Recorded Seventh January 2014
Byron: I’ll start by asking you, how did you get involved in Occupy Christchurch?
Danielle: Yeah, well. Around the same time as Occupy was starting I had become aware of fracking. And that was a big kind of shift in awareness for me around politics but also around environmental politics and kind of joined up with thinking around not just what I had been involved with in the past which was treaty activism or anti-racism activism or identity work for pacific peoples, particularly New Zealand born, and in the arts. But also around you know, kinda where we are locally here in Canterbury and that something as big as oil and gas drilling was potentially going to start to affect us in Canterbury.
So that was kind of, yeah, a shift in awareness for me that occurred just prior to the Occupy movement kinda beginning. And so I’d become involved with a group of people who kinda were also interested in activities around anti-fracking and particularly Karen De LaTour who was a friend of mine and she kind of encouraged me to connect in with the work that they were doing to plan a concert called I think, ‘Bring Change’ is the concert that they did which is a...to bring awareness around issues around fracking and that it was plans were afoot to do that locally inland in Canterbury but also deep-sea drilling off the coast as well not just for oil but for shale gas. So, with those things kind of brewing, Occupy seemed like another really, well a joined-up way to bring a whole lot of issues to the fore. I was just so relieved really to see Canterbury, to see Christchurch people with energy after the quakes wanting to, you know, tap into an international scale event that was about consciousness shift as much as it was about politics or, you know, awareness of how the market is affecting ordinary people’s lives. The things that aren’t working in regard to banking and those kinds of big issues that are hard to talk about in the everyday but that suddenly there was this opportunity, this sense of community around those issues. So I was really appreciative of that and to be a part of it I suppose. Even in a small way.
Byron: So you heard about it through those sorts of activist groups?
Danielle: Yeah. Really through old friends as well. I think Jo Wildish maybe sent me an invite to come along to one of the occupy marches. And we’d known each other for a long time, around activist circles I suppose, in Christchurch. Back in the day we were protesting against GAT and the Enough is Enough rally around changes to beneficiary cuts in the late 90s. Yeah, so there was a community of people I was aware of, but it was much bigger than that and that’s what was exciting, seeing a lot of young people politicised in a way that I kinda hadn’t seen for a long time, not since my twenties when there was a few, you know, of these punks and activists who were workshopping and talking about issues really publicly and it felt like there was a bit of a, yeah, a community around being political and then it just seemed to die down a bit for a while. Actually after the October raids for a lot of us because that changed how I think people felt comfortable to take action, unfortunately, even though we didn’t like to think of it as changing things I think it did, I think it really impacted activist circles around the country. [Laughs]That’s a tricky one, yeah.
Byron: So you were involved sort of right from the start?
Danielle: No, I mean I really just came and visited and was on the outskirts, very much, but I guess I came along on one of the marches that was I think the first march and walked with my little sign about fracking I think and caught up with some old friends on the way, walking down the road to Riccarton, it was really funny for me walking down Riccarton Road, which is sort of an area I grew up in, with these big signs about Gerry Brownlee or whatever and John Key and I just, I just appreciated that sense that people were growing in awareness, being politicised about things that mattered to them and there was a whole raft of issues that people were bringing to the table, I guess, and having conversations. So later, I think, in the piece, I can’t remember exactly who it was who invited me to come along to speak about fracking, and really I don’t feel like an expert in it. I’m just one of the many ordinary people who kind of became aware that stuff was starting to happen in our backyard, really literally in Canterbury, and that had already been happening off the coast, sort of just prior to the Canterbury earthquakes in 2011. So you know, all of that, I think I’m just one of those ordinary people that kind of got a little bit involved and inspired by the movement.
Byron: So, did you stay at the campsite at all?
Danielle: I didn’t stay. I had, yeah, I’ve got three kids so I would come and visit and ask people to keep me kind of posted about what they were up to, so, Jo was really good about that. I, yeah, the main thing I did was take a bunch of fliers along and talk to, i dunno, I guess a group of about twenty, about Fracking and it was a pretty, kinda small part to play in connecting in but in that sense it was just, it was useful for me to see that there were people who were, like I say prepared to kind of put their lives on hold and live in a way that was standing publicly for things that a whole lot of other people felt but might not have the tenacity or the sort of circumstances that would allow them to take time out and park up in a tent for that long. But, you know I hope they realise, I mean I think they did, they were doing it not just for themselves but for a lot of people who wanted to be, but, you know, perhaps found it difficult to do that, in that way.
Byron: So what were some of the things you were involved in? You’ve mentioned going on the first march and speaking about fracking?
Danielle: Yeah, so really my connection was around the Say No to Fracking and Drilling In Canterbury [and] in the South Island and they established- I’m one of the admins on a Facebook page for a group that started, like I say, around that time, to bring awareness about those issues in Canterbury, and so that’s what we saw, the connect point being for that group to the Occupy movement was just being part of that wave of awareness I guess and having, you know, in a lot of ways its online presence these days as much as it is people camping out and having a public demonstration over such a long period of time, but kind of a bunch of those things combined: media coverage of Occupy, the, like I say, the growth of online activism was kind of where I was at that time. So, I mean I had time at home to put a little post up on Facebook, on our Facebook page, for Say No to Fracking and Drilling and connect information to people that way and that, I guess it sort of helped that there was this swelling of awareness from people around a whole lot of issues. I remember that day, the first march. In the process of preparing to start walking, sitting down at the camp with a bunch of young girls who, maybe they were about 17, 18 and they were fully versed in a whole bunch of issues that I certainly wasn’t as articulate about at that age. I was, I kinda had awareness of social justice but nowhere near the analysis that they were able to, you know, just talk about quite casually and I mentioned “oh you know, have you heard about fracking as well, there’s this other stuff that’s going on, and it’s happening here, or it’s about to happen here” and they said “yeah, yeah, no we have heard a little bit about that. It’s been on the news and, you know I heard it on National Radio” and we’ve been part of getting those stories out there on National Radio and into The Press, certainly by talking to people like Vicki Anderson and so there were, you know it was kind of this...it was just neat to be there and to see, sounds cheesy eh, like a new generation, but like just a wide range, actually, of younger and older people getting ready to talk about stuff, and what comes with that will be really interesting but I’m not sure yet what the results will be of that awareness change but I think it’s contributed to something.
Byron: So you found Occupy was a very, a receptive environment to those ideas you were bringing in around fracking and on environmental issues?
Danielle: Yeah, I think people had begun to have awareness of those issues, particularly you know with analysis, I guess, of corporate greed and ‘money before people,’ it’s kind of an easy leap to make to question what the kind of results might be for New Zealand getting involved in big oil and gas. So while I think there’s all sorts of issues that connect to the problems with the financial system, some are not very difficult leaps at all to make, and so that was not, that was one of them that was kind of pretty much interrelated quite closely. So I found people were either already having those conversations about that issue or who wanted to know more and weren’t sure exactly what it was.
So it was just a burgeoning awareness and then, of course, there was a big kind of analysis of it on TV, you know, and different journalists took up the challenge to analyse it. To some extent that was great but I think conversations between people, face-to-face, is always just, you know it’s really worthwhile. And I learnt a lot too, yeah, from some of that analysis that’s around, and you know I’m no statistics or math person, but around you know just the really wide, the much wider gap than I think I even thought there was, between the very rich and the rest of us. And I know certainly being Pacific and having, for instance, having a degree and being a Pacific Island person in New Zealand you’re already aware of your privilege, because you’re one of 5% of the rest of us who don’t and who aren’t on, and so that’s, in my day job, that’s my working area is around equity issues for Pacific people, particularly students trying to gain access to, if you like, the market, through education.
But there are enormous problems with that pathway because the market itself, once you have your degree and you, and those opportunities open out for you, you know we rely on our values to, as Pacific people, to somehow enable change in that system, even with the path that’s required. So, I guess seeing discussion of what we value, what we value as, just as people, really, ‘cause it’s an international movement right, but particularly here in Canterbury, ‘cause we’re talking around Christchurch Occupy, for me I thought it was really interesting to see discussion about values and what we value.
We’re having that discussion all the time around trying to see how the systems that we’re within might be able to be influenced or changed by our Pacifica values of respect of Ala’laofa, or service. And so those sorts of core Pacific values; if they were able to influence, we often think about this, if our students were able to influence, even just a little bit, in terms of the systems they go out and work within, and are able to retain their values, even with their degrees and their qualifications and their moving through the hierarchies that are in place. I guess that’s the change point, the change levers, that we are interested in, and that we talk about a lot of the time working in education with Pacific. But even more than that, you know, an entire system shift would be pretty cool, but it’ll take incredibly joined-up thinking, international groundswell, yeah; that classic thing of ‘power to the people’ you know, it was really really cool to see a wide variety of people at those Occupy events, like it was inspiring for lots of different people in lots of different ways.
Byron: Just something out of that: it seemed that perhaps Pacifica People were under-represented in Occupy. Do you think that was the case?
Danielle: I think yeah, I mean that’s usually the case with activism. There’s lots of reasons why that is. It’s not to say that they’re not conscious and active in attempting to engage with politics or with the priorities that effect Pacifica people. I come out of, I guess, a legacy of activists in a sense. Not directly in my family but when I’m talking about Pacific activism I’m thinking of the people that mentored me like Freedom Road Works, and they’re a Dunedin based group who started in the late ‘80s and were tauiwi, Pacific and Maori and Pakeha families who decided to home school their kids so that they could, in a sense, opt-out of the system, so that they could ensure that their children weren’t brainwashed and colonised, so their whole agenda was decolonisation of the mind for themselves and their children, yeah, and their whānau.
And they, you know for instance, would come up here and take us on a hui around that sort of stuff. In fact, the last one I went on with them was maybe 2001, the weekend before the twin towers collapsed. And again they're, yeah, they're coming at it from a values based around family, around activism that’s actually around not just leaving the home to engage with politics somewhere on the outside, but taking your whole family and your whānau with you on that journey of awareness; and so that’s, I think that’s where I connect and that’s where a lot of Pacific people may not necessarily know how to connect with something like Occupy or it’s about, you know, publically ‘sitting in’, if you like, and showing that kind of dissension, you know. And it just depends on your networks, like I, I think it kind of all relates, but they might not all know each other, you know what I mean, like what I’m thinking of is another young group in Christchurch who, one of the women’s groups I belong to now, called Pacifika, which is one of the oldest Pacific male or female groups in the country, but it happens to be a women’s group and it’s a national body and incorporated society at the national level, but in our branch here in Christchurch we helped umbrella a group of young people called PYLAT: Pacific Youth Leadership and Transformation back in 2010 and that’s, they’ve continued meeting and become an independent body now of, sort of, I think they were originally 14-25 year-olds.
Similar age group now, but they’re having very political discussions, I mean separate to Occupy, but they’re having the same sort of discussions and debates. They’re just doing that within their own pacific community and I think it would be foolish to see them as entirely separate. I think its timing; it’s about how things build on each other. Even if they’re not meeting in the same room, they’re hearing, I mean you know, Occupy was a pretty public movement and an international movement so those young people have grown up, in a sense, with things like that happening and being normalised again. As the whole world responded to the financial crisis in different ways, and Occupy was one of them, and, you know, these young people are having monthly debates about issues from the living wage to, I think they’re next one coming up is oil drilling, deep sea drilling sorry. The one prior to that was around referenda and asset sales. And they’re doing it in a very kind of organised way, very independent way, not with a lot of umbrella-ing from older organisations anymore, but getting on with the job of conscientizing each other, asking people to come in and speak to them, from both sides of each debate, so that they’re really choosing to in a sense be quite, they’re allowing the conversation to dictate how their opinions are going, they’re not coming at it with an assumption, which I think is a really beautiful thing as well. They’re truly aiming for that kind of learning but I think Occupy was similarly about, you know, it was people and I think I heard an ACT guy stand up and talk at Occupy as well as, you know, people from all sorts of other local bodies like one of them was the guy I think from just, he’s local here, from one of the Community Boards.
Byron: Was that Rik? Possibly?
Danielle: Was it the Community Boards? It was like a neighbourhood group of, where they would just meet and discuss neighbourhood issues, like I don’t think it was even as formal as a community board. And he had little fliers for people who wanted to come and chat to him. He was an elderly gentleman, I shouldn’t say elderly, but you know, in the age range that was there he was probably of the upper age range that was at Occupy so I thought that was really positive too, having a range of, an open mic, if you like, where people could discuss all sorts of issues, but with a particular, I guess there was a particular bent in the atmosphere but you know the ACT guy still got his 5 minutes or 10 minutes or so, being able to talk about what he thought as well.
Byron: Some people I’ve spoke to have talked of sort of ‘competing ideas’. Do you think it was competing ideas and competing ideologies at Occupy?
Danielle: You know I guess I don’t see it like that. I see it with a big picture of people becoming aware of their circumstances and being free to discuss them in a way that’s engaged. I think that’s really positive. I don’t have all the answers, so I would favour a situation or a circumstance where people don’t come just with the answers but they come ready to discuss. And I thought that was a real, a really, you know, interesting benefit to that whole set-up was this kind of forum concept where, it was like a mini, well it was like a long conference, you know, like a long sit-in conference of ideas and discussions. I can see how people would say that, though. I just, I don’t think that’s what it’s contributing to overall.
I think overall, the contribution that Occupy has been to Christchurch and probably internationally is this contribution to people waking up and taking stock of where things are at with our mainly Western, capitalist, secular, in a sense sometimes having a valueless society or valuing things that maybe don’t really matter or don’t really even make sense. So, I think that’s what the contribution is too, and however people decide to deal with that will be really interesting to see, but I think a lot of young people, a lot of people that maybe even were more conservative and didn’t want to sit in a tent or, you know, hang out there, but were so pleased. Like I know my kids’ kind of ex-socialist grandparents were really stoked, they’re not gonna show up to a protest anymore but they were just like ‘oh this is great to see’, you know, a lot of people were really thrilled and relieved, I think, that there was activity going on. I hope that it isn’t just like a valve that let off steam and everything goes back to normal, but that people continue on that journey of questioning how things are in their lives, cause I think it does come down to your own life, how you’re living and the kinds of communities you chose to align with or be in partnership with in your life, so that’s, yeah, and I guess that comes back to those activists that I’ve really admired over the years were people who let it really affect their life and made substantial choices, to live quite differently with their families through that process so that inspires me.
It’s kind of an on-going journey of figuring out what the priorities are for each generation, though, I think. And so our generation, yeah there’s a whole lot of competing priorities for attention, that’s for sure, in terms of any valid waking up to the status, to what is going on, or just numbing out with television or food or other substances that might keep us quiet, yeah, but I think that it was a really significant awakening point for people.
Byron: How do you think that awakening has changed Christchurch or has changed Aotearoa following Occupy?
Danielle: That will be really interesting. I think Christchurch; I don’t think any one thing changes anything. I think things joined up change things and I think Occupy is part of, in Christchurch, a really interesting bunch of things that have been happening after the ‘quakes, that kind of relate although I don’t know them all and they’re all sort of slightly separate but I think that Occupy occupied a part of the centre of town and even though it was in the outskirts it was in the closest you could get to the centre of what had been the centre of town, and was no longer. It was cool. Gap filler, things like that that had been going on in Christchurch that were changing spaces, occupying spaces that had fallen vacant or had been disused or were traumatised post ‘quake as well. It kind of changed people’s awareness of what’s possible, if you like. So I think there’s this, in general in Christchurch, even though people are disheartened and there’s still a lot of people who haven’t had their claims met who are really struggling to find accommodation ‘cause rental prices are just through the roof, let alone buying your own home for the privileged few, you know. There is a whole lot of problems that are going on in Christchurch, but I think there is, there was a sense of hope with Occupy and a sense of possibility, and those things I think Christchurch needed at that time, but still needs, and has had an experience of through things like occupy, through gap filler, through some of the arts that have gone on, kind of, through the centre of town, and maybe even with the new council, who knows.
Yeah, I mean I have some renewed sense of possibility with our local politicians just at the moment and, you know, I think having been through a lot, Christchurch young people, I’m just going back to the young group of pacific people I’m thinking of: PYLAT I just think a whole lot of circumstances combined to provide, yeah, significant opportunity for waking up to this population of Christchurch but particularly young people in Christchurch. If they choose to they have some opportunity to right now, because there’s been a few things that have gone on that could provide that kind of connectivity and community, and some of its online too, yeah.
Byron: So you’ve already talked about it a bit, but how do you think that the circumstances Christchurch was in being very soon after these significant earthquakes, how did that make Occupy Christchurch different than Occupy in other cities in the country or overseas?
Danielle: I don’t, yeah. Maybe I’ll answer this more personally because I don’t know what the analysis will be like in say, 20 year’s time of the period of the ‘quakes and what’s happened to Christchurch in terms of how all of that has significantly affected us all. But I do think it literally cracked us open and for Christchurch communities, for myself particularly because I can only really talk about myself when it comes down to it, the ‘quakes really rocked my sense of trust and things just stay the same in nature but also in things like governments and insurance companies and city councils and in fact any other institutional body to look after me and my family when it comes down to it. It really rocked to the core.
I think that sense of trust in an outside authority to get it right unless you, and this is kind of qualified, by perhaps it takes being really engaged ongoingly in a way that’s pretty frustrating and boring and no one really wants to do except maybe there is a fun way to do, and I think that was what Occupy also had, was like it kind of looked like fun like on the outside as well. I mean, I can’t say I stayed the night there and I wasn’t there often but I thought “well that’s interesting that these people are kind of have a sort of festival approach, they kind of, it looks like a bit of hard work but also kind of enjoyable in the sense of community and camaraderie and maybe a bit of music going on and performance at times I think,” so there was an appreciation of that likeness to take to politics but also yeah I think circumstances in Christchurch particularly meant that people needed an outlet for some of their frustrations around just the world was not that same, you know, and our sense of trust in the way the world works to look after us was really challenged and so I think it’s really important for people to find ways to then engage to build that hope and trust back again and so occupy to me looks like part of that picture for some people that engaged and that I hope that is ongoing, that people find ways to engage that can, I guess build trust into systems or into their lives if they can’t trust the system, yeah you know. So yeah.
Byron: Did you attend any of the General Assemblies at Occupy?
Danielle: I don’t think I did, I think the one I attended was like a series of, it was like a workshop day, yeah I don’t know what that was called.
Byron: That would have been the open air university
Danielle: Yeah, yeah, the open air university, yeah, and I think I may have attended two of those maybe, I can’t quite remember but yeah the one of them one of them I was sort of speaking with my union hat on, as at that time I was Pacific rep’ for the Tertiary Education Union at Canterbury and it was just about showing some sort of solidarity. I mean I did feel slightly, and this often happens to me, but you know, just, it happens because I’m aware of the privilege I have as a Pacific person with a job at a university I can sometimes get into situations where I’m the only Pacific person in that room and then you suddenly feel slightly burdened with that but I didn’t let that get to me but there is an awareness that I felt like I had to show some solidarity with that hat on just for a moment and it was really interesting. I think the next guy to speak was from the Maritime Union and I think likewise, I think unions, there was a bit of union presence there and you know I think that’s interesting too ‘cause unions have had such a hammering it’s been such a, well I’m just- I mainly know about the Tertiary Education Union. It’s been a long haul for some of those core workers in the TEU and other unions I’m sure have felt enormous pressure around the circumstance that their colleagues are facing that they’ve had to work hard on, so I think it’s great when you see union presence there at things like you know that sort of hui, as there should be, but yeah it was nice to talk about that kind of collective solidarity voice, yeah, and around workers’ rights as well
Byron: Did you feel as well, perhaps, you’re in something of a privileged position compared to a lot of the people who were at Occupy as well? Given that it was attracting a lot of homeless people and so forth?
Danielle: Yeah, I mean you know, yes. But for me I’m quite comfortable with diversity in that way. It sounds like such a blaming’ university answer, a privileged answer, but what it makes me think of is, well there’s two parts to that. So you know it is probably important for me to acknowledge my analysis anyway of class and race and privilege and white privilege as well which I hold even though I’m brown visibly too, but my mother is Pakeha and fifth generation Irish-English farming sort of central Otago, and police on my grandfather’s side. Why I mention that is just because that is the line that I access some of the resources that my family now has like a house and stuff like that and so that awareness of privilege is part of that and what that privilege is built on is mainly my grandfather’s family’s presence in the armed constabulary when they were in, I think possibly around the Taranaki region. We’re not entirely sure, but certainly their Irishness didn’t somehow inoculate them from then coming to another country and gaining privilege over the top of the indigenous people of this land. So there’s that awareness, I just sort of put that in there. But then on my Samoan side, again too there’s that sense of privilege coming from a family in the islands who very consciously sent their son to New Zealand to get an education. One of the privileged few who did, although certainly lots are here now, but it’s still a privileged position to be in to have that expectation from, you know, generational planning to get you into a position where education is somehow part of the pathway you’ve accessed and are continuing to ride the wave of that privilege, I guess.
And it’s particularly important to, I guess, to hold that awareness in a conversation around, you know, the 99% versus the 1 % in terms of privilege and the kind of range of that analysis of class privilege and how the banking system works and rah de rah, but it’s personal, as well, you know. Unless we can impact where we sit within that grand scheme, and kind of have a level of being able to make some choices around how we engage with that; whether it’s thinking of ourselves as, I mean I’m choosing to position myself as privileged, even though I could potentially position myself as not-so-privileged, if I was to look at it another way. My mum was on the DPB my whole life, grew up partly in Linwood, and then moved to Fendalton you know, but I think it’s useful for me, it’s a political choice for me to position myself as privileged with that awareness and it helps to engage with it that way. Even though in no way am I privileged compared to the 1%, right? You know, so there’s that as well and I think we can get caught up in the middle class, you know, working class discussion, when it’s actually much bigger than that.
And that’s kind of what I was saying before around what was new information to me over that period was just the very vast disparity between the middle class even and that top 1%. You know and just how manipulated the middle classes are also and in that sense locked away from awareness, which if you look at it without the money factor involved but just being able to live in dignity, with your values and in a sense enlightened, in the sense that you understand the truth of your circumstances. Not necessarily a mystical experience but that you’re enlightened with just what is going on around you then the middle class is also really locked away from that. They choose to be as well, but then that is part of that numbness to reality that I think Occupy is an opportunity to sort of shake that up for a variety of people, not just your middle class, but yeah maybe for those who are living on the street. They get to kind of celebrate that sense of being in existence and heard in that forum maybe that they get overlooked at other points and I thought that was pretty cool that there was this inclusivity. I don’t know if that made some people uncomfortable or not, I don’t know. I heard things in the media about “is it just a bunch of homeless people who are choosing to hang out in the park? How seriously can we take this group?” But for me that’s always how activists have been framed anyway, you know. I remember when we protested against the Chinese President, Prime Minister; I can’t remember what you call him.
Danielle: President. Back in the ‘90s, I was hapu with my first baby and the police were really brutal with big batons and stuff. They didn’t hit us, but they really pushed heavily back and chased us and there was one, that was really just ‘cause one guy who, I think was a guy that lived on the street. He just decided to start a fight, he wasn’t there wholly there for the politics, he just decided to start a fight, so it meant that the whole protest got kind of labelled with this one person’s actions and I guess that is a danger in the media or in how you are perceived by authority. But that wasn’t in our control, I think in a way that was also about the challenge to be just a bit smarter actually about how activism and particularly protest stuff can work positively, but it’s never wholly in your control how it’s perceived. Yeah, so.
Byron: So what did you think of the media coverage that Occupy Christchurch got?
Danielle: I remember defending you guys a little bit at work [laughs]. Thinking, I don’t know, it’s just that discomfort feeling like, if people knew the people who were there, they might not just write them off as a bunch of homeless group. Though there was still, there were some homeless people living there and acting as kind of, you know ‘cause they’re used to sleeping rough, some of those folks. So, that’s pretty cool, actually, that they might wanna come and say “actually, hey, you know, this is how we hang out rough. We don’t do this.” I know that was going on in Wellington later on and Auckland. I’m not sure if that happened in Christchurch that there was sort of street people who were sort of semi-guardians of the site so that they would, well that’s how they framed it in the media. Hey, I remember watching an article about that. So I don’t know, I think the media is always interested in an angle, you know, and I thought it got a reasonable amount of positive coverage internationally and the fact that Christchurch maybe had this smaller group in compared to national. Well, in fact I don’t know the numbers, so I mean it just looked in the media that it was smaller, but I think at times it was quite large and other times it was small.
So. You know, I guess if I was wholly trusting of the media I’d be like “Oh, goodness, they should’ve have said this, they should’ve have said that,” but actually it wasn’t a bad representation overall of the whole Occupy thing and that was pretty new. I mean, like I mentioned before with the whole Operation 8, the whole October 15th fiasco. I mean it was so detrimental that media coverage to all activists across the country who were engaged, either with environmental activism like the Happy Valley crew here that got raided on the same day and people forget that it was lots of different activist groups who were raided that day, not just the Ureweras, but anarchist groups in Wellington and treaty activists, of course, but because I think everyone who was an activist knew at least somebody in that, involved and being raided that day, it had an enormous impact on the sense of ‘how safe is it to just do what we would ordinarily do as activists’. And the media coverage was so shocking, it was just so different from how the reality seemed to people who knew those people.
Occupy’s coverage was relatively good, I mean it was really quite positive. I think because there was a lot of positive international coverage. Like it was suddenly like “oh, New Zealand’s joining this cool international thing,” which I think in some ways served us really well, that New Zealand’s kind of general lack of self-confidence and that whole looking towards the outside to see what the latest ‘cool thing’ is to be, served Occupy in Christchurch really well, if I’m being cynical about it. But it was, I think that works for the media story, and Christchurch didn’t seem to get as, well not as bad a rap for instance as the terrorism raids, so you know yeah, in comparison it seemed relatively good.
Byron: Something you touched on a bit earlier was with, I mean Occupy had this slogan of, you know, the 99% and the 1%, which in a way can obscure that there are different levels of power and privilege within the 99%. I think in Occupy, that became quite clear around particularly gender issues towards the end of it. Do you have anything to say about that side of things?
Danielle: Yeah, what can I say about that? Well, we’re in Christchurch and I don’t think it’s a bad thing that, well you see I don’t know enough about Occupy to make this comment, but I would say, in general, when you have any active group that’s involved in politics you’re going to find those troubles with gender issues, race issues or you know ethnicity issues and class. That’s just what you’re going to find and it’s not necessarily the measure of the movement overall to, sort of bring those things into questions in fact it’s really healthy, because that’s just about having positive relationships on the day but it’s also about having a robust analysis overall.
So it’s cool that the gender conversations happened, if they did happen. I’m glad I didn’t have to be there. I mean know how hard that can be, that sort of work and those sort of challenges can be, especially when you really, really respect the kaupapa and you’re all, in a sense, on the kaupapa but there’s different levels of awareness around certain things that need to be brought up. You may not know the ‘90s, ‘cause it’s sort of a long time ago now, I can’t remember how long I’ve known you for. I think I’ve known you vaguely, you know just, you were there, I think. You know, I remember your face from- but in the ‘90s “CORSO on Campus” was at Canterbury of University. And then we broke away from CORSO on campus because of sort of generational issues around, we were a bit younger and we wanted to say things in a younger way. Some of our guys wanted to be more, use more casual language.
I think they put up a really embarrassing flier actually, but I will get to making a point, but and so then we eventually set up our own little group called “Out of Order” for a short period of time. And then that group gradually became really difficult, really unworkable with the gender issues in that group. Some of the guys were quite, had a different style and we just wanted to get down and do the work, so we broke off and had a women’s group for about just under 10 years. Well, it’s still going but we’re not really active, called WEAVE. And then that group did quite focused education sort of stuff in schools, rather than doing the whole protest stuff again, ‘cause we found that it became quite aggressive, you know. At time anyway, it was, you know, going up to Jenny Shipley and shoving a placard in her face or egging her car and we were just we were kind of over that style. We wanted to move into just awareness-raising of particularly nuclear issues to some, and issues in decolonisation issues in the pacific that were affecting women.
And we took a book called “Pacific Women Speak Out” around schools. But, I think that can happen, you know. It’s like I’m just really illustrating that point really that it doesn’t detract from the kaupapa overall but it’s how people want to work and it was useful for us to be in a women’s only group for a while. But I thought that was what the beauty of Occupy was actually was it was combined, it was attempting anyway to draw such a variety of people together in the task of awareness-raising rather than just direct action or aggressive protest action. It wasn’t any of those things that we’d kind of gotten tired of and weren’t working and certainly, any sniff of that would be really clamped down on now, post-October 15th, so yeah those things. I don’t, I’m not surprised but I and I don’t think it’s unhealthy that they crop up as part of the discussion for any group. So, I’m pleased actually to hear that that was, yeah, that’s healthy.
Byron: So did you feel quite connected to the international Occupy movement being involved just here in Christchurch?
Danielle: I think as connected as you can feel, isolated with three kids in the suburbs. I’m just being real. And working, working full time. I just think it’s a moment in time that I hope we look back on and say well that’s the time we noticed awareness shift around the world. That would be really cool. And if, yeah, if I was part of that time, just being alive at this time and having conversations in small way. I think that’s probably what most people who were affected by Occupy in that broad sense in that broad brush sense, if they are affected by it at all, would be. I kind of just think myself as one of those not wholly detailed kind of political analysts but someone who just hopes to see positive change and people engaging with awareness of what is rather than this kind of illusion-based society that we live in a lot of time. So that’d be cool. In that sense I feel connected to the international movement
Byron: Do you have anything else you’d like to say or like to add before we end there?
Danielle: No. Not really. I guess the only other thing I’d like to just say that I often think of when confronted with, I guess, both the opportunity for change and really entrenched systemic issues that have not yet fully waivered to the point where we can make the changes that we might want to see and that’s just a quote from a woman in Dunedin who I really respect and who sort of mentored me. And that’s Marie Lofeso, who’s the daughter of Etty Lefeso, who is one of our foundation members for Pacifika. And she would always say to us “there’s always another way. There’s always another way”. And I think so often we feel like there’s just the way that we’ve always been raised to experience and the financial system is certainly one of those, but a whole lot of things are part of that too and so Occupy. Yeah, I’m stoked to have even been part of a tiny aspect of connected with it, just in that hope that people will, together, figure out what that other way is.
Kai’ora Byron, thank you so much for interviewing me and for coming along. I really appreciated being able to be part of this story.