This will be my last post here at writehanded.wordpress.com.
Don’t worry, I’m not going away, or shutting up – though, as I’ve discovered in the past few days, there are people who would like me to do so. Here’s a message for you:
I’m just moving to my new site – www.writehanded.org! I know new websites aren’t really exciting to anyone but those they belong to (I’ve done enough site launches in my career to know that the fanfare surrounding this is usually met with… meh) – but I’m happy about it. It’s a step forward for me. It’s a commitment to the writing I’m doing, to the quality of it, and to the people who read it. This is not just “a blog” to me – though it never really was. It’s work. Important work.
Which is why I’m so utterly amazed by the response to last Thursday’s story. As I said on Friday – this isn’t about me. This isn’t my story, though I’ve become the face of it. It’s the story of many, many voiceless New Zealanders. It’s one that needs to be told.
Today I met with my local Labour MP, Maryan Street, who contacted me because of this story. She’s committed to making change, not just for me – I stressed to her how much I don’t want this to be about my individual case – but real, tangible cultural change.
Call for stories
Maryan is going to meet with WINZ here in Nelson. She’s taking my story as evidence of the repeated systemic failures and mistreatment, not just in the local office, but nationwide.
I have said that I will other collect stories and document them, for her to take. I am considering delivering the document to other MPs. I know that a lot of you have stories, because you shared them on the last post, or you wrote to me, or you’ve spoken to me. I’m especially interested in the Nelson office, but I’m happy to share any experience anywhere – any interactions you’ve had with WINZ where you’ve felt mistreated, or witnessed the extensive issues I’ve discussed.
You can email me your story if you’d like to be part of this, by this Friday please. I won’t be able to reply – I’m too exhausted. But I will collect them all and I will deliver them. I won’t alter them in any way. You will be anonymous. (My email address is on the media page above).
I will just say that I think it’s very sad that I had to close the comments on Thursday’s post due to the nastiness that was occurring, because most of those comments are incredibly valuable, and I hope if you are one of those people, you will contact me. They are other people’s stories, other people’s voices joining mine, saying “Me too. Me too. Me, too.”
As I keep saying, these are not isolated incidents. They are part of a systemic breakdown. They tell a wider story of cultural violence. We’re abusing our most vulnerable members of society. They – we – are subjected to treatment that is fundamentally dehumanising, demoralising, and terrifying – by a government organisation whose reason for existence is providing support. Because we’ve asked for the help we need. Because we’ve become statistics, and the system has twisted to become one that applauds reducing those statistics, instead of actually treating the underlying issues in any meaningful way.
The story is getting spread. The message is being heard. The original post has been viewed close to 30,000 times, which may not seem like a lot, but nothing I’ve ever written has been seen by so many people before. I’ve spoken about it in the media, on Twitter, on Facebook, to friends – and to politicians. Both Labour and Green Party members contacted me to offer assistance and support. I have accepted this. Today I had a call from the regional manager at WINZ, and I intend to meet with her.
This is exhausting, and terrifying, and very scary for me. I am standing up for something, and doing so is getting me attention I don’t really want. It may seem like I love talking about my vulnerabilities – my illness, my inability to financially support myself. I do not. This progress – this attention – means I have to spend energy – going to meetings, talking to people, writing – and it means stress and anxiety. I’m trying to recover. I want to go back to work. I want it more than anything, and that means sometimes I have to sit still and be quiet when what I really want to do is write and yell, all the time, about everything.
I hope you’ll join me when I can.