Can I be an Auntie?
Anyone can be part of this whanau! Anyone at all.
How can I donate to the Aunties?
All you do is message Phil at firstname.lastname@example.org OR message us via our Facebook page. I monitor all social media and email. Phil and I are admins for the Facebook page, and will get back to you very quickly. Tell us exactly what you have, and then you will be directed to drop it off to one of our drop off points. Make sure all bedding/clothing/towels are freshly washed, please.
What can I donate to the Aunties?
We take: bedding, clothes, and towels. Shoes, if they’re in great condition. Socks are okay secondhand. Undies are not.
We like toiletries (normal sized) and make up. These must be unused/new.
The women in our community also like nice handbags and jewellery.
There are two streams of donations. One for our storage unit – these things go to:
- the women who are part of our whanau
- women who have contacted us to tell us they need something
- a couple of refuges and emergency houses
- clients of local social workers.
If we haven’t expressed a need, then we don’t need it.
The second stream goes to the Prostitute’s Collective. You can take stuff IN GOOD CONDITION to them directly at 3/2 Canada St, in town. They always need: hotel toiletries, clothing (women and men’s), shoes, and undies. Please make sure everything is freshly washed. Most of the clothing goes to street/homeless sex workers, and they deserve care and respect.
We can no longer pick anything up and we don’t have the facility to cart furniture around. If you have furniture or whiteware that our girls need, you will need to organise to get it to them directly.
Donations: what we do and don’t need.
We DO NEED clothing, bedding, towels, undies, pyjamas, socks ALL the time. And we need whatever we tell you we need. Keep an eye on the Facebook page.
Secondhand is fine with everything except for undies. Never secondhand undies.
We DON’T NEED your household trinkets. Whether you are moving, downsizing or de-cluttering, we don’t need ornaments or bits and bobs. Don’t ever contact me and tell me you need to get rid of stuff, because that sets off alarm bells. If you say you have a household lot, that sets off alarm bells. Send a specific list of what you have and photos so I can see the condition of the donations.
Why don’t the Aunties want canned tomatoes?
I’ve written and spoken about this a LOT over the years. Go to our media page – there’s plenty of coverage there.
What do the Aunties do?
Basically, we walk alongside women who are seeking to heal from abusive relationships. We work with around 400 families a year, if not more, getting them what they have asked for or their agency has asked for. We additionally work closely with the women in our Aunties whānau, there are around 45. Whatever they ask for, we try to provide, and we are now in a situation where they are also starting to emotionally support each other. It’s a funny model, because it’s so unusual but it works really well for us. It’s built on sustained and long lasting relationships, of the women’s choosing. A community of mutual support. One of the women is our Chairperson, and eventually they will run the Aunties.
Separately to this my job is to advocate and educate around domestic violence and social justice issues as they relate to the women we work with. I attend FGCs, court dates, appointments with lawyers, agencies, etc. Whatever the women in our whanau need me to do, I’m there to do it.
How is The Aunties funded?
By you. Up until this year, we haven’t applied for grants. We don’t get any other funding apart from the Aunties themselves. Private donations – either one-offs or in the form of automatic payments. When the women need something, and we don’t have enough money, Aunty Jackie asks on social media and the answering is always fulsome and does the trick.
We have started to apply for grants for special projects this year but they won’t come into effect until next year.
What is the best way for contacting you? Should we contact you only when you ask for stuff or approach you when we have good stuff to give away?
You can email me, or message Facebook. You can text me on 0275228115. Any way is good.
If you have stuff, certainly ask if we need it. But if it’s not washed, and it’s been well used, you may get a no thanks. Please contact Phil for donating stuff.
If you have bigger stuff to give, like furniture or whiteware, you will be put directly in contact with the person who needs it.
Where are the Aunties?
Aunty Jackie lives in Manurewa, and has a home office but the Aunties are based in her phone, and those of the Board and the women. It has been suggested we have a hub, but that’s some way in the future. Most of the people we work with live in South Auckland.
Use of the women’s words and images on social media:
In all cases, permission is obtained. The reality is that for the women I work with, there are only a couple for whom their images being shared would pose a threat. For the rest, if I don’t use their images on social media, it’s because what they fear most of all is being mocked by their families. The reason I use very few, in actual fact, is that the viewers of those images are uncomfortable with that. Many people have a narrative in their heads around domestic violence that goes something like this: if we see their faces, it will put them in danger. They are in hiding from brutal physical violence, and it’s unsafe for us to see their faces. Bollocks.
You know what poses most threat to someone’s safety? Themselves. The irony of domestic violence is that the person in danger becomes safe when they’re ready to become safe. When they are ready to do what they need to do to BE safe. The onus is on them.
You’re a stranger and you seeing their face, in the cases of the women I work with, is not an issue for the reasons you may think. Stop watching so many films. We’re not living in a crime thriller. These are real people, with real lives and actually keeping them invisible if it’s not necessary to their safety puts them at more risk. They must always have agency in this. Nobody else gets to decide how safe or unsafe they are or should be.
If they want me to put their photos online – and they’re usually happier about Twitter than Facebook because, as I said, of their families – then that’s what I’m going to do. I will use their names, unless it’s important I don’t. More and more, they are asking me to use their real names or tag them into posts. Sometimes they want me to share their words with people. So I’m going to do that. If they want you to see them, and know them, then that’s what’s going to happen. Get this in your heads: secret squirrel antics are ineffective, not necessary, and are actually more harmful to the people they are supposed to protect. This is not just my opinion, but the view of the senior practitioners I deal with and have talked at length about this with. And they run refuge organisations, which have safe houses.
The truth of it is that refuge organisations aren’t about safe houses any more. They are now primarily working with people living in their own homes, in their existing relationships, in the community. Some family violence agencies don’t have safe houses, such as Aviva, in Christchurch.
If it is important that a woman is not visible to her ex partner, I will never ever share anything that identifies her online. Ever. I never have. I currently work with 5 women for whom this is the case. I will however, share their words when appropriate and I have been asked to.
The women’s stories are currently being collated for The Aunties Book, to be published this year by the largest publishing house in NZ/Aotearoa. They want you to see them.
Is The Aunties a women’s refuge?
No. We do not run a safe house. We are not a family violence agency. We work informally with many family violence agencies, and a couple of refuges, but we are not one, nor do we run one. The women we work with live in their own homes, and are at different stages of their healing journey. Some haven’t been in a violent relationship for many years.
Are there Aunties near me that I can help?
The Aunties in Auckland don’t need volunteers. The women themselves end up doing what needs doing, in that regard. The storage unit is really the only way people can help hands on, and that’s being taken care of by two of the women.
Penny Rakau works with Te Whare Tiaki in Porirua, Wellington. She can be found on twitter at @ponekeaunties – Penny was an Auckland Aunty and moved to Wellington and I connected her with Caroline, who runs the refuge/family violence organisation for Maāori women in Porirua.
In Christchurch, there are the Christchurch Aunties
How do you decide who gets help?
I don’t decide. The people who come to us, do. We aren’t a food bank, so we don’t provide food for anyone outside of the Aunties whānau, but apart from that, if they want emotional support or help getting clothing/bedding/towels etc then anyone can access that by reaching out. Our primary focus are our whanau of women and all of your donations are spent on them alone. New women join our whanau at the rate of, on average, 2 a year.
Is my donation tax deductible?’
Of course! We are a registered charitable trust. If you want a receipt, simply email Kat, our treasurer, on email@example.com
Which other organisations do we work with?
There are two primary organisations I work with. The New Zealand Prostitutes Collective, and Te Whanau Rangimarie in Mangere, a family violence service provider.
The other organisations are OT, Strive, Family Success Matters, Rawiri Community House. Other organisations contact me from time to time, but these are the relationships that have been sustained.
I hope this has answered your question. If you have any other questions, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org