International Women’s Day.

Yesterday, for International Women’s Day, I flew to Wellington. I’d been invited to Government House to celebrate #suffrage125. I was a bit flummoxed, but was persuaded to go, and I’m glad I did. Some Aunties kindly funded me to fly down there, and a friend picked me up at the airport and ferried me around. When I got there, there was a room full of buzzing women, and some men, all there to celebrate the same thing. All leaders in their field, whatever those fields may be. And most were ordinary people, like me. I listened to the speeches, caught up with people I knew, and felt a tiny bit of disquiet. I looked around the room and saw a diverse bunch of women, so I wasn’t entirely sure why I was feeling this disquiet. It was just a wee niggle. So I thought not much more about it and went on with my day.

This morning, I had been invited, again for International Women’s Day, to speak at an event at a corporate in town. I was delighted to be there, and made to feel very welcome. The room was diverse – women of colour, older women, younger women, some men. Again, the disquiet. It was starting to come into focus, but again, I sat with it, and didn’t quite know what it was, or where it was coming from. I spoke passionately, and looked around the room, who all seemed engaged. I spoke of my work, the Aunties work, how they could donate. And I listened to two of the women that work there as they spoke. Of struggles and triumphs. They both spoke their truths. Afterwards I had lunch with 3 of the women from that company – we didn’t have long enough, and the feeling was growing. They spoke passionately about what the problems were, and why there weren’t as many women as should be in tech. There were things left unspoken, I wasn’t entirely sure what they were.

And then I drove back across the city to see one of the women, who’d wanted my company and to chat. When I got there, she held onto me. Things had happened. Unfair things. So I listened, and they were problems I could help her with. I asked if she wanted the help, she said yes. I picked up the phone, started googling, ringing people to get done what she needed done. On the first phonecall, I passed the phone to her. She listened, said yes a lot, and then hung up.

“I didn’t understand what he was talking about”. I asked how she was feeling about it. The words she used were – judged, stupid, uneducated. He hadn’t been rude. He’d just spieled information at her. It had befuddled her.

So I rang back, got someone else. Talked it through.  We sorted it, with her permission.

After the phonecalls, and making a plan, she looked relieved. We went to the supermarket and the petrol station to get gift cards so she could at least have food and gas before the documents required to access her bank account came.

We walked into the supermarket. ” I don’t like coming to public places. People stare”. I put my arm around her. She hugged me back. “I’m quite staunch” I said. “Nobody will try to mess with you”. We did the transaction required and I could tell how anxious it made her. How very uncomfortable. I apologised for her discomfort. I told her “you’ve got this”.

And then sitting in the car with her, I could feel myself getting angrier and angrier, and I knew why I had had that disquiet all day.

Yesterday, today, so many voices missing from the conversation needed, if we want to talk seriously about equality, and what that means. In White Feminism, it means equal pay. Being treated as equals. Women and men. (Where are genderqueer people in this equation???)

I would suggest that race is equally important. That actually the pay gap is racist as well as gendercentric.

So where, in these sentiments, are Māori and Pasifika women? When people aren’t only not equally paid but don’t even have equal access to power and knowledge, what then?  How do you build that bridge?

You build it with policy, economic and social. You build it with education, freely available and for everyone. You build it with awareness that the chasm even exists.  I think you build it with input from all. You build it by letting go of some power. Not holding onto it so tightly, if at all. You build it with love, and compassion. But built it must be.

That’s why I’m not really feeling #IWD18. I’m feeling sad and a bit despondent, and quite a lot impatient. Angry, and more determined than ever. Because I don’t really want to celebrate something that has passed by the women I work with, not when there’s so much work to do. Not until they have access to the very things they should have access to. Not until then.


Subscribers Appeal – March 2018



Many of you will know that our dear Head Auntie Jackie has been doing her incredible work for several years now. Auntie Jackie has never been paid for this – in 2016 quit her job so she could do it full time and without distraction and sold her house, using some of that money to live on.


One of the things that happens too often in this world is that women do important and extraordinary work without being paid for it. Jackie took this on, always hoping that the charity board she set up would be able to raise funds to pay for at least some of her time in the future.


Well, the future is now! The Aunties Trust Board is seeking subscribers to contribute towards a monthly amount for Jackie.  It won’t fully recognise her work (one of our board members would like to pay her $2000 an hour) but it will give her some secure income to support herself and her family, and thus some certainty about being able to continue to do this crucial mahi for the next year… and the one after that and, we hope, for as long as she wants to.


How will subscribers work?  We’d like you to set up a monthly Automatic Payment that goes to a special bank account we have set aside specifically for “people costs”.  The Aunties Board will be entering into a contract with Jackie to “do her do”, and this money will primarily go towards paying her for that and possibly, in time, paying someone else for some admin work too.


To make it super easy for you to become a subscriber, we have some ideas about amounts, and cute names that go with each level – though you can pick a different monthly amount (and add your own cute name) if you like.


$5 per month:           Paua
$10 per month:         Pohutukawa
$20 per month:         Kina
$50 per month:         Kowhai
$100 per month:       Tui
$500 per month:       Kauri


All you need to do is set up a regular Automatic Payment to this bank account (NB: slightly different from the main Aunties bank account):   12-3019-0022633-01

We really appreciate your support for The Aunties – whether it’s by spreading the word, giving stuff, donating money, or hugging our Head Auntie randomly in the middle of the Warehouse when you see her.


Looking forward to seeing what we can do next, together!


The Aunties is a registered charitable trust, and as such your donation will be tax deductible. Please email if you wish to be receipted.

What’s love got to do with it?

It’s almost Valentine’s Day, and I have a few musings about romantic love. In particular how it can trap us in abusive relationships, and fool us into being compliant, and putting up with stuff we normally wouldn’t.

When you first fall in love, isn’t it marvellous? Best feeling in the world. You want to be around that person all the time. Add sex in, and you want to touch them most of the time. This may play out in different ways for different people, but it’s always very sweet. Lovers initially are kind to each other, think constantly about each other, and look out for each other.

But there’s this thing that romantic love does, depending on who we are. In a monogamous relationship, there is always somewhat, even to a tiny degree, an imbalance based on need, and expectations. One person will love the other slightly more, or slightly less. Some people are just more guarded with themselves, even with the person they are infatuated with. Some people give more freely of themselves. We all express romantic love differently, and we all have a way we need to be loved, or ways of being loved that we respond to the most. Some call this a love language.

And how we are loved as children, in my opinion, feeds very much into this, and can act destructively if the way we are treated is very poorly – physical, emotional, verbal abuse. If we have suffered any of these as a child, our view of romantic love is likely to be a bit off. What we expect will be set by how our whānau/parents/caregivers have treated us. How they have loved us, or not.

So we fall in love. This bit may last a wee while or not for long. On average, it is thought that if someone is controlling – ie exhibits signs of being abusive – it will take a few months for this to kick in. It will have been there from the start, it’s just that infatuation with that person masks it, and by the time they start showing who they really are, if you’re still there? Then that’s set the pattern.

There are, of course, different ways of being for people who seek to wield power over you, and different motivations. Let’s remind ourselves of what the wheel of power and control looks like.

There are also different models for what constitutes healthy behaviors for equality in a relationship.

The difficulty with abusive behaviours are that they most often don’t start until one is well ensconced in a relationship, or one is too infatuated to notice them eg jealousy can be coded as “cute”. (It is not.)

By the time most of the controlling stuff starts, as I said, you’re usually well embedded in your relationship with a person. Because they know they’ll get away with it. The first time will never be major – it’s a test. The person doing this may not realise it is, but it is. And each time, it may escalate to a level (verbal, emotional, psychological, physical) that’s deemed acceptable by one or both parties. Sometimes the abuser shocks themselves, and we can’t believe what’s happened. They may apologise, usually apologise, and promise they won’t do it again.

But we stay because we love them. Or we love the idea of them. We love the them they are when they’re not being awful to us. Some days, we say: it’s okay, I don’t like him/her/them all the time. But I still love them.

Love, you see, can be a trap.

And that’s why, today, I don’t celebrate the idea of love, the commercial “how it’s supposed to look” love, but the reality that it can become. Healthy care and consideration between people. Butterflies in the tummy, sure, but much more than that. Equality and compassion, and just wanting to be with someone who gets you. In a good way. Wanting the best for each other, and figuring out how to make it happen. That love is SO SEXY. I love that love. I’ll celebrate that, any day.

Social workers respond.

Over a short period of time, a couple of days, I had become aware of what I think is a bit of a connundrum. I hadn’t ever realised the extent of the community work that people who work in vulnerable communities do. And I’ve heard myself called a community worker so I guess that fits. I’ve never called myself a social worker, I don’t ever really know what to call myself to be honest. If asked, I’ll just say I’m Aunty In Charge (of The Aunties, not anyone else). I was shocked these people weren’t social workers, and because I have an outsider’s knowledge of what social workers actually do, though I work with many social workers, it forced a bit of reflection on what do. I used to feel a lot of “impostor syndrome” and I haven’t lost that totally. I’m still sitting meeting with people, and questioning myself if it’s okay that I’m doing that.

So I wrote a blog and called it Social Work – it’s here. The name of it played on the word social, but I never have believed that what I do is social work. And I never ever tell the women that’s what I am. So I ruminated. And wrote.

I was delighted to recieve feedback – as I had asked at the end of that blog to do so – from some social workers. I’ve put that here so you can see it too. Having been a kindergarten teacher, and being called a daycare worker, I completely relate to what they said. I have a degree, I have a teaching qualification. I know the importance of those “pieces of paper”, which aren’t just that, but instead represent years of hard work, and more importantly, hard thinking. Critical thinking. Critical analysis of what we do, and how we are, in our chosen professions.

I apologise to all social workers for giving the impression that I ever thought it was just a piece of paper, and I also thank the social workers who responded and clarified what it is that they do.


“The value of my ‘piece of paper’ – knowing enough to know what I don’t know.


I found this particularly hard to read – and from the comments of other social workers (yes, the ones with pieces of paper) around me, I wasn’t alone in that. So, since being reflective and trying to separate our own feelings from actual events is a core part of what we’re educated to do in our (four-year, intense) degrees, we had a few chats about why. This is what we concluded.


Your degree of empathy is awesome. It’s beautiful, it’s inspiring, it shows genuine and admirable compassion for the women you support. It’s equally awesome that you are willing and able to listen to women’s stories – that’s not inherently a social work skill, but it’s an incredibly important one for anyone supporting women after experiences of violence or trauma. The fact that you have supervision is excellent – it’s reassuring, and arguably essential for anyone working with women who’ve been hurt. Your role in their life is important. Your work is important. But I wouldn’t go so far as to call it ‘social work’ without acknowledging the pitfalls of claiming an identity you haven’t studied for.


I’m a registered social worker, with a four-year Bachelors and a two-year Masters. So are the majority of my peers. We work in similar fields. And in most of our organisations, we do have qualified social workers, and unqualified or less qualified support workers. For some of the basic tasks we do, there is little difference. We are able to sit with women who’ve experienced trauma. We are able to advocate for them. We share those skills and that commitment.


Equally, there are points of difference – skills we’ve gained, knowledge we’ve gathered, and ways of thinking that have become automatically ingrained throughout the four to six years we’ve spent being educated to think and act in a particular way. In our degrees, we learn to deconstruct all of our beliefs, and the practices of systems we’re embedded in. We learn that listening and responding genuinely, empathically, and authentically to women’s stories is vital – but so, too, is knowing how our genuine, empathic, and authentic responses might reinforce negative cycles of behaviour; might unwittingly blame, judge, or shame women for their experiences; might not pick up on what’s being said that might indicate the need for further support in particular areas, etc, etc.


The words “you don’t actually need a social work qualification if you’re not working for a government department” are grossly misleading. There is a reason many (arguably most) organisations prefer to hire social workers who are fully qualified and eligible for registration. That’s not just about a minimum standard of competency (though that’s just as important – we wouldn’t allow a nurse to undertake surgery just because she feels confident to do so), it’s about a guarantee of basic learning and unlearning.


We have spent years learning where our limitations lie – when we should be the ones hearing disclosures and taking up the mantle of key support person, and when we should refer to specialists. We know enough to know that when we qualify, we are, at best, consciously incompetent – new graduates should have been educated enough to remove their accidental, well-intended mistakes with clients, and to know they need a hell of a lot more support to become consciously competent.


So, when you say, “if it’s good enough for them, then it has to be good enough for me” – that worries me, too. Because a lot of the role of a social worker is invisible. Clients are not necessarily going to know if you unintentionally cause harm. If you enable, or justify, or minimise, or shame, or suppress resistance, you might not know. Neither will they. Just as when I go to a doctor, I can’t adequately evaluate quality – I’m going to assume that they are qualified enough to interact with me in the way that I need. I assume this, because they have qualifications, registration, and regular requirements regarding professional development and competency.


So if you say you’re a social worker, they’re going to expect that you’re acting from a position of knowledge and expertise. And, if you claim that those things aren’t important, you’re delegitimising the entire basis of our professional identity as social workers, and minimising the value of our hard-earned education – the education that makes us deconstructed, accountable, and conscious of our skills and limitations. “Good enough for our clients” isn’t our end goal. Being good enough to reach a high standard of externally measured professional conduct and skill, in a way that our clients may not be able to see but with certainly benefit from, is the baseline.


I’m glad you do what you do. I think you should keep doing it. But I don’t think you should assume that there’s no difference between your work and the role, education, and scope of practice of ‘social work’. ”

Thank you for your honesty.

Thank you for your feedback.

But mostly, thank you for what you do.

Respect and admiration, always.

Jackie Clark.