The Underbelly-Our Dark Side

When we immigrated to New Zealand from South Africa in 1986 I had some really strong beliefs about the society we had chosen to enjoy with our three young children.

 
My father had told me about the All Blacks - so I was expecting sport and competition and winning!   I had  New Zealand born grandparents so I knew a little  about farms and sheep. I read books in the Pietermaritzburg library about “ladies bring a plate” and scones. I was not to expect supermarkets or new cars! The book was outdated.
 
I was expecting something very close to the nice, polite English society I had guiltily experienced in South Africa in the time of Apartheid. When I got here I was thrilled to see my children mixing and playing happily with a diverse range of children of many different ethnicities and no racist laws to blight lives.  Here was a land of equal opportunity. I knew we had made the right decision. 
It has taken me a long time to see that underneath the surface there are some very dark aspects to New Zealand society. Don’t get me wrong – I love New Zealand and we have all made very happy lives here. But, I am alarmed at some things. 
 
I was at a KiVa meeting last week in Nelson to discuss bullying and possible ways to reduce it. I shared with the group the statistics from TIMMS which show that New Zealand has a very bad record when it comes to bullying. We also discussed the high suicide rate for young men and women and the links between suicide and bullying. Someone asked me: "Why do we have such a culture of bullying in New Zealand?" And I don't know how to answer that. 
Is it because there is a prevailing belief that bullying is a normal part of growing up and you just need to harden up and deal with it? Is it because we encourage students not to nark on their mates? Or is it something else? Or a combination of other factors? Maybe we need some research to explain this.
 
Professor Vanessa Green of Victoria University’s Education Faculty made an interesting comment in her inauguration speech. She said that we spend a lot of time and effort training sports players. We teach them the skills of running and passing and kicking and shooting hoops but we don’t make nearly as much effort to teach children how to be kind to each other. I am just wondering what it will take for us to change things for the kids who endure hellish experiences in their daily lives.  
 
Jessica Craig
Accent Learning, 18 October 2016