In mid-July 2017 Metiria Turei, the co-leader of the New Zealand Green party, spoke at the Green Party AGM about her time on social welfare1 in the 1990’s. She talked about lying to Work and Income NZ (WINZ) in order to have enough money to survive. “This is what being on the benefit did to me – it made me poor and it made me lie” she said. She used her experiences to speak out about how the social welfare system was a broken safety net that needed to be mended. She spoke about a woman who committed suicide after being falsely accused of fraud and chased by WINZ. She spoke about the 200,000 New Zealand children living in poverty. She spoke about how much this was costing New Zealanders, and how important it is to care for our most vulnerable. Within the month she had resigned as the co-leader, because the scrutiny on her family was “unbearable”. In the wake of her resignation a group of artists began creating art sharing their experiences as beneficiaries in the hope of “continuing the conversation Metiria Turei started – demanding a more compassionate welfare system.” The group ‘We Are Beneficiaries’, began sharing their images online and were met with a huge response. The project has amassed over 5,000 likes on their Facebook page, and 1800 followers on twitter. We are that group of artists. We are Beneficiaries.
SOURCE: Sam Orchard. “We are beneficiaries.” Sam Orchard, 2018.
Produced by the librarians at the Brotherhood of St Laurence in Melbourne, Australia