Brooke Fiafia of Auckland Action Against Poverty (AAAP) on her dream for a liveable income announcement in this week’s budget.
Poverty wholeheartedly sucks. The constant stress of debt, the fear and tears that come from not having enough, of not feeling like enough, the pain and embarrassment of being hungry and not having the power or resources to change that. When I started volunteering with AAAP back in 2019, I thought we’d get public support to wipe out poverty pretty easily, cos why wouldn’t we give people what they need to be their best? To honour their life and that of Mother Earth? Everyone having what they need to thrive is good for all of us. It seemed pretty straightforward to me, but for many of us there’s a lot to unpack, especially within a system that determines our worth based on what we bring to the economy.
The government releasing the budget on Thursday is an opportunity for us to reflect on ideas we’ve become conditioned to believe are normal. I challenge people to reprioritise new commitments: to our whenua and time as a precious and sacred resource, and understanding that all the money in the world could never amount to the true worth of each of our lives. It’s on all of us to uplift visions of a better world, and alternative (read: Indigenous) ways of practising society and community.
AAAP has been campaigning for liveable incomes, because a liveable income is everyone’s birth right. But at the moment, it’s a massive privilege.
I’m from many Pacific villages where my siblings, cousins and I were raised by staunch, loving women. If food or money was an issue, it was shared. If Mum found us fighting over something, she’d threaten to take it off all of us. We learned it was better to have shared access to something versus nothing. And so we grew up believing that sharing was a normal practice. I never viewed it as others getting what was mine, because we all got some in the end and we were all happy about it. Sharing is a practice that strengthens connections and relationships. It means others don’t go without. It means you have a deep care for the wellbeing of your kin. Everything is made easier when shared, and as I’ve grown I’ve come to understand that this isn’t just about material things. When all of our individual needs are met we’re resilient, adaptable and strong as a collective.
When I was younger I used family as an analogy for government in order to make sense of it: they’re meant to look after us, just like a village. Maybe I need to manage my expectations. After all, they’ve established themselves here by stealing these lands through the continued undermining of He Whakaputanga and Te Tiriti. And so poverty was a part of a violent, introduced ideology. The Crown needs to be held accountable to mana whenua. Liveable incomes for all can be a bridge to universal essential services as we work towards constitutional transformation. Universal essential services mean the things that are important to live – things too important to be left to the market, like housing, transport, healthcare and education. They should be free because collectively we have more than enough resources to make them free. The government, which is responsible for pooling and distributing our resources, can afford universal essential services right now. The people and Papatūānuku are calling for it.
I dream of what liveable incomes would be like – us all honouring what it means to be human. All of us in loving, connected and thriving communities; healing together, remembering who we are and reclaiming our ways. We get to choose what we do with our time, because time is as sacred as life. We’re looking after Papatūānuku, ourselves and each other. Doing constitutional, transformational work, a society grounded in a fierce and protective love – a love that allows everyone their right to be free.
I wait to see if the government has dreamed as vividly as I have, and can address these issues that are at the core of our humanity in the budget.