Look for the helpers.

Last night I had the extraordinary privilege of being one of 61 people from Auckland to recieve a medal for the Kiwibank Local Hero awards. Basically, there were 750 people from all over NZ nominated to recieve the Local Hero award, 350 people got chosen as semifinalists, and were presented with medals all over the nation. Out of we 350 people, 10 will then be chosen as finalists at the end of December, and the winner will be announced at a grand affair in February.

I don’t expect to win, by the way. Because some of the people who are local heroes, have been so for a very very long time. And deserve more recognition than I, that’s for sure.

But there’s a rub. The people I stood on a stage with, last night, are all very unassuming, humble people. They don’t really like the limelight. When we were all up there, for a group photo, most of them were trying to stand at the back or to the sides. (Including me).

It’s not considered to polite or the done thing to make a fuss about your volunteer work, and most of the people there last night wouldn’t want to do it even if it were the done thing, it seems to me. There were people who saved lives, started charities and social enterprises at 17, had been working in their communities for upwards of 30 years. Good buggers, you know? The Bird Lady of Torbay, for heavens sake! She’s been an absolute legend for forever!

It’s a pretty uncomfortable thing, standing in a spotlight. But still, how is anyone ever going to know about your work – your really important work – unless you do from time to time?

That’s the bit none of us like, really. We need people to know about the work, but we really wish we didn’t have to make a song and a dance about it for it to be noticed.

So there we all were. Watching as one by one all these amazing people went up on the stage – 59 of them, there were – and it just blew me away. Not that there were so many kind people in the world, because I already knew that, but how absolutely dedicated and committed, how driven, they all were. And as I said, many had been doing their do for decades. And most had been doing it all by themselves. While holding down fulltime jobs. What.

And that’s why I felt like a fraud. Yes, I’ve had to push hard to do this work, but all the way along I’ve had the most incredible support. I couldn’t, literally, have even done the first thing I did without baby clothes and stuff for A. I couldn’t ever have done any of it without the people who turned up at my door with stuff, and other people who embraced the first givealittle we had. This is what the Aunties has always been about. People connecting with other people, and my work is separate to that, nowadays, in a way. You guys do the getting of stuff, and the giving of money, and I get to distribute all of that to the people I work with, which is the super easy bit,  and when I’m done doing that, the next part of my work begins. But, I couldn’t even do that bit without all of you. You see? So we’re all mixed up in this glorious sort of mess of humanity together.

So no, I don’t expect to be winning any grand prizes. And I don’t really care to be honest. Because my reward is getting to do this. It’s enough. It’s more than enough. It’s everything.



The ethics of a pen – a journey into plurality: by Sophie McLeish

We have an abiding interest in the forensics of managing multiple personas. This is an area fraught wth ethical dilemmas. Our approach is predicated on a simple paradigm. Yes, there are always paradigms when dealing with us. Nuclear fission can be used to power a city’s infrastructure, or to destroy a city’s infrastructure and its people. A very simple, relatable paradigm, which can be mapped exactly to many emotive debates bogged down in strawman arguments.

The use of a capability sits squarely in the hands of each individual, or plurality in our case. A pen can be used to write a story that resonates with the beauty in someone’s life. The same pen can be used to stab someone in the eye, brutally ending their life. The ethics of a pen? No. It’s the ethics of the wielder of the pen. We’ve been here, watched over by Papatūānuku, for a while now.

We wrote applications incorporating the precursors of HTML, the lingua franca of today’s web, when the web was still a squalling baby. The internet, the plumbing and wiring of the web, has always been a hive of ideas coming into being, vast unwieldy patterns dragged out of the ether, seemingly more appropriate for use by a visitor from a planet circling Sirius-B than the residents of the islands in the oceans of our world. But people, being what we are, genetically engineers of our environment, have inevitably seen advantages in parts of these vast patterns that are documented and standardised in minute detail, and stripped those parts out. Often, but not always, paying heed to the future ramifications, not tearing off wildly up blind paths. Hence the goodness and badness of our still forming collective soul, our internet, that joins our minds through a cellphone, seemingly inseparable from our hands.

Identifying individual locations was one of those fundamental patterns. First the location of a machine where a file, an idea, could be found. Then the location of the creator of the idea, a person. We all like to be acknowledged for a good idea and not have someone else claim it as their own. This is where greed and malice deviated from the big picture and took us careening off up a blind path. Tying one person’s ideas to their location in time and space, to their meatbag, was sensible, on the surface. But we are creatures of social strictures, we are required to belong, or we are outcasts. When greed and malice intervene, a very few try to, without effort, make money, an important indicator of their narcisisstic social status, from the effort of the many. Making money with little effort is predicated on seeing and manipulating common patterns. When an individual has a wide range of ideas that don’t map on to common patterns, they become an expense, an edge case that should be eliminated. Exceptions cost money. It’s far cheaper to manipulate one idea than coerce many disparate ideas into line.

At its most heinous limit, exceptions can be criminalised, their very non-conformity becoming a source of revenue, locked up in hellish barbed wire fenced towns, funded by the taxes of the true believers of one socially acceptable view. And what of the fair and equable management of those taxes. Well, there are administrative overheads, consultants’ fees, undefinable, perhaps in actuality non-existent, costs that have to be paid, and those payments somehow arrive by unidentifiable, circumlocutious means into Cayman Islands’ bank accounts. A vey few individuals have unethically suborned the overarching idea they have been promulgating, of tying one person’s ideas to that person’s location in time and space. They have hidden themselves, an aspect of their deviant personality flourishing behind walls that they claim should not exist. The ethics of a pen? No. It’s the ethics of the wielder of the pen.

The elephant in the room, why the pronoun we use? In our social milieu, an integrated personality is not only valued, it’s right and correct, but this struck us as simply destructive, so we settled on leaving our plurality alone, to develop as it saw fit, and to present only a single, safe, aspect to hold the reins from day to day, to be scrutinised and not found wanting. Well, hopefully not by much. So what are we? What’s our label? What box do we fit into? Terms like intersectionality and trans-something have been laid claim to but are still in flux, these are nuances that English is still incorporating. Plurality, while we identify internally with it, is still too emotive, so the elephant in the room will just have to stay standing there, hidden in full view. But for those of us who do identify with a term that leaves us outcast, you’re not, not by your real whānau, not by Papatūānuku.

Using social media is fraught with dilemmas, the very tools that assist sociopathic behaviour by the individuals intent on self-aggrandisment, are beating us into conformity, to submit to sameness. Social media in all its guises, will throw its vast resources at ensuring, we are identified and punished cruelly for our individuality. But maybe we can do it. Just maybe we can slowly evolve ways to use variants of social media ethically to be who we are, unashamed of our plurality, of our differences that make us whole. We’ve been searching for years, it seems like lifetimes, for confluences in social anarchy which allow just that, but we’re hamstrung by our technologically required identifiers, our phone numbers, IMEI’s and IP addresses. Just maybe.

I know.

I’ve been having many thoughts and feelings in the last wee while, centred around the slew of sexual assault allegations against powerful men. Some of those allegations are from men. Most are from women. And that’s what I’ve been having thoughts around especially.

And then this morning, my friend Jessica was talking about how a person doing one act of sexual violence is no more deserving of redemption than a person in whom this behaviour is patterned, or consistent.  That these behaviours, no matter how often they occur, are all the same to the victim.

This led to me to thinking about how that’s related to domestic violence, in that some abusers only ever do it in one relationship, whilst other do it in all their relationships.

We forgive those people in the former category very easily don’t we? Even though their violence in all it’s forms is restricted to one relationship, it’s not just one act. It’s many. Many many many acts. And yet, we treat men – and I’m only talking about cis men in hetero relationships here – who commit one act of sexual assault that’s thought of as the “lower end” of the scale (groping, flashing) the same as men who commit many acts of violence against one partner.

Let’s remind ourselves what violence against women looks like, shall we?  It’s useful to know.

Words, actions. Abuse.

A lot of people get nasty at the end of their relationships. Say bad things, do bad things. Are they bad people? I don’t believe that there are many absolutes in this life. That somebody can be shit to one person, but generally good to everyone else. This doesn’t make them a bad person.  They never do it to anyone else, they’re never shitty to anyone else. Just that one person. So we don’t get to know about it. Nobody knows about it, unless the person who’s been hurt decides to talk. And once again, because nobody knows that her ex partner has been like this, he gets away with it. Because it’s likely she won’t talk about it. She won’t be believed, anyway. She, in fact, will be reviled for “trying to spread stories”. It was a nasty breakup. Of course she’s saying these things.

But the people who hurt them need to own that. And the people who are his friends need to acknowledge those truths.  Because it’s abuse. Plain and simple.

And I think that’s how all these men – the men who “only” did it once have been getting away with it all these years. Why they’re forgiven by their friends, and family. Given the benefit of the doubt.  Why some very well loved people have a very dark side, and only their ex partners know what that dark side looks like.

I’m talking about this because I want you to know, if you’re one of those men, that I know. Your exes have told me their stories. While women friends have stood by you, I know what your dark side looks like. I know what you’ve done.

And I won’t forgive you.

I won’t ever forgive you.

Until you own it.


The Aunties Xmas Present Bonanza 2017

It’s that time of year again.


For the last four years, The Aunties have supplied xmas presents for the kids in a number of women’s refuges, and luxury gift baskets for their mums.

This year, we’re doing things a little differently. Still presents, still luxury gift baskets, but for considerably more people. As you’re aware, we had our comedy fundraiser, and that raised us money to fill the luxury gift baskets, and to pay for some fun stuff for the Te Whānau Rangimariē Xmas party. We are going to need a bit more, I think, but I’ll let you know about that later.

For now, we need presents. Lots and lots and lots of them.  600 is what I’m aiming for. 400 for the kids of Te Whānau Rangimariê (at least 2 each) and a car load for the City Mission.

For all ages. All brand new, please. Nothing that’s preloved. These kids deserve the absolute best we can give them. Some of them are likely to have never recieved a xmas pressie in their lives, so we want to make it as special as we can. TWR caters for kids from birth, right up to kids in their late teens (I usually buy the big kids gift vouchers). So think 0-2, 3-6, 7-10, 11-13. Use that as your guidelines. Last year, we supplied 85 kids with 3 pressies each. This year, it’s likely to be more, so I need your help!!!! We will also supply kids of women I work with in the community. Their ages range from 4 – 16. If we have a huge amount extra I’d like us to take a whole carload down to the City Mission.

Please bear in mind that I don’t know the kids from TWR. I have never met them, and I don’t know their names. (Presents will be wrapped with age/gender labels). The only kids I do know this year are the ones that I work with in the community. So I can’t tell you about preferences or likes and dislikes. It’s a present, something they’ll appreciate and love, so don’t worry too much about whether they will. They will. I assure you.

When you have bought your pressie (s) – and you are very welcome to buy as many as you like, though also bear in mind we have set a price limit of $20 or it becomes unfair – send those unwrapped, or wrapped in GOOD quality wrapping paper with age/gender label attached (cheap wrapping paper rips easily, and the presents have to be handled a number of times) please to:

The Aunties

PO Box 76638


Auckland 2241

OR you can drop them in the box that’s been put there especially for us at Ponsonby Central, on the corner of Ponsonby and Richmond Rd.


Those will need to be in our hot little hands by December 10th.

Thank you so much.