covid and we have survived. We have experienced change for good through recognising previously accepted evils and pushing back. We must start acknowledging the way we treat our planet as the ‘crime against nature’ that it is and actively embrace the change needed. It will save lives.
'The business sector has a large part to play in reshaping this world and those leaning into that, thinking about their legacy and how they can innovate in this space, are the business we should support. RUBY is one such business. When I saw what was being offered on their website with their ‘rent or recycle’ feature I was filled with hope. A business offering solutions that make them less money but creates better outcomes, is a business we should recognise. With the digital capability we have today there is simply no excuse for more businesses not to be creating opportunities like this for their customers. And I know this feature isn’t it where the journey stops for RUBY, clearly the best is yet to come.'
'When 'things' - objects, products, disciplines, places, etc, are viewed in isolation, problems arise. We see this happening in western medicine, in governance, and in our homes. When we start to understand the entire system, the light goes fully on, and we go from the parts to the whole. We start to understand that what's really important is to understand how living beings, social issues, and environmental issues aren't separate things, they are all interconnected. If we continue to make things from materials that don’t have an end of life strategy - biodegradable or better yet restorative and regnerative, we're not dealing with the full picture, we're doing things in isolation, and 'design' is operating in isolation, and is not doing its job properly.
'I’m passionate about the future of education as a powerful space to question, expand, and explore the boundaries of fashion as a subject that intersects with many other subjects and fields of impact - from psychology to agriculture and biology (to name a few). I am deeply committed to disrupting the education models of the 20th century - that most of our universities are still based on, to the systems thinking of the 21st century.
'We desperately need to reconsider and reimagine the entire fashion system, and its relationship with the dominant economic, political systems and paradigms of our time. This is where change can and must occur.
'I’m excited and proud to support practitioners who are actively seeking to challenge traditional ways of working, questioning the very definition of their discipline. My own work is about expanding the field to build connections between practices that propose alternate value systems and different ways of thinking, doing, and being fashion. I am heartened to be in good company with a small but powerful group of people that are committed to this work. It’s time for a deep examination and reimagination of the fashion system as part of nature, a ‘whole place’ that honors and is conscious of all worldviews and different modalities of time.'
'Tap water and referendums. They can’t save us.
'Early last year, I locked-down in Level 4 with a friend of mine, who had been temporarily evacuated from his life in China.
'One day in our bubble, I found my friend-in-exile at the kitchen sink slurping water with the fervor of a lost man in the desert. I don’t usually question people as to why they drink water, but on this occasion his insatiable Autumn thirst compelled me to ask.
'My friend replied breathlessly, water dripping from his chin, “I’ve just read that drinking water every 15-minutes can protect you from the coronavirus. The water washes any Covid-droplets you may have inhaled into your stomach, instead of the lungs. The spike proteins are then deactivated by the stomach’s gastric acid.”
'His convincing use of “spike proteins” and “deactivated” had me reaching for the tap. I too began sipping on the fifteen.
'Between swigs, I texted this breakthrough discovery to a friend. Why doesn’t everyone know about this, I remember thinking, earnestly. I began adding friends, colleagues and family to a group chat named, “111: Critical Medical Announcement.”
'Before I issued the alert, my friend’s text reply came, “James, what you’re really saying is that the cure for Covid-19 is tap water. Do you stand by that?”
'This was Whatasapp at its most chastening. I did not deserve those two little blue ticks.
'I called out to my flatmate, “Where did you read that water thing again…?”
'There are many lessons in this story.
'The first is to always check your source material.
'The second is that human-beings are pretty adept at responding to immediate problems. Not so much my flatmate and me, but other more sensible people.
'With the outbreak of Covid-19, New Zealanders diligently adopted bubble life. Nanogirl went viral in a helpful way. And scientists, the world over, took the lens caps off their microscopes and got to work on a vaccine. (A vaccine that would turn out to have a more complicated scientific formula than H20.)
'While Covid-19 has been a global nightmare, it has shown how seriously we take an immediate threat, particularly with the right leadership. Humans are hardwired to fight or flight.
'Conversely, we’re not so well set up as a species to respond to longer term challenges. Climate change is perhaps the most treacherous example. That threat to the planet is looming, ethereal, and so we’ve sort of let it ride. It’s only now, after being warned by scientists for about 40 years, that we’re beginning to listen.
'So for a more promising future, we need to find ways to help us make decisions today that better value tomorrow. (We also need to be judicious when using online sponsored content as a source of critical medical information.)
'There are a couple of good ideas floating around Parliament at the moment that might just help. The first is a suggestion to extend the parliamentary term from three years to four years.
'The argument goes, the shorter the term of parliament, the shorter the term of thinking. This means difficult issues get neglected by politicians, or sent to referendum. And we don’t seem to have a new flag. Or reasonable drug laws. Ironically, we have even had referendums on four-year terms before, in 1967 and 1990. No dice.
'A longer parliamentary term should give politicians more time to take the decisions we elect them for, before they start fretting about being elected again.
'The other useful idea, buzzing around the Beehive, are new rules to get businesses thinking about how they measure success, beyond the daily report card provided by the sharemarket.
'This new law would make 200 companies disclose the climate change risks they face into the future. If businesses have to be more transparent about climate change, investment bankers and the astute users of Sharesies can make more informed decisions about the companies they support.
'If we want a better future, we need to decide on it. So let’s make it easier to make those decisions. Also, let’s always check the facts.'
Makaira Lee - Creative Content Manager, RUBY
'What does it really mean to feel “represented”? What does it really mean to feel seen?
'Representation” is one of those cultural buzzwords that’s often thrown around with words like “diversity” and “inclusivity”. It is typically thought of as this idea that when we see people who look like us in mainstream media, it validates our own existence and invites us into spaces where we may not have felt welcome before.
'Growing up I was never conscious my personal narrative wasn’t depicted in mainstream media. As much as it had never occurred to me before, contemporary notions of beauty embedded in social ideals and values have a significant influence on the lived experience of women. For me personally this meant I normalised straightening my hair every day for 7 years of high school or sitting under a shaded area at the beach to avoid getting darker. Had I seen myself reflected in pop culture perhaps I wouldn’t have had an unconscious bias against my natural beauty and I would have jumped head first into the water.
'Seeing yourself represented for the first time is special and revolutionary for one's self confidence. It’s the feeling of having been lost for so many years and finally finding your way back home.
Following the launch of RUBY’s latest collection Champ, the feedback we have received regarding representation has been immense. Opening a space and normalising the celebration of size, race, gender nonconformity - we’ve done that for people.
'The inception of the decision to hold an open casting at RUBY came months earlier in the lead up to our swim shoot in November 2020. One of the deliverables we were unwilling to compromise on was using models that represent an inclusive and multi-dimensional idea of beauty and promote positive body image. From social class to skin colour and ethnicity, women’s bodies in mainstream media have been largely defined through a white lens. In the NZ fashion industry, sample-sized garments are typically size 6-8 which is not representative of the “average” kiwi woman who wears a size 14-16. When reaching out to modelling agencies, the offering at the time was disappointing and challenged us to broaden our search engines. As a team we turned to social media and I stumbled upon Jodie, although not a model at the time, she became the face of our RUBY Swim Campaign.
'Fast forward 2 months, as my team and I sat in our Friday morning marketing meeting we were brought back to the RUBY Open Casting - an idea that had been tossed around for some time but had not been taken further than a highlighted line in our activations spreadsheet. We knew this was the right thing to do following our success with Jodie and set out to make it happen. On Tuesday 30th March 2021 RUBY held its first open casting calling to all genders and sizes. We saw over 80 incredible individuals come through our doors and pave the way for future shoots. It became apparent very early on in the evening that what we were unable to find through the agencies we were easily going to find here.
'For me, the most exciting part was getting to meet our Rubettes. As a business we put so much into creating a community and sometimes it can feel like you’re talking into a void and not knowing the extent of your reach. I remember not being able to sleep that night because I was on such a high. I took the camera home to reel through the images, just so happy that these were the people we were reaching, these were our Rubettes, a generation that is hungry for authenticity and empowerment.
'The open casting was taking the first step in creating change that RUBY wants to see. It was about celebrating humanity and focusing on more inclusive beauty ideals. Beauty is becoming less a matter of aesthetics and more about personality attributes such as self-confidence, vibe, kindness and individuality. Who we deem “beautiful” is a reflection of our values. In all honesty, if I could have used every single person that showed up to that open casting I would have because they were all just beautiful people, incredibly diverse, that totally embodied the spirit of a Rubette.
'I have worked at RUBY as the Creative Content Manager for just shy of 2 years. In that time, I have had many highs but Champ is the thing that I am most proud of. As a person of mixed heritage (Asian/Pacific) and as a soon to be mum, I want my kid to grow up knowing they belong. This last campaign has reinforced my desire to give back to my community and ensure their representation in my field.'
20 May 2021
'The field I’m passionate about is justice - in all its forms. I’m passionate about everyone being able to thrive and exist as themselves wholly. There are so many institutions, systems and beliefs that hold so many of us back. Being a Black kiwi, I see the material effects that these institutions produce in the lives of the underprivileged. I am passionate about addressing these issues so as to ensure everyone has a fair go at a good quality life.
'From the environmental effects seen all across our Pacific nations, to the over-representation of BIPOC people in Aotearoa prisons and the systemic oppression of Māori and Pacific Islanders, to the harassment the LGBTQ+ community face, to the xenophobia and racism that refugee and immigrant populations are subjected to - I want to see a different Aotearoa.
'I believe change is possible but it MUST start with those in positions of power to affect change. In order to address all the injustices we see in our community here in New Zealand, I believe we have to start from the very beginning. The initial injustice of this land is the colonisation of the Indigenous people. Everything has flowed on from there. Māori knew how to take care of the whenua, they had tikanga that enabled them to live harmoniously with humans and nature. Māori had an order and a way of life that was disrupted by colonisation.
'I wholeheartedly believe that we must start with honouring Māori sovereignty and then we can go on to repair and right the wrongs. I am optimistic that the new generation coming up is more than equipped to start initiating these changes. That is what gives me hope and I can’t wait to be a part of the generation that starts to rewrite history.'
'When I think about what my hope for the future is, only one thing comes to mind. My hope is that my little brothers and sisters, my little cousins, and all the younger members of my community who look like me, won’t have to fight the same fights I am. I hope that they will live a life that is unrestricted so that they can realise their full potential. I hope that they grow into knowing the power they have and harness that every day and contribute to making the world a better place. This is my hope. This is my why. This is why I marched.
18 July 2020
'On Sunday 31st May, I was woken up by a phone call from my older brother Mez, who had been feeling really heavy for a few days after having seen all the news coverage surrounding the murder of George Floyd – a Black man killed by a white police officer who knelt on his neck for almost 9 minutes. He wanted to do something about it, and so did I – I just didn’t know how to initiate it. We wanted a space for everyone to come together and collectively grieve, stand in solidarity with Black people in America, and draw attention to the issues here at home. We needed a healthy release of all those built up emotions we had. So we decided to rally and protest. Initially, we had only thought those in the Black community here in New Zealand and a few of our friends would join us. We knew that New Zealand was still in alert level 2 and so we genuinely believed we would be in compliance with the law as we had only anticipated a small crowd. I made the post on Instagram at around 2:30, put my phone down, and went out for lunch. By the time I checked my phone again at 7 pm, my post had received over 3,000 likes and 3,500 people had shares it to their stories. It was shared by the biggest names in Auckland – Israel Adesanya, Jess B, Parris Goebel, and Stan Walker to name a few. By the same time that night, the Facebook event had over 2,700 people attending. That’s when it hit us that we might have started something bigger than any of us could even fathom.
'My brother managed to pull together a group of six to meet at his house that night and strategise as we needed a plan – this group of six would form the core organising team. We met up and worked through all the details we could – marshals; enforcing social distancing; connecting with the mana whenua, Ngāti Whātua, to make sure we had their blessing and ensure that they were involved; organising a line-up of speakers; appointing a police and media liaison; preparing a statement for our media briefing; and other logistical considerations. There was an outpouring of advice and help offered to us through social media by people who have experience in organising. I left my brother’s house at 4:30am and still couldn’t quite process the magnitude of what we had just started.
'Fast forward a few hours later and Auckland City made history at one of the largest protests the city has ever seen in recent years. June 1st, 2020, for me and many of my other Black friends, was a much-needed form of catharsis – it was a space for us to shout, cry, be together and release all the built-up emotions and trauma that we had been internalising for far too long. It was a place where we felt seen, heard and cared for by white and non-Black people of colour in New Zealand. For the first time in my 22 years of living here, I felt like I could say I belonged – that I had a community of people who cared for me and could stand up for me. June 1st, 2020, went down as the greatest, most powerful day of my life.
'As we saw on the 9th of June, NZ Police announced that the Armed Response Team trials would not continue and have no place in the future of New Zealand policing. This is an amazing development. Our march only contributed to this cause, but the real credit should go to the Arms Down NZ Campaign who have been speaking on and fighting for this cause for months. They have themselves to thank for fighting relentlessly. The number of people that showed up in Auckland to march last Monday was just the final seal.
'But the work does not end here. We must continue to advocate for justice and fight for the rights of Black, Indigenous and other people of colour (BIPOC). The history and present reality of colonisation in New Zealand means our Māori people are disproportionately affected negatively in every single aspect – healthcare, housing, education, employment, socioeconomic status, prison. We must fight for equity and for the tino rangatiratanga of our tangata whenua. When Māori rights are valued, then it will follow suit for everyone else. Further, New Zealand has a duty to recognise and acknowledge the Black community here. New Zealand has a moral obligation to speak up against injustices happening all over the world and on our own soil.
'There are many ways that you can help. If you benefit from and are privileged by being white, you need to leverage that for the greater good of everyone. EDUCATE YOURSELVES – and that doesn’t mean asking your BIPOC friends to point you to resources as this is emotionally taxing. We live in the age of information, Google is free! You have the privilege to LEARN about racism instead of EXPERIENCE it and all the trauma that comes with knowing how people that look like you are treated. If you have the means, donate. There are local and international organisations that are on the frontlines of this movement and rely solely on donations. Use your voice and speak up when you see something happening that is not right. This is not a radical action – we are taught this from the very first day we start at primary school.
'My hope for the future is that our rangatahi grow up free and unhindered by racism; that they don’t have to fight the same fights we are fighting right now. My hope for the future is that justice will prevail, both here in New Zealand, and globally.
If you are stuck on where to start, the following are great resources:
The New Jim Crow – Michelle Alexander / How to be an Anti-Raicst – Ibram X. Kendi / Me and White Supremacy – Layla F Saad / Pleasure Activism – Adrienne Maree Brown / Eloquent Rage - Brittney Cooper / Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race – Reni Eddo-Lodge / Decolonising the Mind - Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o
When They See Us – Ava Duvernay / TIME: A Kalief Browder Story – Jenner Furst / American Son – Kenny Leon / LA 92 – Daniel Lindsay & T. J. Martin / 13th – Ava Duvernay / The Hate U Give – George Tillman Jr. / Seven Seconds – Veena Sud
Local NZ/AUS Black-owned businesses - please see directory here
'I have been in the finance industry for over ten years now. For almost the same amount of time, I’ve seen the women around me struggle with the confidence to build their finances. I’ve had numerous female friends and family members come to me asking for help. They don’t know where to go to learn. They don’t know what questions to ask. And they feel left behind.
'If we look back at history, men have historically been the breadwinners of the household. Fast forward to today, and women are now more equally represented in the workforce and are more equal contributors to the family income. However, despite this, we have been left behind in the investing conversation. We don’t just have a gender pay gap, we have an investing knowledge gap too.
'Because we have been left behind, many women view investing as a mountain too big to climb and feel too overwhelmed to start the journey. However, as a gender, we should be the most concerned when it comes to investing and building wealth for our future.
'On average, we are paid less than men. We take time out of the workforce to have a family. And we live longer in retirement. These three reasons are why we are worse off when we retire and why we need to make sure we have the greatest pool of retirement savings when we reach retirement age.
'Small changes can make a huge difference. Due to compound interest (interest on interest on interest), if you had $20k in your KiwiSaver account, in a Fund generating 5% per year over 30 years, you will have $90k at retirement. However, if you moved this to a 10% per year returning Fund, for the same period of time, you will have $500k at retirement! If you kept this $20k in the bank in a term deposit generating 1% per year…..you can figure out the rest!
'In order to be financially independent and knowledgeable, we need to have the confidence when it comes to investing. We need to provide the support and a positive environment for women to learn. This is why we created The Curve, an investing education platform for women. It’s a place for women to learn more about money. Their money. And the money they want to make, for the future they want to have. It is created by women, for women.
'Each of us are busy, with little patience for complicated graphs and jargon-heavy information, yet, the pursuit for financial know-how and increasing your wealth should be a simple one. The Curve is a safe space for women to get investment-savvy, without the noise and confusion. A place for women to learn about investing in a way that makes sense to them, and makes sense for their lifestyle. We provide all women, no matter what stage of knowledge, the platform, tools and community support to achieve their financial goals.
'The earlier we can be having these investing and finance conversations with our women, the better. Investing can be an intimidating topic and can be seem overwhelming. However, the more we have these conversations, the quicker these ‘barriers’ will be broken down. '
Tash Crosby, Founder of Talk Peach
'Gynaecological cancers there are 5 of them: vaginal, uterine, cervical, vulval and one I sadly know personally ovarian. It’s a subject that has remained hidden for far too long, and deserves to be in the spotlight.
'I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2017, I underwent 2 major surgeries, and 6 months of one of toughest known chemo regimens, an extreme treatment using a combo of two different chemotherapy drugs for what is known as the most insidious of the gynaecological cancers. I lost my womb, my ovaries, cervix, fallopian tubes, the lot. I lost my ability to have children, and waved goodbye to the old me. Cancer changes you, you will never ever be the same.
'Getting diagnosed with cancer is extremely isolating, getting diagnosed with a gynaecological cancer, even more so.
'When I was diagnosed there were no people mass fundraising, no one wearing our ribbons, no street appeals, no sports teams decked out in our colours, The silence was deafening. I felt very alone, I was alone. Navigating a cancer that no one seemed to care about.
'1 New Zealander dies from a gynaecological cancer every 24 hours, a rate higher than our road toll, yet so much silence. Why? This was so upsetting to me.
'During my treatment I connected via social media with 100's of others going through gynaecological cancer treatment, without them things would have been much darker, they were the only source I had to chat chemo tips, to offload, offer and receive support, cry, laugh, and encourage, I couldn't have done it without them. Other than my whanau they really were my lifeline. We all felt alone, we all watched as others got the support they desperately needed from larger charities supporting other cancer types, why has gynaecological cancer remained so silent, why the stigma, we chatted about this all the time, holding each other tight via the internet, pushing each other through some really dark times.
'I spoke a lot during treatment, all the prime time news/media T.V shows, I spoke to whoever would listen to try and raise awareness, I made a ripple, and the drive to educate and save lives from then just wouldn't stop, I’m an educator I work with Ministry of Education and this leads me to where I am now; I founded Talk Peach Gynaecological Cancer Foundation in 2019, it’s my greatest achievement, it’s my lemonade from a shit load of lemons, it’s my way of giving back, my way of helping others so they don't have to feel the isolation I felt, it’s to fostering change, for advocating at a government level and ultimately for saving lives.
'In two years we have achieved so much, we have fostered positive relationships with those in Government, the district health boards nationwide, researchers, we have supported many going through treatment, we created the countries very first video awareness campaign, we have hosted many educational workshops, have pushed a petition through which has now been accepted campaigning for better funding for ovarian cancer, we have large organisations now aligning with us, our educational info goes far and wide, our logo is now on sports players uniforms, the list goes on and on, with minimal funding our ripple has turned into a wave.
'I can see the change happening, it makes me feel powerful, it makes me feel that anything is possible, with passion, drive, and of course a large dose of inequity to fuel my fire, big changes can take place by those at grass roots. I applaud anyone pushing change to benefit their communities.
'My road to recovery was long, but I learnt a lot about myself, I realised how resilient I was, I was so much stronger than I had ever given myself credit for, cancer gave me something I had struggled with, it fostered a love for myself and a belief in myself, it showed me how precious life is and what and who truly mattered to me, and for that I will forever be grateful.
We welcome anyone wishing to support us.'
'I grew up in Auckland and was born into a Gujarati-Muslim family. I had a fairly typical upbringing. My parents made sure we were firmly footed as New Zealanders, knew where exactly we came from and always strived to take the best of our multiple worlds, and intertwine them to be the best version of ourselves. Extracurricular activities were all-encompassing, involving a mixture of swimming, hockey, Quran classes, and a brief stint in a Peter Pan production. It’s safe to say that acting was not my calling. I was privileged to have a safe childhood, for which I am grateful.
'When I was 11, and three years after 9/11, I was diagnosed with Muscular Dystrophy. Slowly the idea of owning your heritage and being proud of who you are was overshadowed by the need to downplay the ‘embarrassing’ and ‘unknown’ parts in order to be included. For someone like me who is already introverted, the idea of sticking out was frightening. But it was the life I was given, and 17 years later, I have untold the stories I told myself and am going back to the wisdoms of my elders. It is a marathon that I am still running.
'As someone who uses an electric wheelchair, isolation was a common experience for me, almost a daily expectation. So, when lockdown hit last year, I scrolled social media with curiosity watching as people struggled to come to terms with their newly found lack of autonomy. Living with decisions other people make for you, not having agency over where you can go, feeling trapped, not being able to travel to visit your loved ones, the constant fear for your safety, the way low-paid yet essential workers selflessly saved us.
'For one in four New Zealanders, this has always been our reality.
'But something beautiful happened. Events moved online, and people started having brave and open conversations about the struggles they are navigating. Following the murder of George Floyd, we finally opened up about what is broken in Aotearoa and globally. Using the gift of the internet, we connected with one another from our homes to support one another and made it a point to both check in and reach out for those who needed it.
'Our quiet little corner of the world is Covid-free. As I write this though, other countries face outbreaks surpassing those of the past by far. I realise I spoke about Covid as a thing of the past, and that is a privilege I want to acknowledge at this point.
'I still struggle to picture a return to days past, but I know in my heart that day will come. When it does, what are we going to do with the lessons we have learnt? Are we going to forget everything, or will we embrace the challenge and build something better? From where I sit, the opportunities are in front of us, clear as day, for us to build a world where inclusion is at the core. '
Maddi Rowe (she/her), Community Organiser with the Wellington Alliance Against Sexual Violence
Content warning: sexual violence
When sexual violence occurs, we have failed as a society. We have failed to raise our people with the inherent knowledge of obeying consent and acknowledging boundaries. We have failed to eliminate rape culture and stigmatisation. To tackle the issue of sexual violence, we need to see through the murky, grey areas of sexual violence, and act as a community.
The changes I would like to see are simple changes:
I want to see these concepts absolutely everywhere. Comprehensive consent education. Discarding punitive police measures altogether. Community-based rehabilitation for both victim/survivors of sexual violence and people who have done harm. A wide distribution of specialist sexual violence resources. This kaupapa requires the input and care of many, many people, and lots of calculated time and effort. Every person matters, no matter the size of contribution. A sense of community is incredibly important when we’re talking about a systemic issue that will affect our children and grandchildren.
But we cannot keep living like this.
We deserve better.
This is why we rallied urgently.
The issue is pressing, and it’s happening as we speak.
For now, we bring awareness to the complexity, brevity and prevalence of sexual violence.
We rally our Government. We rally our whānaunga. We rally to do better by each other.
I look forward to seeing a future where I won’t have to be a sexual violence prevention organiser. I look forward to a horizon that blooms with compassion, understanding and empathy. Where sexual violence is treated as it should be – a structural, systemic issue that affects every single person in our society – not something used to silo and exile those who have made mistakes and those who have been victimised.
This issue requires all of us to talk to each other. Empathise. Relearn.
One day soon, we will walk the streets, unafraid.
SAFE TO TALK PH: 0800 044 334 / TXT: 4334
Youth/tertiary student support index: https://thursdaysinblack.org/get-help
'I grew up in rural Hawke’s Bay, where my Dad was a primary school teacher. When my brother Simon and I started at Ardkeen School, near Wairoa, our father was the sole-charge teacher and there were only 12 other pupils in the entire school.
'This was a pretty cool way to grow up, but somehow I always felt like a city kid. I loved staying with my cousins in Manurewa during the school holidays, and catching the bus from their place to hang out in Queen Street. Something about being among all those people felt energising and exciting. Later on, as a queer-far-from-out teen wondering how the hell to be gay (this was the 80's, and queer role models were hard to find), the city offered a tantalising whiff of freedom, the chance to create a future that I couldn’t yet imagine for myself.
'Cities are gloriously messy: full of energy and contradictions, pitfalls and possibilities. They are places where our problems as a society are starkly present, and where the solutions to these problems can often seem achievable. At the very least, living in close proximity to people means you’re going have to work with them – or at least tolerate them – in some way.
'Professionally speaking, I grew up in media, working as a journalist and editor. I followed my interests in architecture and design, which led to a fascination with the way cities are made. My last media project was Paperboy, a free Auckland weekly I edited for a fun 14-month period until it was closed down by Bauer Media, the company that owned it. The thing I liked best about Paperboy is how we were free to celebrate the city’s diversity and potential. We were sick of seeing the same 50 faces in magazines, and wanted to make Paperboy a place where other people could shine (we also published a lot about public transport, housing and bike lanes). Most of all, we wanted our readers to feel connected to Auckland and to feel like they all had a stake in making it a better, fairer place.
'My interests in the city now have an outlet in the work I do for the Britomart Group, the company that runs the nine-block area east of Britomart Station. Britomart has office buildings, heritage warehouses and some really nice shops and restaurants, but my favourite part of it is Takutai Square, with its open space, its lawn where people can come and sit and hang out and enjoy the sunshine, and its fountain, an artwork named Te Rou Kai by Chaz Doherty, Renata Blair and Bernard Makoare which reminds visitors that this reclaimed land once hosted shellfish beds that were an important food source for mana whenua.
'Part of my job at Britomart is to make people feel welcome here, and to encourage connections between them and to the city itself. I don’t have any clear answers on how to do this, but so far I’ve experimented with art projects and organised things like food truck days and free events. My hope is a bit like what we tried to create with Paperboy: if people feel connected to each other and their city, they might also feel inspired to create a better future for it. This sounds horribly earnest and possibly completely misguided, but a boy’s gotta hope that we can collectively tackle terrible problems like homelessness, inequality and climate change, right?
'I like the idea of creating experiences that might enrich people’s days just a little, to make them feel like the city is a place that nourishes them, and that sharing public spaces can be an uplifting experience. The highlight of last year was working with Nigel Borell, the curator of Toi Tū Toi Ora: Contemporary Māori Art, to commission a series of public artworks by Māori artists in Britomart. One of those artworks, Shane Cotton’s five-storey-high mural, entitled Maunga, now covers an entire wall of the building at the back of Britomart Station, an indelible Māori narrative in a very public place.
'This work of Shane’s is inspired by the city. It features 25 pot forms, each of them inscribed with the name of a different maunga (or, in some cases, an imaginary place) in Aotearoa or the Pacific. One of the ideas in the work is that the city is a place where people from different parts of the country gather, each of them bringing a little bit of home with them. To me, the work nails the collective nature of being in the city. It’s also an explicit gesture of welcome to Māori, and to those who find themselves living away from the places they consider home. The subtext – that you belong, that you have a stake in this place and its future – is abundantly clear.
'The other day I was walking past Shane’s mural and talked to a group of kura kaupapa students from Tauranga who were having their photo taken in front of the pot ‘Mauao’, the name of their maunga. They’d just seen Toi Tū Toi Ora at the art gallery up the road, and seemed pretty jazzed about it. I don’t know if those kids are going to grow up to help tackle the problems I’ve mentioned earlier, or what challenges they’ll face in their lives. But to see Shane’s work making them feel welcome and connected to this city, telling them that this place is theirs as much as anyone’s, made me hopeful that they’ll know it’s a place they share a stake in – and that its future is worth fighting for.'
'I’ve only been living in New Zealand for just over one year but there is already so much I have come to love, less-than-love, and feel hopeful for in my industries. I’m originally from Vancouver, Canada but have spent the last decade living in Los Angeles as a journalist working with publications from Los Angeles Times and the Wall Street Journal to Refinery29, Playboy, Eater and Washington Post. If you told me one year ago that I would be living in New Zealand now I would have thought you were crazy. I ended up coming here with one suitcase just a day before the borders shut from COVID-19 to be with a chef (Ed Verner of Pasture) that I had fallen crazy in love with and have never looked back. Fast forward one year and now we have a bar together (Boxer) and I’m the restaurant critic for Metro Magazine in my new home on the other side of the world.
'I’m a bit of an anomaly in both of my industries. I’m in the hospitality world with Boxer but I’m also on the critic side with Metro. I have a culinary degree and a history of working in fine-dining but I’m also a food writer who has spent the last decade on the other side of things, writing about food instead of making it. I think this gives me a pretty unique insight when it comes to food journalism as I have an intimate understanding of both sides of the equation. There’s a lot of disconnect for some food writers who have not spent years working in hospitality or cooking professionally themselves, whether they realize it or not. This isn’t unique to food writing, it’s just like any other creative industry and its critical media counterpart. Maybe it’s similar to the disconnect a designer feels about a fashion journalist or a musician to a music critic. What is most noticeable to me in this case is that there’s a lot of romanticizing of what is often a complex, difficult, and more-often-than-not cut-throat industry. But I guess you can’t blame a writer for that. Storytelling is really just a form of written romance, after all.
'From the hospitality side of things I think that Auckland is both blessed and cursed with having an intimate and tight-knit hospitality community. While this can mean a heightened, deep-rooted sense of community and support it can also mean a hotbed for gossip and (even though it’s one of those things you seem to not be able to openly discuss without calling yourself into it) tall-poppy syndrome. I really do think that while our market is small, there is truly enough success to go around for everyone and I wish our hospo people would believe that and let that loosen their shoulders a bit more. Let us celebrate all of us a bit more, no matter your style of cuisine, side of town, or crew. I also think that people, both inside-and-outside of the industry (it takes both sides of the equation to make a workable impact and model) would celebrate and appreciate difference and diversity more in the Auckland food scene. I mean this in the sense of concepts and what and how they offer what they do as well as the people behind these concepts. I feel like I can’t throw a rock (or read an article) without landing on an upscale bistro with anchovies and a killer sourdough or a vibey Italian leaning spot slinging natural wines. This isn’t a bad thing in and of itself, I adore everything listed above.
'What I mean to say is: we need to support outside of the eye of today’s trendiest/most mainstream/most aging culture groups for a better food culture across the board tomorrow. Culture will always be grouped and faceted so let’s hit it on all fronts. I think it’s endlessly important that we lift up our Maori and Pacific Islander and populations by supporting young chefs to cook their food, their way. The same should be said of our people of Asian, Latin American, and African descent whose cuisines often do not have the understanding or demand behind them from the general population to make a splash in the mainstream. They certainty don’t demand the same price tags either. There is endless consumer behavior data that shows us that consumers feel quite fine to pay (from fairly to exorbitantly) for certain types of cuisines while other types of cuisines are pigeonholed as “cheap” and therefore have a huge difficulty evolving or playing in an even field. Have you ever wondered: Why is there only one truly Maori fine dining restaurant in this whole country? These are often people who do not have advertising budgets, support from mainstream media (who often focus content based on said advertising budgets), or even necessarily a demand for their cuisine outside of their own communities.
'So what does that mean exactly? Try something new whenever you can (and not just from the recommendations of media covering the flash openings). Ask questions and make space for people to talk about their food without being othering or exoticizing them. Food is the gateway to getting to know people’s ancestry, their comfort, and to some extent, their socio-economic place (and hardships) in current culture. Let’s push our media to tell food stories that matter. Let’s move away from “the top ten best fried chicken” lists and move towards stories that help lift up the unspoken pain, beauty, and impact that restaurants, producers, and foodways have on every single one of us living in Auckland. This is a not only necessary but completely doable. And hey, I’m not saying there should be no list out there for the best fried chicken. God knows, I want to eat through that list myself. Let’s just balance it out with some human realness.
'This won’t be popular but the last thing I have to say is that the mainstream food media should be more critical. While it may seem like being everyone’s cheerleader is helping the industry, it does no favours when it comes to helping bring different facets of cuisine to the forefront of conversation. At the end of the day food is something we consume. The story can be great but it must still taste good. It must do that delicious food thing to your brain and make you count the days until you can have it again. It does no good to big up a cuisine or restaurant based solely on story or because some other writers already have praised it. Go against the grain or educate yourself further to understand what else is out there in comparison. If it’s just ok, then say so, write so. Unfortunately, most places are just ok. Just like most musicians and most artists and most carwashes and most movies. This will help us all do better and it will catapult Auckland’s culinary scene forward in ways we very much deserve. It will also help put us in line to be taken more seriously as a global food city that our produce and chefs surely deserve. '
Lucy Blakiston, Founder, Shit You Should Care About
'I give a lot of shits about a lot of things. And what I mean by that is - I’m not exclusively passionate about a certain field, I guess I’m more interested in the playing field and helping to level it out.
'At Shit You Should Care About we whole-bloody-heartedly believe that we should all be able to understand the news/the world around us because it’s happening to all of us. So that’s exactly what we help to do. We cut through the bullshit, the jargon, the clickbait, the “fake news,” the paywalls - all of the shit that makes information feel inaccessible - and make it accessible (with a few Harry Styles pictures thrown in there for good measure).
'And we do this as self-described non-experts. We’re talking to you as your mates, not your teachers. We’re using words (and often memes) that you can understand to explain things you deserve to understand - because we’re all just humans trying to navigate this weird world, together.
'I feel like when I’m writing about what I believe is possible in this space (space being the media industry here), there’s an intense pressure to seem - or to be insightful, but I think if we all spent a little less time trying to be insightful and a little more time just being human, then we can really get on with making this space more accessible and understandable. I totally reckon it’s possible for companies like us to fit within (or maybe a slight outlier to) the media industry as we know it, maybe SYSCA is the non-intimidating, here-to-help, younger cousin of the major media outlets? I’m cool with that.
'Really, when I think about the best being yet to come, I see a future where more people are standing up and saying “I don’t know about this, but damn I want to know about this!” rather than us all pretending we know it all - because we just don’t.
'Should you listen to me? Was this insightful? Honestly, idk. I am in no way an expert in anything and I’m okay with that because I’m interested in like, a lot of things. And I’ll be here, on the other end of SYSCA to continue answering those questions that we are all asking. Because how the fuck does the stock market work?'
'How do you explain to someone you deserve to exist? That you deserve to breathe the same air as they do. That it’s ok for you both to share the same space, the same city, the same country. If you exist beside them, they will be fine. It’s possible to live alongside me, I don’t have to die for you to truly live. But racist people don’t believe this and I spend my whole life knowing White supremacists want me dead because I am Asian.
'I used to feel like I was fighting an invisible fight. When a person yells at me “Go back to China.” from a passing car, the words stick in my mind but the sound gets to disappear. I see a couple in Chinatown pull their eyes back to make them slanted, laughing they drop their hands and their eyes and lives go back to what they consider normal. Old men ask for a “Two dollar sucky sucky love me long time” laughing along their way, leaving my 12 year old self afraid, unsafe and silent. These moments used to feel invisible and small until one day they didn’t. They got more visible, they got a lot bigger. The cars that used to keep driving on, now parked up and the verbal abuse got louder, the hands that made slant eyes became hands sharing and liking multiple racist images, old men stopped asking for it and just took it from us instead. It got worse.
'Elderly Asian people were being attacked on the street and 6 Asian women were murdered in a racially charged shooting. You see this now, it took multiple deaths and video evidence for the world to see and believe us. If we aren’t being screamed at we are being spat at, if we aren’t being spat at we are being assaulted, if we aren’t being assaulted we are being murdered. People are killing us because we are Asian.
'I’m tired of trying to make people understand, coming up with analogies or entertaining stories just to gain a crumb of empathy. I feel like I am begging for my survival. ‘Two steps forward, three steps back.’ often echoes in my mind. Although I appreciate the ally efforts of those who benefit from White supremacy - it’s still not enough. Our suffering, our trauma, the murder of minorities cannot be your activist flavour of the month. Poc, lgbtqi+, sex workers and indigenous people are being reduced to a single social media square, a carousel of fitting aesthetic colours to choose from to remind people “stop killing us”. It’s not working, the swirly pastel blue typography isn’t solving racism, I am telling you - the wavy gradient isn’t ending White supremacy. Real changes need to be made, open your eyes, stop a sexist joke, treat racism as a crime, protect the elderly, support queer people, don’t reduce a murderer to having a “bad day”, educate your sons, your daughters, your friends, your parents, don’t be ignorant, don’t look away, don’t pretend like you don’t have the power to make this world less worse. Can we end White supremacy? I have to believe we can because I refuse to be invisible and spend the rest of my life trapped alone in my house fearing the world around me. I am strong, I am assertive, I am Chinese with a surname that comes from a legendary dynasty of people who already changed the world once. I am all these things and I will be more because I am proudly, visibly, unapologetically Asian.'
‘I’ve travelled right through the mediums of radio, theatre and television in my short career. I’ve done some truly bizarre commercial work. I’ve been in charge of the content and of myself through some of it, paid to be opinion-less and take direction through most of it, and the one thing every side of the entertainment industry has in common is that it is racist.
‘QTPOC are still used like a sticking plaster over a broken limb. Do you know how little the industry has changed since I graduated? The same three or four people have been writing the biggest budget tv shows we make in Aotearoa, for the last ten years. The same white actors get hired in the same theatres that have been hiring them for ten years. Funding decisions are made by people who claim to be worried about “accessibility” and “appeal”, all while ignoring that more than just white people watch tv. There are so many old racists newly painting themselves with the word “ally” rather than retiring.
‘But I’ve seen change happen and I know it’s going to continue. Every day I see the people around me developing and deepening their artistic practices, pouring their expertise back into the communities they owe their success to, and lifting those younger than them up in the process. There’s something so satisfying about watching people succeed doing everything they were told not to. And the thought of these same QTPOC moving into real hefty positions of power in all industries? Well it’s just chef’s kiss.'
Jaycee Tanuvasa, Creative & Activist
'Transgender inclusion, visibility, equality and safety.
'When we think about the things specifically trans women are deserving of in comparison to what is tangible to us in reality, I think about the speed bumps that are in our way that need to change and I believe that transformation is possible but we cannot do it on our own because often we are not the problem.
'International Women’s Day is important as it is a day to celebrate all women cis, poc and trans but it is also a day to acknowledge the work that needs to be done for us. For me personally it is a time to raise awareness on what trans women need from the world.
T - TRANS LIVES ARE TIRED
R - RAH TAH TAH TAH
A - ABUNDANCE
N - NOW
S - SURVIVAL
'Trans rights are human rights but we can’t fight our battles ourselves. We need ally’s to step in and support us even if that means calling out their loved ones' behaviours.
'Rah tah tah tah run us that representation! and I’m not just talking about media and film, we need to be on the decision tables, in the government and in education. Support trans people in their education and in their chosen work fields because the discrimination and bullying is damaging.
'Abundance! We deserve an Abundance of love! Love looks like respecting our pronouns, protecting us in public spaces, respecting our chosen names and identities, celebrating our beauty in every stage of our transition, loving us in the light and not in the dark. Fetishisation is the opposite of love when it comes to trans bodies. We are not your joke.
'Now is the time for trans women and men to step into our power and joy. Don’t wait for someone to accept you. Demand acceptance. That is the bare minimum. Invite yourself. Create your own tables. Share your stories. Shine your light.
'Survival is what we’ve been doing but our lives should not feel like a battlefield. Trans lives should be protected, always! Trans housing support is necessary! Transition funds and gender affirming support is needed. Trans POC women have survived the most and unfortunately many have not. Losing a trans women in this world is the downfall of humanity.'
'It’s hard loving fashion when fashion doesn’t love you back. You’d think you’d give up on it eventually, but it doesn’t seem to work like that. I’ve spent most of my adult life trying to change my body (namely, make it smaller) to fit fashion rather than change fashion to fit me.
'I’m no trail blazer or spokesperson when it comes to size representation in the clothing industry, instead finding myself shying away from so many times when I could have spoken up - sent a letter, voiced an opinion. Embarrassed rather than outraged when clothes weren’t made in my size. I often think about the near 20 years, the brain power and the energy that I have wasted consumed by diet culture, fat phobia and self loathing that I could have used making positive change in the world.
'Now that we're seeing, feeling and experiencing this change in fashion where bodies of all types are slowly (very slowly) being, if not embraced, accepted. I know this is the fruit of others labour and not my own to claim, and yet the relief I experience in witnessing this revolution is immense. I’m not just giddy with the possibilities of beautiful clothes I can wear, but with the clear eyes and mind of someone who now really sees the beauty in everybody, and with that comes self-acceptance.
'This change largely hasn’t come from the top, from celebrities or large brands, it has come from individuals that have put themselves, and their bodies out there in the public arena - often to a barrage of bullying comments, attacks and abuse that I know I could never handle and am too afraid to try. And yet, these heroes of mine, they keep going, they delete the hate, they send the letters, they take the photos and they tell us that they are worthy and in doing that they remind us that we are worthy too.
'It’s a reminder no person should ever need but it speaks to just how vital representation - not just of large bodies but tall bodies, short bodies, differently abled bodies, differently coloured bodies, differently adorned bodies - really is. And the wakening realisation that until that representation applies to your own lived experience, it can feel a lot like a pretty picture or a woke gesture, but that when it truly mirrors a reality for you the power of that, and the potential for change, is massive.
'For me, that change is a freedom - I have all this energy and capacity now for getting pretty bloody rarked up about stuff but also passionate about it. I no longer feel the need to shrink as small as I can, hoping to make self invisible rather than the horror of anyone realising I’m fat. I’ll be forever indebted to those that trod the path before me but I now feel I can help join that fight and keep pushing for that change in the fashion industry (actually, make that all industries). Using my voice and my power to cheerlead those that sincerely make positive and inclusive changes and to criticise those that don’t. 2020 was a cluster, but it taught us a lot and I can’t help but feel optimistic that things are shifting as we look outwards instead of inwards, and care more fully and thoughtfully about everyone in our community.'
Lilah McDonald, Founder of Water Us
'My name is Lilah McDonald and I am a year 6 student at St Cuthbert’s College. Three years ago my family and I travelled overseas to Europe and one day I noticed a big bank of water fountains in the square. It was then when I wondered why I had never seen anything like that anywhere in Auckland, and then when I thought about it, any drinking fountains at all in Auckland. So when I got back to New Zealand I did some research and it turns out that Auckland is very behind on the amount of drinking fountains we have. For example, only 16% of Auckland’s playgrounds and 5% of Auckland’s parks have drinking fountains. Overall, Auckland only has 370 fountains.
'Water fountains are actually very important for many reasons, two being: 1. People’s health. Often when people are thirsty, they will go to the dairy to buy bottled water. What also often happens is they will go to the dairy intending to purchase a bottle of water and instead buy a sugary drink because they are cheaper than bottled water. 2. The environment. Approximately 1,500 bottles end up in landfill and the ocean each second around the world. If there are more water fountains, people could fill up their drink bottles instead of buying bottled water and the bottles the water come in wouldn't end up in landfill.
'My goal is to double the amount of water fountains in Auckland by the end of 2021 (and after this continuing my project throughout New Zealand), to change people’s drinking habits and to help the environment. I have started a social enterprise called Water Us, selling toilet paper to help raise money to buy more drinking fountains to gift back to our communities. I chose toilet paper because it’s a product that everyone needs and one that would generate regular income. This way people can support a charity through everyday purchases.
'Water Us has launched on the Pledge Me crowdfunding platform, so that we can fund our first container of tree free, environmentally friendly toilet paper with pre-sales. I’m really excited to be launch on Pledge Me as it means more people will be able to find out about my social enterprise.
'I feel a very strong connection with the ocean and I think that something needs to be done about the amount of plastic that enters it every day. I hope that my project will have a positive impact on the environment and I would really love for you to help me achieve this goal.
'Please help me spread the word about my PledgeMe campaign and support me if you can.'
'Every day I wake up in February, Aotearoa New Zealand is a little queerer. Rainbow stairs, rainbow crossing, rainbow corporate logos and even rainbow police cars. Eerie. But the most crucial thing, rainbow rights, are still missing. The New Zealand government has been applauded worldwide for its kindness. But this kindness has been cruel and violent to the vulnerable queer people in Aotearoa. While the government delays the ban on conversion therapy, more queer people will suffer.
'When I migrated from Fiji to Aotearoa, I thought I would finally achieve freedom. I was expecting roses and sunshine, but I was met with pastors and a bible. In the summer of 2017, I was volunteering at Middlemore Hospital when a priest walked up to me and offered to "pray my gay away". I refused. So he looked at me, and he said, "it's hot, but you know what's hotter? Hell." In 2021, it is legal to erase queer identities in Aotearoa in the form of conversion therapy.
'Conversion therapy is any practice that seeks to change, suppress, or eliminate someone's sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression. In reality, it isn't therapy at all. It would be better described with a name like conversion torture. And Joan Bellingham's story is a horrific demonstration of it.
'Joan Bellingham grew up wanting to be a nurse. When the word got out that she was a lesbian, she was taken to the Princess Margaret Hospital, not as a nurse but as a patient. Joan was falsely diagnosed with a "neurotic personality disorder" and tormented with over 200 electric shocks. Joan said the headaches made her want to die, and the shocks felt like razor blades going through her body. She's 69 years old now, still a lesbian, but she says she ended up hating herself.
'Frankly, conversion therapy is junk science. Leading medical bodies call it unethical, harmful and ineffective. Take McKrae Game, for example. Game led a faith-based conversion therapy program, Hope for Wholeness in the USA, for two decades before coming out as gay in 2019. He claimed to have counselled thousands of people and admitted he'd harmed generations of queer people.
'Although there is no evidence of people being shocked to treat their queerness in 2021, queer people are still being punished. Many have turned to psychoanalysis. An undercover TVNZ Sunday investigation found Natasha Ellis, a psychologist suggested by David Ridell leader of Living Wisdom, saying same-sex "attraction can absolutely be changed".
'"Jay" went undercover as a young Christian gay man struggling with this sexuality. Ellis gave Jay a set of cards with phrases that would rewire his brain. Ellis instructed Jay to memorise the phrases, text them to himself twice a day and read them every morning and night.
'Others use aversion therapy. If you've ever heard of Pavlov's dogs, this is it. It includes snapping oneself with a rubber band, having an ice-cold shower or inflicting pain on yourself every time you feel or think "queerly". After multiple pairings of an aversive stimuli with queerness, "queer" thoughts start to elicit the same reaction as the aversive stimuli. The goal is to make any queer thoughts or feelings aversive by associating them with pain and suffering, therefore accepting your queerness becomes a punishment.
'There is no evidence that conversion therapy works. However, the Family Acceptance Project found that conversion therapy increases high levels of depression from 13% to 52% and suicide rates from 22% to 63% for queer people when parents and medical professionals or religious leaders practise it.
'The most significant practitioners of conversion therapy are religious extremists. National MPs Simon Bridges and Nick Smith have come to defend religious extremists calling conversion therapy religious freedom in recent years.
'There are numerous stories of young people praying to God to "heal them or kill them" after being told by their church to pray for forgiveness. My friend Trinity Browne said they were taught that loving God would make them straight and fix a fundamental imperfection of who they were - that their queerness was a God-given, Satan-imposed cross to bear to strengthen their character.
'There is a fine line between religious freedom and religious bigotry. Conversion therapy is bigotry. Religious leaders have weaponised the relationship queer people have with God and manipulated them into thinking God will hate them if they don't repent. This bullying clothed in "love" is an insidious abuse of trust and power. God doesn't care if you are gay or trans; being a decent human will suffice. As for these religious leaders, they have driven many queer people into a life of pain and misery, and God will never forgive them for it.
'More than 370 religious leaders worldwide have rejected the idea that torturing queer people is a universal religious right and joined the call for a ban on conversion therapy. In every democratic society, the rights and freedoms of people are balanced. Religious rights are not absolute. Section 5 of the New Zealand Bill of Rights allows justifiable limitations on all rights. The severe harm prevented by banning conversion therapy provides a more than justifiable reason.
'The question is then, can adults consent to conversion therapy? Well, no one is waking up on a random Sunday morning and choosing to pray the gay away out of sheer curiosity. It takes years of queerphobic conditioning before someone prefers abuse over queerness. Coercion is present socially and mentally, which breaches the fundamental principles of consent. Vulnerable adults who may want to engage in conversion therapy are a product of a queerphobic society and have been conditioned to believe there is something wrong with them. People aren't giving informed consent to conversion therapy. People aren't told that there's no evidence it'll work and that it will increase depression levels and the risk of suicide. Instead, they are lied to and told their gender and sexuality can be changed. Instead of misleading people into torture, we should invest in affirming people's gender and sexuality.
'The Labour Party has released its timeline to ban conversion therapy. The bill will be introduced to the house in mid-2021 and come into action in February 2022. In this time, the government is obliged to do things that do not require law changes.
'Banning conversion therapy is not the same as ending it. The harm has been done, and the state is responsible for redressing it. The victims and survivors must be given support to heal from the harm of conversion therapy. We also need a robust education of all New Zealanders. Punitive approaches alone won't solve these issues; they need a nuanced approach. However, the government is only proposing a ban. This is a sign that little effort has been made on their behalf to consult the queer community.
'A blanket ban alone work for all communities. Some need more. Young ethnic queer people have a preference to stay with their family. But there seems to be no conversation about how we are to navigate situations where a young brown person is being put into conversion therapy but doesn't want to tear their family apart. Further, if the child prefers to stay with the family regardless, fining and imprisoning parents directly affects the child. Taking $10,00 away from the parents is taking $10,000 from the child. The government must provide an accessible safety net of understanding that diverts people from conversion therapy.
'The Green Party petition to end conversion therapy has gained more than 150,000 signatures. New Zealanders are hungry to see all forms of conversion therapy ended. But the National Party has only committed to banning gay conversion therapy and haven't discussed gender conversion therapy. David Seymour says the ACT party will vote against banning conversion therapy. I'd feel very lonely if I were them.
'The Labour Party campaigned on banning conversion therapy. They need 61 votes to do so and have 65. They can do as they please. The Green, Māori and National party will support a ban – which is 110 votes. The government can and must end conversion therapy.'
'I’m the daughter of Peranakan Chinese immigrants, the word ‘Peranakan’ roughly translating to ‘my ancestors are from elsewhere but I consider this place home’ — which is to say, it is in my blood to be tauiwi, to search for and negotiate a sense of belonging on somebody else’s land.
'Last year, I was lucky enough to spend time speaking with a range of leaders in the arts sector, the beginnings of a kind of map for the future. I’d like to echo part of their whakaaro, about privileging Indigenous knowledges, which is not only about first and foremost re-centring Māori values and a Māori way of doing things, but to recognise the many cultures and communities who now call Aotearoa home and to deepen our understanding of the different ways we might see or do things. I’d like to see those knowledges embedded into the fabric of our industry: from the details we ask for when we catalogue an artwork, to our funding processes, to the way that we talk about and value our work.
'Last year, at the beginning of the pandemic, I spent sleepless hours thinking about how to support the community of Asian artists I work with. Not only were we being hit by the arts sector shutting down, we were experiencing a very real rise in anti-Asian sentiment. It was awful. It hurt. I don’t just mean the explicit acts of violence, or even the many racist slurs. I’m also talking about how easy it is to reduce someone to an identity marker, and all the smaller, less visible ways that unexamined and unconscious prejudices can manifest.
'As we enter the lunar new year, I’m hopeful. For me, this year is about developing new rituals: to work harder to align my values with my actions, to continue negotiating what it means to be tauiwi — to deepen my understanding of both te ao Māori and my Peranakan heritage — and to keep expanding the outer limits of my imagination. That’s important too, because I feel like anything is possible in this tender moment.'
Stacey Morrison - Ngāi Tahu/Te Arawa, Pākehā
'Tēnā tātou katoa,
'Where are you from? I’m from New Zealand.
'Nō hea koe? Nō Aotearoa ahau.
'Where are you from? I am from Aotearoa.
'Is there a difference for you, when you say that you come from New Zealand, to when you say you’re from Aotearoa? To say you come from Aotearoa, in our indigenous language of our country, you are recounting the call of Hine te apārangi as she sighted this land and called ‘He ao, he ao, he ao tea roa!’ it is a cloud, a cloud, a long white cloud, knowing that meant there was land below that long white cloud. That moment pulsates through our country’s history until it comes from your mouth, and resonates in your heart because this is the place you call home. Our home, Aotearoa, happens to be so very good looking, lush and unique, that it’s easy to be swept away with the aethestics and miss some dirty laundry we have lying around. The Treaty of Waitangi, first signed on February 6th 1840, gives us a reference point for our nation and an opportunity for endless study of the promises made, subterfuge at play and interpretation of the genuine intent. For better or for worse (note the reference to marriage vows) a partnership was born, one that envelopes Tangata whenua and The Crown, which includes Tangata tiriti – a term that has developed for ‘people of the treaty’ non-Māori whose place in Aotearoa is affirmed in the Treaty. So, we are all partners, and every partnership needs work, communication, give and take, and a willingness to apologise when we know we have been wrong. The Crown Apology delivered to Ngāi Tahu (one of my iwi) in 1998 acknowledged that the Crown acted “unconscionably and in repeated breach of the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi in its dealings with Ngāi Tahu in the purchase of Ngāi Tahu land.” Many people know of the Ngāi Tahu Treaty settlement and subsequent financial growth but the acknowledgement of the cultural, fiscal and social suffering of Ngāi Tahu as a result of treaty breaches was deeply significant and emotional for our people, when it was delivered in person at Akaroa in 1998. This was also the point at which the Crown expressed their desire to “begin the process of healing and to enter a new age of co-operation with Ngāi Tahu” which feels like a good intent, to me. Co-operation, mutual respect, giving each other space, together time and time to be alone, to grow together while respecting each other’s individuality are some concepts of partnership that resonate for me when I think of positive relationships, whether they are romantic, or one that allows us to have a harmonious existence, in Aotearoa. So, as we may ask ourselves in a relationship from time to time ‘Am I being the partner that I want to be, a partner that I would want to be with? I think Waitangi day is an opportunity to ask ourselves ‘am I being the Treaty Partner I want to be?’
'Growing up, I strived to be as masculine as I possibly could be. I was relentless in my pursuit to be the biggest bloke on the block. To my knowledge, no one was openly queer while I was in high school. I’m sure I had peers who felt the same as me at the time, nervous. It wasn’t so much about coming out to my classmates that frightened me to the point of sickness; it was the ensuing stereotypes that stuck like glue. Once you’ve thrown yourself in a ‘box’, it’s difficult to break it down. Back then, I felt like being queer was synonymous with being feminine, flamboyant, overly-dramatic, a pansy – someone with a slinky as a backbone. I assumed being feminine made me less of a man.
'So, I covered my femininity up. I force-feed myself masculinity. I served it up cold for breakfast, lunch and dinner. I injected myself into situations I thought were self-serving. I played rugby, I dabbled in soccer, I made sexist slurs about girls’ behinds in the locker rooms with the lads to fit in. At times, I even poorly attempted to chase tail. I spoke in a lower voice. I refused to talk about my emotions, I kept them so tightly locked up, and I swallowed the key, too. I pretended to be a brick wall when I was nothing more than fresh jelly that had only been setting in the fridge for an hour or so. I put on a front so people would leave me in the shadows, I liked it there. I stopped openly caring for myself because I assumed caring for yourself was feminine, and I couldn’t have that, it would blow my cover.
'When my sister, Anna-Lise, asked me to contribute to RUBY’s The Best Is Yet To Come, I knew instantly what I wanted to ramble on about. This means everything to me. I wholeheartedly believe toxic Kiwi male masculinity is real, it’s feral, and it’s seeded in our children’s development. We enable bullies to water the toxic culture, to keep it hydrated, to let it grow without limitations and sprout men who don’t know how to express themselves.
'I didn’t wear pink for five years, I didn’t wash my face or slap on a serum for the entirety of my high school experience. I tried to fit in to ensure I didn’t stand out. And somewhere along the way, I stopped caring for myself. I didn’t allow myself to dance, or scream because, god forbid, I was dramatic. I didn’t reach out to my friends when I felt low, or sometimes, felt like nothing at all. And I think that’s the crux, and where so many boys who are growing up, slip up. I stopped allowing myself to express myself, and it chipped away at me, bit by bit, piece by piece. In my relentless pursuit of supreme masculinity, I ended up with nothing. I was mundane, a mute who failed at playing rugby and had as much personality as an entire beige house, with a faux electric fire.
'We need to deconstruct masculinity and what it means to be a man. It needs to be retaught to our most susceptible demographic, our younger generation. Many of my guy friends, who identify as both heterosexual and queer, struggle with their emotions. They haven’t sharpened their emotional toolbox, and it’s left them incapable of managing adult experiences. If we rework masculinity from the ground up, allow children to be free and express themselves without following bullshit societal norms, we’ll build a community that cares. Let boys wear skirts to school. Encourage teenagers to be open about their sexuality and provide safe spaces. Stop instilling sports gender-segregation. Boys should play netball at junior school if they want to. Boys should be allowed to apply pink Kosas Lip Oil in the bathroom without being ridiculed. Boys should be taught to accept each other, regardless of their sexual orientation. Boys need to know it’s okay not to be okay.
'If we dismantle out-dated masculinity ideals, we might be able to chip away at our male suicide rate in New Zealand – which is three times that of New Zealand women. One in eight New Zealand men will experience severe depression during their lifetime. I’m not talking about feeling low, I’m talking about suffering from a serious illness that requires clinical treatment. This is the reality of where we are at.
'Personally, I am ready to wipe-out the terms ‘masculinity’ and ‘femininity’ altogether. But, for the sake of this piece, if I were to consider what being masculine truly is, I would say it’s ambiguous. As long as you feel it; you are it. I don’t think there is one definition. I do, however, believe there is nothing more masculine than being unapologetically yourself. Whatever that might be.'
While it’s a New Year, my intentions have not changed, in fact, they are more resolute than ever. After a 2-week break to immerse myself in the ocean and nature, pushing all thoughts of sustainability in the fashion industry aside, I’ve emerged fully determined to play my part in making change happen!
Creating a sustainable future for our planet ultimately comes down to a matter of responsibility - from society, business and government. While we are all responsible for the part we play, some have greater responsibility and greater ability to affect change. As Elizabeth Cline says in her excellent article The Twilight of the Ethical Consumer, “companies have a responsibility to society.” To bring about substantive change in the fashion industry, we need our businesses to operate in a responsible way, and we need to tackle root causes through systemic action, policy and regulation to ensure this happens.
For companies, really understanding the long term purpose of their business, and measuring success in ways other than purely financial is important. I would like to see businesses measuring their progress against the Sustainable Development Goals, or natural, social and cultural capitals as well as financial. Measuring and taking action to reduce footprints, especially carbon, but also waste, water and biodiversity are vital. We need full transparency of supply chains, so businesses can make mindful and informed decisions. Production that meets demand - rather than over-producing, and creating demand to meet this is also critical to relieving pressure on our people and resources. Designing for a circular economy, and creating the systems to enable this to happen is a priority, but also a huge challenge for us in New Zealand. This is due to our remote and isolated location, and our reliance on global supply chains for much of our industry infrastructure. Government regulation and policy will incentivise change and force more responsibility from companies, however, I’m encouraged that some businesses are acting before they need to.
Individually we can, and should, be active consumers. The number one thing we can do is be mindful in our choices. We all need to buy things. Regardless of what level of the market we are buying in, demand responsibility from the brands you love and be informed about who and what you are supporting. This could be through making active decisions not to overconsume, or to support businesses who are taking action on known issues such as workers wages or waste. As consumers, right now the onus is on us to be aware of the end-of-life pathway of our stuff, so we need to think about this when we make a purchase. There is no ‘away’ when we throw something, it goes somewhere and mostly that’s landfill. I question the brands I buy from - what’s their solution to end-of-life of their products? If they don’t have one, why not?
The slowed-motion life we’ve glimpsed in 2020 is something I’m actively trying to hold on to and I challenge businesses and consumers to do the same. Taking time to make informed decisions with knowledge of the consequences of actions, less focus on financial growth and more on a healthy planet and society.
'Anna-Lise asked me several weeks ago to put some words together and talk about change and possibilities within the field in which I work - that is, fashion primarily, as a hair and makeup artist. And honestly, having the chance to focus on this question, to be thoughtful in my response, has taken more time and effort than I expected.
'This year I became a mother. I simultaneously worked three jobs from the time Lulu was two months old. We rode through months of not being able to open our hair salon due to lockdowns. We renovated and sold a house. Dad had cancer. We are tired. We are all tired.
'Despite universal exhaustion, there is something wonderful happening in the fashion industry at the moment - and that is a recognition of the need for optimism in the work we create, the clothes we wear, the faces we see. Even designers who ordinarily produce sombre, serious collections are turning to tongue-in-cheek, quirky imagery.
'None of us got to travel this year, and even local travel has been restrictive. This meant we all had to get creative in where we have been working. How do we make Devonport look like Santorini? Bethells Lake another world? I’ve shot more on location, outdoors and immersed in nature than I can remember ever doing so. It’s been wonderful. We’ve inhaled fresh air, felt gusts of cool wind, and been chased by waves rushing towards our camera gear. After spending so much time indoors earlier this year with the threat of Covid, I’ve never appreciated these sensorial moments more. As I sat crunching sand between my toes on a shoot recently, Vicki Taylor pointed out to me how the rest of the world sees us right now - free to move, to make clothes, to take photographs without restraint. The images taken forty minutes from the centre of Auckland are revered and capture a feeling pined for by our colleagues in Europe. For this I feel sincere gratitude.
'And whilst in some ways these images we create are imaginings of foreign places, they’re also an ode to our backyard. Nor are they faux smiles and make-believe moments. I think they’re capturing a sigh of relief, a sense of accomplishment, and a feeling of real hope.
'This year we’ve all felt it. “It”. We’re learning to be more forgiving of each other and of ourselves. Yes, my kid is joining in this Zoom meeting. Yes, I’m still in my pyjamas. No, I need more time. No, I don’t feel great today. “It” has made us creative, adaptive, nurturing, supportive, and kinder.
'I already see the fashion industry following this trajectory, a segue into the new way of how things are done.
'I see fair wages. I see more ethical production. I see bigger sample sizes and diversity becoming inherent. I see women supporting women. I see safety, mentoring, conversation, and learning together. I see us naturally moving away from ‘the way it’s always been’ - not through an intention to cancel, but through a momentum towards positivity in how we work, and what we create.
'So, in summary, the change is already happening, and as we draw closer to 12.01am January 1st 2021, and collectively exhale, our clever little industry is ripe with possibility.
'As 2020 draws to a close, and we ease a little more smoothly into whatever the new normal is, now, more than ever, we’ve had more time to reflect on our lives and the way we do things. Between the misery of COVID-19, being unable to visit New Zealand and working from home (or living at work) for the last 9 months, for me, you’d think it’d be hard to choose what the most bizzare thing about this year was. Interestingly enough, it isn’t at all. The strangest thing about this year easily happened in June. Following the horrifying murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor and the re-emergence of the Black Lives Matter movement, it was the band-aid approach that an embarrassing amount of brands took, to quickly switch up their social-media presence to include Black, Indigenous and other People of Colour (BIPOC).
There is a fine line between wanting to help and wanting to join the bandwagon. For a lot of BIPOC, performance activism and fake allyship can really feel like a slap in the face; Particularly when a lot of us have been campaigning for most of our lives. Unfortunately, it still seems as though marginalised communities have to band together and take matters into their own hands to combat under representation. This is why I started Diet Paratha. It’s a platform for the people, created to challenge stereotypes that western media has around Middle Eastern, North African and South Asian (MENASA) people. Stories about people who hail from these regions or their diasporas, are often centered around cultural attire, monuments, festivities, community initiatives and of course, negative stereotypes. It’s not often that MENASA people are represented in another light in the western world. We are so much more than this. Diet Paratha exists to flip the lens and highlight other positive representations to promote a wider remit of achievements.
'While platforms like mine are important for people to pluck confidence and inspiration from, we also need allies putting in work. As we continue to be historically excluded in the media from a wider stand point, white people need to hold each other accountable.
'While representation of all BIPOC is important, a feed full of only white and white-passing people doesn’t cut it either. There’s so much more that can be done to overthrow the system. White passing people often have greater privileges in society and widespread media. Ignoring this erases the experience of others less-so.
'The meaningful changes that need to be made in the creative and fashion industries, can be hard to see for some, and painfully obvious for others. More brands need to commit to dismantling the white default and cultural assimilation. Especially now, after our timelines no longer look the way they did in June.
'While representation plays a huge role in the fight for change, there is so much more to be done. Look at your teams and hire BIPOC across different levels of skill. Diversity doesn’t mean ‘one of each’ either. It can be hard when you’re always conscious about racism in the workplace, especially when your white colleagues have no idea you are or even feel like you have to be. Do your employees feel as though they belong in your workplace? For lots of BIPOC, the answer is a hard no. Don’t just use us in your presentations or as a tick on your diversity quota. Support senior BIPOC staff members. Bridge the ethnicity pay gap. Create safe workspace environments. How are ethnic minority team members treated by others where you work? Are their ‘full selves’ welcome at work or are they made to feel uncomfortable? Are your diversity and inclusion boards headed-up by white people who could be silencing some of the voices they’re intended to protect? Initiate those difficult conversations. Buy from us. Support BIPOC community initiatives. Interview us. Listen to us.
'Ethnic representation on an Instagram feed is simply not enough to be anti-racist and inclusive. It can’t make a permanent difference. Make statements that go beyond surface-level, optical allyship. Anything is possible if we want to move forward. I truly believe the best is yet to come, but change needs to start from the inside out.'
Jess Thompson Carr, Māori Mermaid - Ngāti Ruanui, Ngāruahine and Ngāpuhi
'When I began sharing and selling my art I had little to no qualifications that said I was fit to do so. I went to university but never art school. I had drawn all my life but this didn’t seem enough for some people. Regardless, I threw my work out there, primarily online, and as I did so I found my place and my happiness. Despite the pleasure I get from posting drawings and connecting with others who feel the same as I, there is a divide, and there are many obstacles that tell you that no matter how hard you work and how much you make, you will never be enough. This seems so cemented, especially when Pākehā artists get hired for illustration work that you, a Māori artist, could do just as well, or sell their large paintings depicting Māori people and culture for thousands of dollars despite knowing nothing about what it means to be Māori. This hurts. This takes up spaces that our own people could fill. This tells Māori artists that they are unworthy and will always be a last resort, even when it comes to their own birthrights.
'I believe in community over clout. I am hoping that one day soon we can move away from the elitist values, appropriation, and VIP themes we see in the Aotearoa art world and become more welcoming to our creative rangatahi. Change needs to happen so that our young ones can view being a creative as a viable option for their future, as something that will pay their rent, and as something that will support and help them mentally. We need to uplift our artists (especially indigenous artists) rather than try to drag them down or push them to the side. We need our non-Māori to take a step back when need be, to turn down some opportunities so that Māori artists can get a foot in the door, and to avoid cultural appropriation at all costs. I believe that if we utilise our empathy skills, exercise our kindness, learn about our history, and open our purses to purchase art from those just starting up, then we have a chance of establishing a healthier art world. It is essential that we prioritise Māori artists - Māori anyone - on Māori land. This is the path we can take in order to restore balance and Tino Rangatiratanga.'
Jordan Griffin, Founder Jordan Griffin Surfboards
'I started shaping surfboards in my last year of high school and have had Jordan Griffin Surfboards for about 6 years now. I grew up around the surf industry and have been surrounded in the culture my whole life. My Dad was a New Zealand representative surfer and taught me to surf from a young age so there was definitely no escaping it but I never wanted to. Every surfer knows it's a full addiction, but a good one. The feeling of riding a wave is indescribable, and I think that was why getting into the manufacturing side of surfboards was so easy for me to fall in to. I was so intrigued by the process of creating a surfboard from start to finish, how I could put the ideas I had in my head of shapes and designs to then go out in the surf and see how they performed.
'As a surfboard manufacturer from NZ and being so deep in the culture of surf, I have seen a range of highs and lows within the industry - from the fall of New Zealand's biggest surfboard factories, to the rise of imported surfboards, to now, witnessing local surf shops around our country stocking not one single NZ made product when their stores were once built around them.
'It is so easy for first time buyers to head in to a surf shop, pick up a surfboard off the shelf and with a whole kit of fins, a leg rope and wax you've scored a deal for under a grand - so damn cheap why wouldn't you, right?! But, it sadly comes with a price of underpaid workers and lower quality materials resulting in a product that will more than often not stand the test of time and end up in landfill quicker.
'It’s simply, and unfortunately, the uneducated choices of buyers who put local surfboard manufacturers at risk of extinction. Creating a custom made surfboard is a lot of hard work, it takes time, and yes it’s a bit higher in price than your average surfboard, but, a custom or handmade surfboard is a work of art and it’s tailor-made just for you and your needs to help you surf to the best of your ability. You can never put a price on that.
'At the start of this year I was really lucky. After such a busy summer, we obviously had the lockdowns of Covid-19 in NZ, and when I thought the worst for how my small business was going to cope, it actually turned out to be extremely helpful for my brand's growth. Supporting local businesses and locally made products was really pushed on consumers. And although it was a global pandemic that made people think harder about the construction of their purchases, at least it made them think, and I was really thankful for this. For all my old AND new customers who chose to support me throughout.
'I do think it would be really amazing to see more of a shift in how customers choose to purchase their surfboards in the future - At the end of the day, all we ask is to research before buying. Looking into what, where, and who you're purchasing from and making educated decisions based on that. And that applies just as much to other products we buy - clothing, homewares, food, etc. I try as much as I can to have this conversation regularly with my friends, with my customers and just in the surf community really, as well as using my social platforms to promote NZ MADE. Especially for the small group of original NZ surfboard manufacturers out there who are still doing what they love, creating beautiful surfboards after years of hard work but don't have the platforms to put it out there.
'Next time you look into buying a surfboard (or anything), put the price aside for a moment and do your research about what you're buying and where it's coming from.
Most importantly, support your locals!'
Here are a couple of my legendary NZ shapers that have helped get to where I am:
Alex Grima, Co-Founder of Foile
'Anything is possible! Let the changes that have been made this far instill a sense of hope and encouragement for people. The strength of individuals acting as a collective to drive change is so powerful - changes to single-use plastic bags, coffee cups etc, has happened. Business is a dialogue, I was never any good at economics but I understand that companies respond to demand. If we demand change, through our voice, through our purchasing power, through our actions, everything shifts accordingly.
'I believe a commitment to progression in business is vital. The best answers we have today might not be the ones for tomorrow and we need to be humble enough and open minded enough for that, we are going to get it wrong but if we are moving forward with the best intentions we are heading the right way. I’m so happy to admit I don’t yet know the best solution but there’s no shame in that, let’s just listen, learn and explore with a willingness to innovate and make these more progressive choices.
'There is a lot I think is possible in the cosmetic industry. To hero diversity in the representation of beauty, non-toxic ingredients, regenerative harvesting practices, Fair Trade, post-consumer plastic use and reusable packaging. Single-use packaging, especially with regard to freight and getting things A to B or wrapping, there are some really innovative solutions in the market now. Whether it’s reducing the impact of the life-cycle of the packaging produced or purely reducing the packaging that is needed.
'Also getting rid of outdated constructs of beauty. I really support us all nurturing our individual flair and sense of expression through beauty, what that looks like for you, what you really believe in and making independent decisions to follow this. This is also half way to cutting the waste because you are only buying what you love, will use and value.
'Finally a connection to Mother Earth! I’m a kiwi and miss that country! We are surrounded by such a rich, wonderful planet and I think if we spend time connecting with it and appreciating it, a lot of positive decisions will follow.'
Jess Hunter, Machinist
'My vision for the future of manufacturing in NZ...
'Attempting to visualise the future of patternmaking and clothing construction means looking to the past. Historically, in Aotearoa, our remoteness has dictated a certain level of self-sufficiency. Believe it or not, there was once a time that every Kiwi was dressed from head to toe in NZ-made clothing. Smith and Caugheys, now a purveyor of global luxury brands, boasted a fabric section where the women of the time would spend a Friday evening selecting their fabrics, in order to spend Saturday crafting dresses to wear dancing on Saturday night.
'Through these wild times, when the rest of the world is hitting pause for an undetermined amount of time, New Zealand is cautiously stepping out, in the way only we can. We’re reflecting, connecting, and turning inward, harnessing our greatest asset; Kiwi ingenuity. Moving forward, I see the potential for Kiwi brands to bring previously offshored roles back into the fold here at home. I look forward to a future where young people leave tertiary education to start a career in the practical trades of fashion; sewing, pattern-making, cutting and the like. I anticipate a future where the majority of our clothes are made locally, by our neighbours, friends and family, closing the loop on sustainable shopping practises.
'With Liam Patterns, consumers are able to learn to sew or brush up on their existing skills. They’re also being given the opportunity to develop a relationship with the process of garment manufacturing, experiencing, first-hand, the work that goes into every piece. Another benefit of this journey is that they will be sourcing fabric locally, thus supporting other businesses that have been so affected by the global Covid-19 pandemic.'
Tara Lorigan, Founder & CEO of Co.OfWomen
'It’s awesome to have the opportunity to share something that I’m deeply passionate about. It’s a subject that’s widely misunderstood or maybe more precisely, one that’s not being considered much at all.
'The subject is female power and importantly, how it can be harnessed. Think for a moment about the last time you read about this or talked about it or reflected about it for yourself…
'As the founder of an organisation dedicated to championing female success I’ve come to understand a lot about the subject as you’d reasonably expect. But it occurred to me a little while back that we were often considering female success from the perspective of the traits that hand-break our success.
'The media also loves a good victim story about us as demonstrated by the incessant rehashing of the same themes - the lack of women on boards, dismal pay equity stats and the impenetrable glass ceiling.
'But no matter how hard we’ve tried, and we have, they’re not interested in what women are doing in spite of this. Women are not, in fact, taking this lying down – we are pivoting and inventing and revolting to have the changes we want for ourselves – and for others.
'I too had my own slow arrival at my power and how to harness it. My journey can niftily be segmented into two phases – the first and the significantly largest of my journey to date – the low confidence years and the second more recent the standing in my power years.
'However, once I had finally found my female power mojo, I couldn’t clearly articulate what it was that I was drawing on or how other women could harness their own and draw on this any time they wanted – something that was of huge importance given our mission.
'So I decided to take that conversation to the people, the ladies to be specific and we launched Female Power Week. I realised I/we don’t need to answer this question for women. This is an all in conversation and will be broad in its answers too.
'For my part to date I know that our power fundamentally resides in our capacity as women to create – literally create other humans. And that this capacity means we are innately driven to seek their ultimate good. To involve them in decisions and direction and solutions. We are others centric and this is regardless of whether we have made or nurtured children of our own, which has not been a part of my journey.
'As women, so many of the businesses we create are a response to this drive. As leaders it’s the people whom we are most motivated to nurture and develop. Our customers are genuinely loved by us and on it goes.
'And yes this drive for the good of others can and does hand-break our success when ill-harnessed because it’s also true that the fullness of that nurturing expression is intended only for the role of mothering. So when it comes to our success, discerning what to keep and what to reserve for whānau is a hugely important consideration for each of us. Spending ourselves on behalf of our loved ones, beautiful. Spending ourselves on behalf of our customers, teams etc a huge risk to our success.
'So I’m all in on this conversation about the incredible power we have and I’m all in on a clear understanding so that more and more of us learn how to stand in our power.
'And why should my life be dedicated to this? That’s the easiest of all actually. It’s because I know that when women can stand fully in their power – they can achieve the fullness of their success. And when women experience the fullness of their success, we dedicate ourselves and our resources to making this world a better place. Bring it on.'
Caitlin Blewden, Rubette, 18 years old
'Being a first-time voter in 2020 is simultaneously exciting and terrifying. The enormity of what has happened this year and the sheer scale of the changes that we have seen in the past 10 months alone have highlighted just how important our leaders are and what they mean for the future of our world. I believe that for the majority of young people like myself who are voting for the first time, the importance of this election and the gravity of the decisions that we are making is not lost on us.
'As I enter into my last few months of school, I’ve been reflecting a lot on my journey to adulthood and the changes and development of my peers and those around me. It seems like out of nowhere I’ve looked around and realised that we’ve all left childhood behind - suddenly we’ve become independent, aware and socially-conscious young people. The events of this year, from COVID-19, to the Black Lives Matter movement and the upcoming election, have accelerated this sense of awareness and passion in young people, and ignited our sense of responsibility and drive. I’m constantly inspired and awed by those around me and feel proud of the way that youth in New Zealand are educating themselves and striving to make a difference.
'What is so exciting to see is the way that political issues, social initiatives and activism have entered into the mainstream culture of youth in New Zealand. As technology and the world around us accelerates at a dizzying pace, so does the level of awareness of those in it. These issues are being debated more deeply than ever before, with an openness that is allowing meaningful conversations to take place. When I open my Instagram account it’s filled with political pages and news updates, and at lunchtime at school we have passionate debates over the legalisation of marijuana and the ethics behind the End of Life Choice Act. Along with my peers, I’ve marched in numerous protests and rallies, signed petitions, viewed debates, read the news, and watched as young people around me have proven, time and time again, that we are aware, awake and have something to say.
'It is important, however, to make sure that we are getting our information from reliable sources, as there is a lot of misinformation and sensationalist media out there. In order to be taken seriously and be able to hold our ground in arguments and serious discussions, it is vitally important to be well-informed and make sure we have educated ourselves widely, without letting bias interfere too much. I think this is a real struggle for youth today - balancing our sense of optimism and progressive new ideas with the reality of what is possible and the experience of those older than us. This is a tricky balancing game, but we need to balance our hope and passion with cautious respect and acknowledgement of others, lest we become disregarded or ignored completely. Luckily, there seems to be an increased sense of respect for the power of youth, and the acknowledgement of us as a powerful force for change.
'I believe it is imperative that we cling on to hope and encourage a sense of possibility for a better future. It is so easy to be caught in pessimistic spirals and I myself am very guilty of this. There have been multiple times this year when the sheer magnitude of what is wrong with our world seems to be completely insurmountable, and I’ve found myself wondering how truly progressive change and reform is even possible. However, we are lucky to be living in a time where we are more interconnected than ever, and rapid change can actually occur. We need to channel our energy into accelerating the rate of positive developments and not lose sight of what we can achieve together.
'I think I speak for many when I say that what we all want to see in our future is a kinder world, where compassion rules. It seems simplistic and naive, but behind jargon-filled political terminology, extensive talks of economic policy, excuses and political agendas, lies the basic truth that it is our human responsibility to look after and respect every single person on this planet. Being in lockdown this year also helped to highlight this and allowed us to simplify things in a way that we hadn’t been able to do before. What we really need, when it all comes down to it, is actually simple - love, human connection and empathy. I hope that when people vote this year, or even when they conduct themselves in their everyday lives, they take time to go back to this idea.
'There is a lot we need to do in order to create a world that we can be proud of. We need to respect and protect our environment, in order to preserve it for future generations and to ensure the future of our world. We need to reevaluate many of our current systems, ridding our country of systemic and pervasive inequalities that stretch across generations. We need to accept the beauty and differences of every person, group, religion and culture. We must aim not to create one mainstream culture that people are forced to assimilate themselves into, but to foster one full of diversity, difference and complexity, where the identity of every single person is respected and represented.
'In order to create a world like this, we must face and confront the unpleasant and complex issues that are rife in our society. We cannot talk idealistically of a fair and just future where everyone is respected and loved, if we haven’t addressed the atrocities of our past and dismantled the systemic problems that permeate through our system and society currently. This is why it is so important that we emphasise the need for equity before equality. Uncomfortable as it may be, we have to look to the past in order to create a better future.
'We spent enough time this year in our bubbles, now it is time to break out of other bubbles that we may have built for ourselves. We cannot afford to languish in a bubble of complacency. We must open our eyes to the reality of the world around us, and recognise the disconcerting truth that our own country is not as perfect as we may like to believe.
'Despite the numerous challenges and many obstacles that lie ahead, I truly believe a better world is possible. I hope that the youth of New Zealand feel the same way, and feel supported and encouraged to make their voice heard. I hope that adults take time to listen to what we have to say and recognise young people as a powerful and positive force in our world. I hope that all of us, old and young alike, will work tirelessly to create a more fair, just and merciful future, and make decisions with empathy and compassion in mind.
'Ehara taku toa e te toa takitahi engari he toa takimano. My strength is not that of an individual but that of the collective.
'Let us go forward, as a collective, and create a future we will all be proud of.'
'We all call this one planet our home. We share it and everything we do, love, own and are is because we have this planet Earth to exist as part of.
'We are not living or operating in balance with our planet, due to a systemwide failure to recognise that we have finite natural resources and cannot just keep exploiting these for wealth and gain for a few. We need to halve our emissions in the next 10 years to be in with a chance of staying below 1.5 degrees celsius of warming.
'If we were able to coexist with the environment and other species around us in a way that acknowledged the interconnectedness of our well-being as humans with other living things, we’d be happier, healthier and on a path to ensuring this planet is here for future generations to enjoy the beauty of.
'Based on this, I think one of the biggest changes that needs to be made is a shift in what we value at the core. This can be applied to any situation, whether it be the values of big business or what you’re holding close to you when making a decision in your own life.
'I also believe we need to look back to look forward. Living in harmony with our natural environment is not a new concept and there are pockets of this harmony across Aotearoa and the world. Indigenous communities and knowledge will play a key role in allowing us to look back but then to move forward in a sustainable way. We cannot rely on a golden technological fix when we know exactly what we need to do already, reduce our emissions. We know that there are ways we can operate which reduce our carbon footprints, but I think we have to look back to find the best models.
'I think we need to focus more on how we can build resilient communities locally, to support local living. Unpacking this, we’re talking a strong sense of community identity, community gardens, local jobs, connected public transport across towns, resource and skill sharing and kindness.
'We have to believe these things are possible to be able to remain hopeful. We hold all of the power so really, anything is possible. We just need to all embrace the opportunities that this shift will bring.'
'Something we’ve been talking about at THERAPY OF DANCE recently is addiction. We want to see worldwide change in the conversation on addiction and for lack of a better word, addicts, in our communities. We need to take the blame off those we know who are struggling. We want to see a shift towards rehabilitation for drug related crimes, more focus on therapy and for addiction to be seen as the health problem that it is. I know this is possible.
'I want to create more constructive education on drug taking in school systems, more honest conversations with children that share tools using human experiences, without stigma or taboo. Why is it that we can go to doctors easily for prescriptive pharmaceuticals? But we’re also going to illegal and unregulated environments to score too? We need more space to discuss drugs openly without judgement for guidance. We need to stop shaming each other and start caring. Marginalising addicts has become as overlooked as prejudice.
'Let’s focus on the solution. Take a look at countries like Portugal and Switzerland who are leading the way with drug decriminalization. Billions of dollars that taxpayers once spent on imprisoning people are now spent on rehabilitating them into a safer life. Year long tax breaks for employers are offered as an incentive to hire those rehabilitating. Drug related violence since decriminalization has halved. Transferring those on the streets into treatment centers with diseases like HIV is saving lives.
'We can build more trust in our communities! Let’s end the war on drugs. If you‘re skeptical, then I’d love you to read Johann Hari‘s 'Chasing the Scream'. It’s addictive. He says "The opposite of addiction is not sobriety, it’s connection." I believe the sooner we normalize this, we can begin to reconnect with each other. Addiction is just a product of our disconnected society. Addiction is a byproduct of mental illness. We need to choose compassion now and create change.'
Emma Espiner (Ngati Tukorehe, Ngati Porou) is a final year medical student at the School of Medicine, University of Auckland. She works part-time as the Communications Lead for Hāpai Te Hauora, a Māori Public Health NGO; writes a monthly column for Newsroom.co.nz; and is the host of the RNZ podcast on Māori health equity, Getting Better. Emma is the Voyager Opinion Writer of the Year 2020.
'On the wall of the Lower Hutt Women’s Centre there is a quote written in black vivid on an improbably large sheet of lumpy purple recycled paper.
“If you have come to help me, you are wasting your time. If you have come because your liberation is bound up in mine, then let us work together.”
'It is attributed to the Aboriginal elder Lilla Watson, a Gangulu woman. My mum’s partner at the time, Mandy Coulston, made the poster in our backyard, energetically sieving blobs of paper pulp through chicken wire and raving about workers rights while seven-year-old me sat on the warm concrete under an ancient metal clothesline.
'We could solve our most intractable social problems by adopting Lilla Watson’s words. Our cultural misunderstandings, our paternalistic approaches to health and social services, our talking past each other would all vanish because we would gain the ability to see one another as equals, with equal rights to live well - the essential starting point for solidarity.
'With this approach I believe anything is possible. You could write those two sentences into legislation and policy documents and it would set a more meaningful intention than any “values” statement. The knowledge that people in our society suffer, and that their suffering is determined by a social gradient, by gender, by ethnicity, should be sufficient on its own to stimulate change.'
Miranda Hitchings, Co-Founder Dignity
'One of the things the pandemic has highlighted is the importance of investing in good public health.
“Health is Wealth” as the saying goes.
'Unfortunately for many women and non-binary people our healthcare system here and abroad has not prioritised solving the many issues that we face.
'Period inequity is a prime example.
'It was in 2016 that I first heard about Period Inequity. A news outlet ran a story on how school students were missing out on education because they had no access to period products.
'My flatmate, Jacinta Gulasekharam and I began to research this further and once we started talking to people affected it became apparent that the problem was huge. The expense and stigma of periods didn’t just affect school students, but many other groups across the whole of NZ too. Particularly those who were exposed to higher levels of vulnerability and facing their own unique challenges such as people experiencing homelessness.
Yet, for several years very little research or investment was put into the issue.
'So, Jacinta and I founded Dignity, an organisation with the aim to create period equity by providing accessible menstrual items for all that need them. Over the past four years Dignity has donated 28,999 menstrual products, including menstrual cups, period underwear as well as compostable tampons and pads to 130 community groups, schools and Kura. People who have received Dignity have reported a reduction in school absenteeism, increased confidence and cost savings.
'While this has been amazing, we still weren’t able to reach all those without access. It became apparent that to achieve the scale required to solve this issue, serious investment would be necessary. Getting the government on-board took years and was a huge effort by many people and organisations. It wasn’t until a public campaign by The Positive Periods team and a petition started by Jacinta that real traction was made, resulting in the government committing to provide period products for an estimated 20% of students.
'It’s an amazing start and refreshing to see systems in place to support female health. However, we know that, as it stands, it won’t be the overall solution. In the meantime, Dignity will continue to fill the gaps to support community groups and schools who still don’t have product.
'And that’s where we need your help.
'As Covid-19 and poverty worsens we are seeing a significant rise in request for period products that we currently can’t meet. We have launched our gifting initiative to let you directly support a student or community member that is currently without access.
'While we focus on this, my personal hope is that other gendered health issues are also given public support and investment too.
'Approximately 1 in 12 females* have polycystic ovary syndrome and 1 in 10 have endometriosis. Some studies have shown that interstitial cystitis could affect up to 12% and urinary tract infections become recurrent in half of the females who get them. And that’s only a handful of the many conditions we face. These conditions are under researched and treatments lack funding. Yet for the people going through them, the pain and stigma can be debilitating.
'But I can see the possibility of change on the horizon, as we have begun to see with period inequity.
'If you have the ability, check out Dignity’s gifting page, every little bit helps.
Te Uranga Royal, Rubette - Waikato, Marutūahu and Ngāti Raukawa
'When turning my mind to the events of 2020, it would be remiss of me to not speak to the widespread impact of COVID-19 on Aotearoa, New Zealand. As we have witnessed in the past few days, COVID-19 continues to maintain its invisible grip on our “normal” way of life, as further cases of community transmission are identified. I support our Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern’s compassionate but firm approach to combating the pandemic. Even in these difficult times for our society, it is encouraging to have a Prime Minister who places the health and wellbeing of our society at the forefront of government’s priorities. It has also been encouraging to see so many New Zealanders follow Jacinda’s philosophy of kindness, particularly when many are attempting to balance the various elements of life.
'Currently, I am studying a Bachelor of Laws degree at the University of Waikato. Next year will be my final year at law school and I do not hesitate to say that I have found my passion in life. In a practical sense, I enjoy the orderly and logical processes that occur in dealing with this area of work. I also enjoy the advocacy side of law and how studying law can train you to prepare an argument and then back that argument. Most importantly, the law is an area where there is potential to advocate for change - particularly for Māori and Pasifika communities. Law school helped me discover how I can match my affinity for hard work with my aspirations to achieve a better future our society.
'Like every other branch of society, studying law has been a whole new experience this year. To this end, I have learnt new meanings behind “productivity” and “work-life balance”. To reflect on a normal year of law school, I would often place working hard on an unrealistic pedestal – even above my own wellbeing. Oftentimes at law school, too much stock is placed on acquiring accolades and prestigious positions to serve the purpose of creating a perfect image of ourselves. However, the realities can be far from perfect at times and we feel disappointment when they are not. Often this unrealistic image we create for ourselves is toxic and can be a contributing factor to the mental health challenges students often face. This is where all those good values of compassion, honesty and kindness come in.
'The COVID-19 lockdown allowed me to slow down and sit with these thoughts. As I mentioned above, my perspective changed on my measures of “productivity” and “work-life balance”. I arrived at the conclusion that working hard towards your studies and future career is important, however not to the extent that it compromises your health. Achievement ought not come at the expense of wellbeing. Having compassion for yourself when you know you are reaching your limits, being honest with yourself and with others about how you are feeling, and – most importantly – being kind to yourself when you need those moments of rest, is vitally important. Studying the law brings a lot of value to my life and so I view it as a privilege each time I put in effort towards a new milestone that will bring me closer to my graduation. However, with this new perspective from lockdown, I learnt the importance of decompression and how rest can also contribute towards healthy “productivity”.
'Last year I had the privilege of listening to Tiana Epati (President of the New Zealand Law Society) deliver a keynote speech at the Annual Māori Law Society Conference. She spoke about how important it was for us – as Māori and Pasifika – to take on the responsibility of striving for greatness to honour the hard work of our ancestors. Continuing to stand on the shoulders who did so much more, with so much less. Tiana is the embodiment of strength and compassion. For a young wahine studying law, it gives me much encouragement to enter into the legal sector with someone of her progressive wisdom at the helm of our national law society. Her words continue to resonate with my personal vision for my future legal career. When I measure “greatness”, I measure it in the way an individual can inspire and deliver outcomes for the communities around them. As Audrey Hepburn once said, “As you grow older, you will discover that you have two hands, one for helping yourself and one for helping others.” To help others, you must help yourself by nurturing your own interior, not for selfish reasons but so that you can be the best you can be when helping others. And the best way to do that is to find your own creative centre, the thing that moves, inspires and motivates you.
'Turning to my aspirations for the future of our law schools and the wider society, I hope there is an appetite to continue to feed our minds with an understanding of the world around us, and to feed our hearts with the aroha for the community who raised us. Lawyers have the capacity to advocate for change and position themselves to be of service to people. Ultimately, positive change for our communities stems from striking a balance between an informed mind and a full heart. With compassionate leaders like Jacinda and Tiana to look up to, it gives me hope that the transition into a positive future is in safe and wise hands.'
Sophie Edgecombe, Rubette
"Fashions fade, style is eternal" – Yves Saint Laurent
'The words I firmly believe we should all live by. Our day-to-day choices as consumers regarding what garments we purchase and how we purchase them, defines the fashion industry. If we select the fast fashion alternative to a slow fashion piece, we are fueling that sector of the industry to develop and grow. The revolution that needs to happen to combat serious issues such as pollution within fashion begins with us re-evaluating our choices as consumers and tweaking them to reflect the ideologies we believe in. It can be as easy as only buying garments YOU love. Creating your own style, not necessarily following fashion trends is the first step toward a slow-fashioned future.
'When looking into New Zealand’s local fashion industry, we are filled with a mix of fast and slow fashioned brands. Compared to the likes of the rest of the world, you could say we are doing alright, but I am not okay to settle with being mediocre. In the past 5 years, the NZ fashion industry has had a small but steady growth, going up approximately 2.7%. The last 5 years has also seen an increase in consumer awareness. Consumers like me and you are wanting to know more about our favourite brands and are willing to do research into them in order to align ourselves with brands that reflect our ideologies. With these increases, there has been a substantial amount of pressure put on brands to adopt more ethical and sustainable practices, alongside added transparency. This has been conducted mainly through small steps such as brands going ‘paperless’ – i.e. E-Receipts as opposed to paper receipts/invoices, and the utilisation of biodegradable postage bags. A larger step being adopted, that is increasing year on year is NZ brands doing more thorough research into their suppliers regarding the working conditions of employees and the traceability of fabrics they utilise. They are also increasing transparency so we as consumers can look in and interpret their policies, future goals and plans of action. This has all been achieved through us using our consumer voice. While these steps are great in the short term, there are bigger issues such as pollution that the NZ fashion industry needs to address and combat.
Globally the equivalent of one full rubbish truck worth of clothes is burned or dumped every second.
The fashion sector globally is the second biggest consumer of the world’s water supply.
Clothing production has doubled since 2000.
From 2000 to 2011, fashion companies went from offering an average of 2 collections per year, to 5.
85% of all textiles go to the dump annually. This is enough to fill up the harbour in Sydney each year.
We are keeping clothes for less than half as long as we kept them for in 2000.
The fashion industry is responsible for 10% of the world’s carbon emissions – this is more than the worlds aviation and shipping combined.
'With those facts in mind, how can we ignore the huge contribution the fashion industry has on pollution? How can we continue to support fast fashion and ignore the impact on the environment each item creates? The answer is simple, we can’t.
'We need to start buying quality over quantity.
'We need to start demanding what we want from brands.
'After all we are the driving force behind these brands, they would not exist without us – we can’t forget the power we hold within this industry.
'The key? Confidence within our individuality. Creating our own style through the concept that less is more. Prioritising our individual taste in style over what is necessarily ‘fashionable’ at the moment. Buying versatile, timeless pieces that you can keep for seasons. Purchasing from brands that invest in slower fashion. Maybe this means each piece of clothing you purchase costs more than you are used to spending on an article of clothing. However, in return you get an item of clothing will last for seasons, you put more thought into what you are purchasing and above all you are supporting sustainable and ethical practices. The people harvesting the fabrics, the people weaving the garment, the people packing your garment and the people selling you your garment are getting a fairer wage.
'It really comes down to the fact that “Fashions fade, style is eternal” – Yves Saint Laurent.'
Tamatha Paul - Ngāi Tai ki Tāmaki, Ngāti Awa, Ngāti Pūkeko, Ngā Rāuru, Ngāti Whakaue, Waikato Tainui
'When I packed my bags to move down to the land of opportunities, Wellington, from the paradise of Tokoroa just six years ago, there was no way I could have predicted the rollercoaster journey which would mean becoming the full-time student President of Victoria University of Wellington in 2019, and then being elected to Wellington City Council that same year in October.
'Most people are surprised when they realise that none of this has been planned, and all that has happened to me has been the result of a few ingredients.
First, my tīpuna, my ancestors. I descend from a tīpuna wahine called Wairaka, who saved the people of my waka, Mataatua, and truly embodied bravery, and the occupation and operation of spaces by wāhine who are not supposed to be in those spaces. I draw courage from my tīpuna, and I feel trust in the pathway that they have set out for me through their lifetime and their sacrifices.
Second, my whānau taught me that I have a responsibility not just to listen, but to heed and articulate the voices of those who our society often forget. The kids who have to look after themselves because their parents have to work graveyard shifts. People from small towns who had to move to big cities and pay 80% of their income to opportunistic landlords in order to find opportunities. The brave ones to be the first in their whānau to go to University. The hearty ones who kick these patriarchal, colonial institutions up the ass!
'I wanted to be an agent of change within local government because there is so much potential in our local communities. Not just in the way that we currently imagine local government, either. There is so much potential for local government to be a true vehicle for change. A mechanism in which we put Te Tiriti o Waitangi and He Whakaputanga into action through implementing multi-sphere kāwantanga and tinorangatiratanga local spheres which allow genuine community representatives and mana whenua (rather than pale, male, stales) to work together to find and resource local solutions for some of the biggest issues facing our communities;
adapting to and mitigating further impacts of the climate crisis,
everyone having a stable, warm, and dry place to call home,
purposeful work and abundant job opportunities for all to thrive, as well as opportunities to have a fun lifestyle made better with lots of art and culture,
reversing the rapid extinction of our native biodiversity in our forests, waterways, oceans and even in the urban environment,
being able to travel anywhere you need to go in safe, affordable, high-volume and sustainable modes i.e. train, bus, cycling, walking,
the state of our water infrastructure and the way that we value water as a human right
safe, inclusive and accessible communities where people can be themselves without fearing harm or discrimination.
'The opportunities I’ve outlined above are broad solutions which have to be designed by hapū, whānau and communities. Anyone who thinks that in order to meet the challenges ahead of us, we need to remove peoples freedoms and be told what to do on an evidence basis is the farthest from the truth. Democracy is the only lasting solution to the long term fights ahead. However, not democracy in the current Westminster style we currently conceptualise. We cannot rise to the challenges ahead of us with the current one-size-fits-all solutions produced by New Zealand Parliament. In fact, the New Zealand Parliament needs to devolve power and resources to local communities if we want to get anywhere.
'Any country that is successful in dealing to challenges effectively are ones where local bodies receive a larger piece of the pie. In New Zealand, our local government bodies receive just over ~10% of our country’s overall GDP. Most successful countries receive more than 30% of their countries overall expenditure because it enables creation of local solutions (and implementation) that I talked about above. This resourcing and decision making power has to be given to iwi and hapū first and foremost, and local bodies like my own – Wellington City Council – need to return land / natural assets back to the original custodians to begin reversing the damage inflicted upon Papatūānuku over a century. This week, the government has put the Te Puia geothermal valley back into the hands of Te Arawa iwi in Rotorua.
'The reality is that there is no protection for our environment under a capitalist system premised on the rapid extraction, degradation and pollution of our natural environment.
'It’s clear that our system needs a total overhaul, and it’s going to take a lot of blood, sweat and tears for us to get to that point. The important point, though, is that everybody has a part to play in the pursuit of a Te Tiriti based future which encompasses the participation of all people in society, the protection of the mana and mauri of our precious natural environment, of all people and of whānau, and the partnership between the Crown and iwi / hapū Māori.
'Constitutitonal Transformation and implementing Te Tiriti o Waitangi sounds like a major task (and it will be) however, I truly believe in collective action and think that if we all do our part, that we can leave a society for those who come after us which upholds and uplifts the mana and mauri of people and planet. What that looks like:
Invest in yourself through taking the time to learn about; your whakapapa and identity, the history and tikanga of Aotearoa, how you can be an agent of change within your community
Facilitate a kai & kōrero in your whānau or community to talk about issues that you care about. This one is important, not just because it’s an election year, but because conversational with those you love and trust is truly transformational. The successful Ireland Abortion Referendum was an example of this.
Give to organisations that are doing the heavy lifting on causes you care about. The Not for Profit sector will probably take a hit as the economic impacts of Covid make people less likely to give money, but also there are very few ethical sources of funding for NGO’s. If you can give small, regular donations (e.g. $3.50 a week, the same amount you might spend on a coffee!) then that is enormously helpful. Also, if you have technical expertise or are able to volunteer, that can be super helpful.
'Fakaalofa Lahi Atu my name is Elyssia Wilson-Heti I am of Niuean, English mixed heritage. I am a performance artist, activist and producer based in Mangere, Tamaki Makaurau.
'My hope for the future is that we get to a place where every single person can show up in the world as their full self and be embraced, celebrated and loved. We are often made to feel like we have to shrink ourselves to fit into the boxes that society has created and enforced. There is enough space for all of us to thrive, walk in our power and live our truth loud. I firmly believe that the future is intersectional. We all need to get better at working from an intersectional place. No one should be getting left behind. Active kindness, a willingness to sit uncomfortability, an exerted effort to unlearn, relearn and re-centre our thinking about our place in the world is needed in order for us to create equity across the board. The world isn't going to change itself, that's up to us, we all need to do the mahi to shift the current system to be more inclusive of everyone so we can all thrive collectively.
'Real and meaningful representation is needed. I’ve been creating myself and women that look like me in existence for a while in the art I make. That is my hope for the next generation of brown wahine coming up that we get to a point where we are no longer just the one token present ticking the diversity box. Meaningful change is needed, not just lip service. That is my biggest hope for the future, that we will have dismantled the current system and we will all be thriving.'
Vere Sharma, RUBY Board Member
'I was born in 1955 in New Delhi, India. I have two older brothers and in those days clothes were handed down to me. My mother, Anne, owned a clothing boutique in Khan Market, Delhi where she had six seamstresses who were my first teachers. I watched them sew for hours in the thick heat, they never seemed flustered. I was immersed in fashion from a young age. Anne had a knack for replicating trends and patterns she found appealing on Carnaby Street in London and adapting them for her community. There’s a beautiful order to the chaos in India, my childhood was simple, we took what we needed, nothing more. We respected our neighbours. It’s an unspoken principle in India to give back to your community if you have the means to do so.
'I’ve been in the New Zealand rag trade for over 40 years. Principals I learnt from sitting on a stool in my mum’s shop still guide me today. I’ve been a textile agent, importer, wholesaler and finally, a retailer. In every role I’ve undertaken, I’ve watched the economy evolve, trends become fads, practices become out-dated. I thrive on being able to adapt. Complacency has never been an option for me.
'I’ve raised five kids and endeavoured to pass on the same knowledge that was passed onto me. We need to be agile, nimble and we need to bend under pressure – but, never break.
'My eldest son, Jared, recently wrote about the false dilemma that is choosing between economic prosperity and environmental protection. Good business practices that stimulate our economy, but don’t take away from our environment. You can have both if you lead with dignity. In the last few years I’ve seen sustainability sit front row, it has led our conversations at family dinners. I believe this ‘theme’ will no longer be a goal, but a mindset; the pandemic will cement this.
'The pandemic has demanded us to reflect on our structures, take a step back, and highlight what we’re investing attention and resources into that may be better spent elsewhere. To confront complacency head-on and adapt.
'I’m a new grandfather, I owe it to my grandchildren to lead with dignity. I will ensure my team invests resources into protecting our environment, while creating a product that inspires our community. We need to stay nimble. Of course, investing in digital structures is essential, however ensuring our digital footprint is aligned with our holistic approach to creating clothing that is true to our brand, is fundamental.
'We owe it to each other, we owe it to the future generations to come.'
Zoe Walker Ahwa, Journalist
'Yesterday I read a Business of Fashion story on how New York brand Telfar is dealing with the pandemic, and this line from designer Telfar Clemens stood out: “This is a period of chill. Let’s figure out how you sell these ideas you’ve been making for 20 years.”
'Fashion has been moving at an insane pace, but this is a forced pause - a period of chill to stop and really think about what we want our industry to be. We’ve been doing things a certain way for years, but that doesn’t mean its the right way. The ramifications of the pandemic on fashion, here and overseas, are huge, and we won’t know the full extent for some time. But a few things I’m hopeful for after all of this…
'Things will be smaller, and slower.
'Our industry is going to shrink with fewer brands and fewer stores. And ultimately I hope, fewer clothes. This is a good thing.
'It’s something I’ve been thinking about long before this lockdown: yes, there are too many clothes from fast fashion brands. But even at a local level, in my beloved local industry, I think there has been too much stuff: overproduction of clothes and content.
'If they aren’t doing it already, brands will be forced into new ways of working - revisiting their archives, keeping clothes around for longer, repurposing and up-cycling fabrics rather than investing in more and new.
'More consumers will start to embrace a make do and mend mentality. I loved RUBY’s sewing classes: to me, this typifies the future of brands, educating and building community while offering clothes are are fun and exciting; because fashion also needs to continue to serve the purpose of being inspiring and challenging.
'Like ‘sustainability’, kindness is another word that’s being used a lot right now. But what does that actually mean? I saw an Instagram comment somewhere that asked, ‘OK, but what brands are actually putting this into action?’ and that struck me.
'To me it’s those that feel personal, intimate, friendly. I’ve watched more brands try to do this since our lockdown, but I think audiences are aware of those who aren’t necessarily doing it genuinely or when it feels like it’s part of a boardroom marketing strategy. Literally everyone is creating content right now, but not all content is good content.
'This more personal approach is how we will move things forward. Even in how we present fashion: I’ve felt this for some time, but after all of this especially, I think overly produced, too-slick imagery and content will feel like it's from a completely different time.
'I really hope this also means more industry collaboration. We saw the start of this creatively before the pandemic - Miuccia Prada and Raf Simons, Dries van Noten and Christian Lacroix - but I hope this sparks collaboration at a more business focused level.
'Traditionally - perhaps because it’s so small - the NZ fashion industry has kept things close to their chests; with some designers not necessarily wanting to share information. Working together to share resources and ideas will be how we recover from this.
'Everyone is taking a hit, so how can we all work together to make sure our industry survives and thrives? Collaboration, and initiatives like Mindful Fashion, will be even more important, as people from all facets of the industry (and beyond) come together to develop a new way of thinking and working.'
Mimi Gilmour, Burger Burger Co-Founder & Hospitality Creative Consultant
'The past month feels like a dream. There are a lot of things you can prepare yourselves for in business - fluctuating sales, sudden illness of key team members, delays in new store openings, supply shortages - but somehow, we never thought we’d have to prepare to be shut down completely, in a very short time, due to a global pandemic. The situation we are faced with has been extremely confronting personally and professionally, but I’m feeling surprisingly optimistic about the future.
'The whole world feels upside down right now but in amongst all the darkness, I’ve seen lots of light. I am so thankful for my health, my handsome husband (who is my rock), my beautiful babies and my incredible support network of inspiring and loving friends and family. I’m grateful for this unexpected time it has given me to indulge in quality time with my daughters. I’m also grateful for the opportunity to pause and rethink how our business can best serve our community.
'I know it’s an enormous privilege that I have the time to slow down and think about the future. For many, both in New Zealand and around the world, this pandemic has brought nothing but fear and loss. As a hospitality business owner, there has been (a lot) of stress, but I’ve been trying to keep sight of the big picture, and I realise how lucky I am.
'Even prior to the pandemic, things were vastly different to how they were when we started Burger Burger. Back then, I had no children, there were one third of the amount of restaurants there are now, UberEats and My Food Bag didn’t exist, construction costs weren’t unobtainable, we didn’t have megamalls on every corner streaming in international brands and most importantly, I had all the time and energy in the world to throw myself into anything and everything! I don’t know about you, but more and more over the past few years I’ve found myself asking how, as a mother/boss/friend/family member/woman, I am meant to keep up when the world around us seems to be spinning faster and faster. This time at home has allowed me to start to think about some answers.
'Yes, the future of our industry will be different to what we know. Hospitality is by definition ‘the friendly and generous reception and entertainment of guests, visitors & strangers’. In an increasingly digital world where ‘social distancing’ could be the new normal, we may have to find new ways to bring this definition to life.
'Online, we’re seeing some really interesting developments. Not only is the restaurant community sharing recipes for meals but they are sharing basic fundamentals like how to cut an onion properly (thank you, handsome Josh), signature dishes that can be recreated at home (BB Broccoli!), and ways to teach children meals from many different cultures.
'Perhaps the future of hospitality means a refreshed perspective on cooking. I think there will definitely be a new appreciation for fresh, locally sourced produce. I know there will be a reaffirmation of the need for community. We are going to have to embrace technology if we want to survive but instead of being held hostage to unreasonable commission rates of ginormous corporations, I believe there will be more local solutions presenting themselves.
'I think our industry will see a lot more collaboration in the future. For us, some of the most surprising relationships that have evolved in this situation have been those we have with our landlords. What have usually been very transactional in nature have been transformed and I am incredibly grateful for the empathetic position our landlords have taken. We have had similar conversations with - and received amazing support from - our suppliers, many of whom are in similar positions to us. It’s been a humble reminder that the best problem solving happens when small and big businesses, and the people behind them, work together.
'Next week I am going to lay all my cards on the table and ask our customers to tell us what they want from us in the future. We (our industry, our economy) need people to start spending again, but we also know that things have changed. Many people’s situations, expectations and perspectives have shifted. I’m ready to listen, I’m ready to make changes and I’m ready to make them fast. We need to adapt to what this new world presents, and what role our industry now needs to play. I do know that we are not going anywhere. We passionately believe that the restaurant industry is crucial to a happy community and therefore we will fight to keep the dream alive.'
Chris Parker, Comedian
'I think it’s a tricky one for us live performers, our work really relies on having 100 people in a room (usually a basement somewhere) laughing at our jokes. That's where all our discoveries are made. So a lot of us are really just trying to hold tight at the moment. While the Instagram live concerts are delightful and charming... they will never make up for the real thing. I would say it has been a really interesting equaliser this event. I love to see those performers who have the ability to make work from their own house with their phones shine through. In a weird way those who have less are able to move faster than those larger tv organisations who have to work through bureaucratic systems, often meaning their work arrives a little late. The internet will always beat television in the race which is almost critical in a time like this.
'I would say the turn out most New Zealand comedians deliver every year is so high. I think maybe audiences underestimate the work that goes into delivering a new hour of comedy. Which they should, it's none of their business. I do wonder if this pause will maybe create a space for the industry to catch its breath, gear up and get ready to rip into it when the doors do open again.
'Personally, I've been surprised by the confidence I feel in making my own work from home. I think to be surrounded by my things, to be able to wear track-pants in zoom calls. It allows me to feel grounded and strong in a way I have never before. I wish to carry that strength through when I am back inside more conventional working environments.
'I can't wait to see what this time produces, later down the line, after the flood gates open and every weekend is packed full with gigs and shows which were dreamed up in isolation. I can't wait to be in that time, and support it. All those artists are going to need your support.'
'Like many industries, both the art world and the events industry have been hugely disrupted by Covid-19. We had to cancel the 2020 Fair less than six weeks before it was scheduled to open. Similarly, all galleries and museums across New Zealand have been closed for the last four weeks, so ArtNow - the online listing site for contemporary art exhibitions and events – has had to change the way it gets people engaging with art.
'From a business perspective, cancelling an event isn’t great. Depending on where you are in the cycle when you have to cancel, you’ve likely committed expense AND you need to refund any income. Not only for the Art Fair, but across the events industry, Covid-19 has meant a 100 percent loss in activities and revenue for event companies and contractors. Hundreds of staff have been made redundant, and at the moment no one is sure when events will be able to open again, and when that does happen, how people will feel about attending.
'Galleries and their artists – and the arts and culture sectors more generally - are another group experiencing incredibly tough times right now. More than 150 artists were scheduled to show at the Art Fair – and the work in many cases was finished or nearly complete, but for artists, they don’t get paid until it is sold. Equally for galleries, while the doors remain shut, less people are viewing and buying art, but their costs for rent and staff have not gone away.
'We’ve seen a number of galleries, institutions and art fairs around the world and in New Zealand (ourselves included) race to adapt to this new digital way of life.
'For me, following the cancellation of the Fair, I’ve never had so much time to read, click and ponder, and right now there seems to be a plethora of online arts content and clever thinking in response to what is going on that I’ve thoroughly enjoyed.
'While in many ways it has been inspiring, the question remains whether “all this digital” actually helps support the artists the industry seeks to serve?
'Will a digital exhibition ever replace the real thing? 'Will “extra reach” online be enough to “pay” an artist who has been labouring over their work long before Covid-19? 'Will our Virtual Art Fair incite the same interest, and have similar outcomes for our galleries and their artists?
'But rather than sit in the sidelines and mourn, we wanted to do something that we thought could help our clients (the galleries) and their artists. So, in response to this new era of social distancing and all-things-digital, we’ve launched a Virtual Art Fair that’s free attend from your computer – it opened on Thursday 30th of April at 11am and closes on 15 May.
'It’s a celebration - as best we can – of the talent and diversity of art making in our region. And we hope that wherever possible, some of these artists and galleries will be supported by someone buying a work of art.
'For our online visitors – who can now easily “visit” from around the world – we hope it will introduce them to new galleries and new artists, and offer some welcome solace and escapism.
'All around us right now, we are hearing of the importance of art - something we know to be true at all times, but especially in troubled times.
'One thing that has been really encouraging to see over the last few weeks, is that although we are all physically separated, the will to work together, to collaborate and cooperate is growing in the visual arts community. The Art Fair is very much about presenting contemporary galleries to the public, not just about each individual gallery, but how we come together. Which was our premise for creating ArtNow. It is easy to say “we are all in this together” at a time like now, but I think it is important that the same remains true, and maybe even more so in better times.
'Other than that, right now, I have to be honest, that my hope is we’ll return to some semblance of normality soon, and it will be safe to see friends, visit exhibitions, eat at restaurants and attend events.
'But until then, there’s so much to appreciate about the internet, so much to read, watch and listen to online whilst we remain at Level 3. This time has allowed Auckland Art Fair the opportunity and space to try something which may even reach and connect with a new audience who is yet to see just how essential the arts are.
'So, I hope you’ll join us online for our very first Virtual Art Fair, made possible thanks to 35 participating galleries – 9 from Australia, 1 from the UK, 1 from Beijing and New York and 24 from across New Zealand - and our principal partners ANZ Private and Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development (ATEED).'
Valentina Pook, Age 5
'I don't like talking about the planet, maybe because it's too sad? But I want the world to look cleaner. On the news one day there was 1000 pieces of plastic in the sea. I'm hoping that will go away but if it doesn't I'll go down to the sea and clear it away. I hope everyone will be more careful of the planet. A kid I know, he always had plastic in his lunchbox. He'll stop that. After the corona virus is gone, I hope the world won't smell like anything but fresh air.
'I also want people to be kinder. Right now we don't go near people which is hard. I'm most excited about bursting our bubble with our grandma. We're going to give her big hugs and kisses.
'Parents are spending more time protecting their kids from the virus. When it's gone I hope that I get to spend time with my family. Mummy and Daddy need to work less and bike ride with us more. I have enjoyed having Mum and Dad at home more but miss seeing my friends. I'm going to be really happy to see all my friends and have some little playdates. It's my birthday in 6 weeks and I really hope I can have a party with them.
'After the corona virus is gone there will be a lot of people out and about at shops and supermarkets. And they'll be happy. We'll bike more than we drive. We'll be eating way more food. And we'll help out more. It's easier for our parents if we do. They cook, we clean. That means we all get to do something to help out and I really enjoy that.
'Oh and after the coron avirus is gone, I'd like a pet dog.'
Dame Pieter Stewart, New Zealand Fashion Week Founder
There will be opportunities for the New Zealand fashion industry.
'New Zealand Fashion Week turns 20 this year – what a milestone - to hold its position as the leading, longest-running creative industry event in the country. This is huge – not just for the event but for the entire fashion industry and all the wonderful people who have been involved over the last 20 years.
'A 2020 committee of industry experts had been set up to plan special celebrations, aiming to include as many of those designers as possible who began the journey with us in 2001. Partners were also coming up with exciting ideas to celebrate – to make sure they were part of this – we will never be 20 again! The prospectus was ready to go to the designers, but there was a niggle in the back of my mind as COVID-19 took hold across the globe and I began discussing postponement of the event because it was becoming clear that mass gatherings would be unlikely, even 5 months ahead. So we took the hard decision to postpone the event and essentially put the company into hibernation – until when – we don’t know.
'I worry for the fashion industry – they are all facing huge financial stress coming at them from every angle from loss of assets and income – virtually losing an entire season and most likely carrying a lot of inventory as there has been no opportunity to sell it and in some cases, inventory not yet paid for either. There will be very little money around for extras, the habits of shoppers are changing very quickly, and for many clothes will become a necessity rather than an option. There won’t be places to go, as mass gatherings are likely to be last to reappear, and for an industry highly reliant on discretionary spend, global travel, and physical retail stores, there will be a slowing of spending and decreased demand, and supply from international sources is likely to be unreliable.
'I applaud the government for so proactively looking after those in jobs – but there has been far less thought it seems for the person who pays that worker. Sure – everybody would like to have their workforce available once this is over – but how to pay them with absolutely no income and fixed costs still running, is the problem most business owners face. This is not unique to any industry right now, with the tourism and hospitality industries being affected for some time already and the knock-on effect not even something we can realistically imagine yet.
'Regardless of what has been said, many businesses these days run on very tight margins – it does not mean they are not strong businesses, and in many cases if we lose too many of these operations, we will lose the base of creativity that makes our country so special.
'As an event, we employ mainly contractors – and over the months of runup to the event there is a lot of them. The last analysis of this estimated we employed 124 full time equivalents – so that’s an awful lot of people who cannot look to NZFW for their income this year – and who knows whether these vibrant and creative events will ever become the norm again.
'We are getting a sense of what sustainability really means as we live in our bubbles focusing on our basic needs. Our days revolve around eating good food which we have planned for not just picked up at the takeaway, getting some fresh air and exercise so we don’t go stir crazy, and making an effort to get on with those in our bubble by being kind. We are so lucky to have the advantage of technology to easily be able to call, FaceTime, email others, and get our news from multiple different sources and where possible continue with work.
'Because we have no idea what our futures will look like – we are forced to live in the moment – something we all aspire to, but oh so hard to do, and I’m sure after a novel time of doing all sorts of things we haven’t had time to do for so long, and sleeping well because there is no point in worrying about it – the inevitable anxiety and uncertainty creeps into our minds, not helped by the fact that we can’t enjoy the company of our colleagues or get a hug when needed. Everything is on pause – a most unnatural situation for all of us.
'In this new conscious living, I hope we will leave the consumption of pre COVID 19 behind us and value more the simpler things of life. It’s time to break old habits and find new ways of living.
'The world has been on a treadmill of consumerism for some years, which coronavirus has highlighted, forcing us to slow down and giving the chance to change our ways – it really has only been a matter of time before a reset had to happen somehow.
'Internationally, the Luxury market has been mindboggling and from our corner of the world difficult to understand. So much of our everyday consumption has been excessive, highlighted by the fact that in lockdown we spend very little.
'So what are we left with after coronavirus? There will be many different scenarios in different businesses – certainly not one size fits all – but we do know the world will be different. We are facing a new life altogether.
'We have been encouraging our designers and supporting them to work towards responsible business models for some time – so as this amazing industry rebuilds, NZFW will also find ways to support the industry.
'Like the fashion industry worldwide, we face an uncertain future, but after a pretty tricky time for most, the industry will rebuild, and it’s a great opportunity with the enforced slower pace and social distancing to reinvent and recreate.
'It brings the values we have discussed such a lot lately into sharp focus and is the perfect opportunity for this industry to intensify discussions and actions and give more socially responsible brands the chance to shine.
'Creating relationships with the customer will be even more important – more often going bespoke and private, which I note some are planning already. Investment pieces that will last forever will become more important as the consumer becomes more responsible, with a much more local focus on buying and producing, and quality over quantity being key.
'NZFW has been encouraging the seasonless model for some time – fashion that can carry over from season on to season offering year round versatility, wearability and longevity and are always researching new ways of direct to consumer activity, facilitating the shorter fashion cycles, digitising, and fine tuning the fashion audience.
'The tensions between sustainable business models and responsible operations have been key challenges for many years and will be in the years ahead. New Zealand can show the way of increasing responsible operations by wherever possible sourcing more sustainable fabrics, streamlining operations, editing collections, avoiding overproduction, - all these things will help rebuild a stronger industry.
'We will find new ways of creating activations to donate, reuse, re-purpose, recycle and resale – our beautiful NZ fashion deserves many more than one life. Our designers have a reputation for making high quality clothes in beautiful fabrics – designed to last and look good after being worn many times.
'The New Zealand fashion industry is varied and diverse, and all need to strive for the best possible level of responsible and ethical business practice that works for each individual business, understanding their supply chain and looking towards long fashion rather than fast fashion.
'Although we cannot use Fashion Week this year to lead our industry in a conversation around this goal, NZFW will continue to explore ways to support this exciting creative industry as we leave the safe and predictable to explore new possibilities.'