Posted by: Joan Spiller | August 3, 2011

My Mum, Maoris & Discrimination

My Mum is half maori (so that makes me 1/4, right? I know, I’m frightfully good @ maths! Thanks) .. Anyway, this means I’m apparently eligible for all sorts of ‘rights’ .. the odd beach, some fish.. But I digress..

When I left my now ex-husband, I rocked up to the Pakuranga social welfare office and duly took my turn at the “I need help” desk.

I was told to fill in a few forms then sent to sit at an empty desk and, after approx. 21 minutes, (I’ve kept diaries all my life .. so yeah, I know it was 21 mins) a somewhat distainful, middle aged Indian woman came to ‘interview’ me.

Seems she didn’t feel I should get any help, since I “chose” to leave my husband. She actually asked me the question “did he beat you?” as part of the interview. No. I am not joking.

And when I replied he earned good money and did not beat me or CJ, she was immediately even more unhelpful and suggested I might not qualify for any financial assistance.

I think it was around this time that I got a tad pissy. Tis fair to say, I was pretty freaked out, having decided to end a marriage I hadn’t expected to end.. No one goes into marriage thinking of divorce, after all. I’d not been sleeping well and I spent the entire night (before telling the hubby it was over) wide awake fretting. Not a good combo.

And so it was that this woman found herself faced with a very civil but slightly pissy 20-something-year-old saying “I wish to speak to your supervisor“.

Turns out I was eligible, her bias was more that in her culture women often will elect to stay in unhappy marriages where they’re not too unpleasant (i.e.: beatings or poverty??) and therefore she overlaid that belief with my case.

We soon resolved her issue (i.e. I got to deal with someone else!) and whaddiya know, I qualified for my $400 or so a fortnight, tax refund – as I refer to it! And so it was, that I left the Pakuranga DSW office knowing I’d not have to starve to death in my decision to leave CJ’s father ..

We duly moved to HB and a few months later it was CJ’s birthday.

I had been surviving (and believe me – it was survival – some time I’ll post about my fishing for food in rubbish bins – ugh!) reasonably well but wanted to do something a bit special for her birthday (i.e.: – luxury plus: a birthday cake!) and so kinda figured I could rock up and ask for a loan. Silly me…

Back in those days, one couldn’t make an appt to see anyone – one rocked up and waited. Customer service – a bit of a non-concept! And so it was that I found myself sitting in the waiting room surrounded by assorted people – mostly women. Many of them maori or pacific islanders.

I noticed (love my diary) many were wearing Nike gear as was popular ‘back then’. Me? I was in some cheap (affordable) k-mart outfit.

They got their appointments faster than I did. I sat being looked at but ignored .. I have this in my diary. Like I said – it went everywhere with me.. It was.. fascinating.

Eventually, I was seen by a pleasant youngish woman of obvious maori / euro blend.. who asked me a few questions and then declined my request for a $50 loan. Yes, a loan. I had stated I was more than happy to pay it back. I wanted to be able to buy a few special things and had worked out how much it would cost.

As I said – my request was declined and so I left, somewhat dejected but aware I couldn’t really buck the system. For all that I watched other people (and yes, I asked them what they were there for .. you know me, lol) getting handed loans and even being told that paying it back wasn’t necessary!?

Anyway, I mentioned it to my Mum a few days later and she was suitably mortified. She told me we would go back together and ‘sort this out’. I was not convinced but I was prepared to give her a go!

And so it turned out that we both rocked up to the DSW office in Hastings.

We walked in .. Mum would have been in her 50’s, so greying slightly. She was the epitome of calm, quiet and pleasant maoridom. Followed by her cheaply clad white kid. Me!

As we walked in a young woman around my age ran up to us. I kid you not – she ran to us..well .. to Mum anyway lol

Mum smiled in her enigmatic, pleasant (non-threatening but so not! lol) sorta way and explained (in fluent maori) what we were there for. I LOVE this next bit. The godawful cow (who’d turned me down for my loan a week ago) had arrived on the scene and neither had anyidea what Mum was saying and they had to run off to find someone else to translate heheh

Next thing you know we’re in a meeting room. Gosh, no open desk setting for us. We got our own meeting room.. And another 2 women arrived to hold the interview.

The whole thing was in bloody Maori and I only caught the odd word but what I do know is there was some major butt kissing and then I rec’d (wait for it) $200 in my bank account a few days later but get this: I didn’t have to pay it back! lmfao  ..

As we left, they were all but kissing Mum’s feet and as we left the office Mum turned to me and said “Well, that went well…” .. Smiling to herself.

Then, as we drove away together she turned to me and grinned, adding “that’ll lurn those sods to mess with MY whanau” ..

Mums rule ..



  1. I love your mother!


  2. Is this the same Mum that wanted me to be the sacrifice at that Maori ritual we went to?


    • hahah yeah lucky for you she’s a vegetarian eh!


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