Speaker by Various Artists


My People

by Jackie Clark

I’m writing this because Russell has asked me to expand on my comment that I made in the thread named The Policeman at the Dinner Table.

At last, I thought, when I saw Russell’s post here - about Peter Cresswell’s blog - something I know something about. A bit. Not noticing until quite late in the piece, that it was two years old. I don’t know how I missed it back then. But it raised my ire, today, for a couple of reasons.

Firstly, Peter’s thoughts on how to solve the problem of social violence could have been written today. The old saws about who are committing violent crimes and the sensationalist reporting in the media that makes us all think we are going to be knifed by a bogey man from South Auckland haven’t changed in the two years between Russell’s post, and my just noticing it.

I think, also, that it caught my eye because this is about my people. I teach in Mangere, most of you know that. And I love my job. I love it with a passion. I love the people that come across my path every day. And they have embraced me. Literally.

They have made my job so much more than that in the four years that I have been there. And let me tell you, I have worked in nine kindergartens in fourteen years, so I know a bit about quite a few communities. And this is my community. And to be more specific, it’s not the only community I’ve worked in, in South Auckland. (I could make a joke here about getting around, but, you know, then I would be dismissed as a woman of loose morals, so, yeah.)

So when Peter talks about welfare beneficiaries, when he derides “the parents encouraged to stay at home by the gobs of welfare”, he’s not talking about faceless people who bludge the dole, and bludgeon their children, he is talking about the people that sustain me. The people who make my life and work a much better place to be. When he talks about “good parents”, what he doesn’t say, but what is very much implied, is that those parents who receive welfare from the State, are not good parents.

So I am, quite simply put, here to put the record straight from a very personal point of view.

Of the 90 children that I teach every day, around 20 of the families are on benefits of some kind. Some are solo mothers, one’s a solo father, one’s had leukemia and isn’t back to work yet – malingerer! – and a couple are on sickness benefits. It is none of my business why they are on benefits. Though I might just say that for many, it is because they have no family in Auckland to look after the kids, and so they often have no choice. Childcare is not an affordable option.

My only interest is that their children are okay. And they are.

Peter Cresswell and his cohorts would have you believe that people on benefits are not only being paid to stay at home, you see, but that they are bad parents. Nay, they destroy the very construction of the family unit, itself! I call a big old bullshit on that one. The children I teach every day are well fed, well dressed and loved. Very, very loved. They are no less or more loved than the children who come from families where both parents work. They are no less or more articulate, they are no less or more likely to hit out at another child. And their families are no more or less likely to be ones where violence is okay. Their families, in fact, are just that. Families. No better, no different, to the families who have parents working.

In fact, on a side note, of the three people I mentioned in my comment on Russell’s thread who had gone to prison, none of them were on benefits at the time. And the domestic violence incidents, the people who hit their kids and their spouses? None of them were on benefits when the abuse occurred. And believe me, if anyone hits one of my kids, or one of my parents, I get to know about it.

So excuse me if I don’t buy the usual whining crap about who commits the most crime, who are the worst parents, who needs to be sterilised. Because the people doing the whining really don’t know what they are talking about. They don’t have any experience, usually, of working with people on benefits. They take the tired old myths and just regurgitate them. And it shouldn’t be allowed. They are destroying civilised society. They are tearing down the people who least need tearing down. They are picking on people who have done nothing to deserve it. And I will treat them as I treat all bullies in my playground. I will call them out.

Jackie Clark

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