Racist policy blocks non-Pacifica from accessing free food parcels

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Rachel Mario

Rachel Mario

Auckland, September 17, 2021

But after complaints, The Fono opens service for Maori, European or Indian communities


                                                                  Rachel Mario (right) with her volunteers organising food supplies (Photo Supplied)

 Standfirst: Moments before we prepared this story for publication, we called The Fono to find out about their ‘closed-door policy.’ We were told, “As of today, our free food parcel service is open to all communities. We have not started to advertise this but we are not refusing food parcels to anyone.” The author of this article has done well for our communities.

People requesting food parcels are being turned away because of their ethnicity.

The Fono, a $20 million-plus government-funded organisation, is telling Maori, European and Indian families that they cannot get food parcels because they are not Pacific Islanders.

The tax-payer subsidised-The Fono is tasked with providing free food to help vulnerable people during lockdowns.

As a Community Volunteer, I have been helping deliver thousands of meals and food parcels over the last few weeks. I am disappointed with The Fono’s stance. 

Incredibly, someone’s race is being used as a criterion for getting emergency food and support. How can you say to a parent who needs food for their hungry children that because they are Maori or Pakeha or European, they cannot get a food parcel?

Video by Hemant Parikh

Antithetical to Pacific culture

There should be no ethnic-based policies when it comes to welfare and social services. 

All humans should be treated equally with dignity.

The Fono’s motto is ‘Caring is our Culture,’ yet it appears that the caring is only for certain people. This is totally opposite to the Pacific Way and Pasifika culture. We care and help everyone, regardless of race or faith.

The government is asking us all to be kind. 

What is the point of “kindness” when there is no compassion and empathy? Where is “kindness” when there is discrimination and racism when it comes to getting food for the vulnerable?

Rachel Mario receiving food supplies for assembly and distribution (Photo Supplied)

 This is what happens when the government gets the wrong people to deliver services to our communities. It is the same old story – the privileged get the money, but they do not help the really vulnerable. It is no wonder that the inequities in our nation continue to get worse.

It is quite clear that The Fono has no real connection to the grassroots. And no real understanding of humanity and social cohesion.

This is so devasting for the already vulnerable; not only do they have to deal with the effects of this long hard lockdown, but also combat this sort of narcissistic discrimination.

Unfortunate experiences

Cherie, who is a New Zealand-born Maori, called last week requesting food. She was asked if she was Maori and was told that the Fono does not give food to non-Pasifika people.

Flabbergasted, she said, “It is unbelievable, in my own country, and as Tangata Whenua, I am being denied food because of my race”.   

Brendon, a New Zealand-born European called The Fono and they asked him what his nationality was, and then whether he was a Pacific Islander. When he said he was a European-Kiwi, he was told that the food parcels were not for non-Pasifika people.

Rachel Mario with a fellow volunteer at distribution point (Photo Supplied)

 I received hundreds of requests from families affected by the current lockdown restrictions. These were ordinary families, from all ethnic backgrounds.

I called and checked with The Fono and was told they could help. 

Then, messages were coming back from some people, saying that The Fono was not able to help them because of their ethnicity.

It is very, very sad. The result is, some of those families that need food, are not getting it. And what is even worse is that already vulnerable people are being subjected to racism, when all they are trying to do is get help for their families.

Where are the love and compassion?



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