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Past Judgement: Social Policy in New Zealand History

Past Judgement: Social Policy in New Zealand History

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Past Judgement: Social Policy in New Zealand History

554 pages
8 hours
Mar 6, 2017


Appreciating New Zealand's distinctive social policy history is important in formulating future social policies. This is one of the premises in Past Judgement: Social Policy in New Zealand History, which brings together recent research on a range of social policy contexts.
Mar 6, 2017

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Past Judgement - Bronwyn Dalley

To W.H. Oliver

Published by University of Otago Press

Level 1, 398 Cumberland Street,

Dunedin, New Zealand

Fax: 64 3 479 8385. Email: university.press@otago.ac.nz

First published 2004

Volume copyright © Bronwyn Dalley and Margaret Tennant 2004

Essays copyright © Individual Authors as in the table of contents 2004

ISBN 1 877276 57 X (print)

ISBN 978-0-947522-49-0 (Kindle Mobi)

ISBN 978-0-947522-50-6 (EPUB)

ISBN 978-0-947522-51-3 (ePDF)

Cover image: A family from Kumara, Westland. ATL 1/4-001040

Ebook conversion 2017 by meBooks, Wellington, New Zealand


Front Cover

Title Page



1 History and Social Policy: Perspectives from the Past Margaret Tennant

2 Needs and the State: Evolving Social Policy in New Zealand History Michael Belgrave

3 Mixed Economy or Moving Frontier? Welfare, the Voluntary Sector and Government Margaret Tennant

4 The Voice of Inspiration? Religious Contributions to Social Policy Peter Lineham

5 Out of the Shadows: Some Historical Underpinnings of Mental Health Policy Warwick Brunton

6 Driving Their Own Health Canoe: Maori and Health Research Derek Dow

7 ‘Plunket’s Secret Army’: The Royal New Zealand Plunket Society and the State Linda Bryder

8 Beyond the Statute: Administration of Old-age Pensions to 1938 Gaynor Whyte

9 A Badge of Poverty or a Symbol of Citizenship? Needs, Rights and Social Security, 1935–2000 Margaret McClure

10 Negotiating an Increasing Range of Functions: Families and the Welfare State Bronwyn Labrum

11 Deep and Dark Secrets: Government Responses to Child Abuse Bronwyn Dalley

12 Maori and ‘the Maori Affairs’ Aroha Harris

13 The Treaty is Always Speaking? Government Reporting on Maori Aspirations and Treaty Meanings Danny Keenan

14 A Practitioner’s Perspective on Change Merv Hancock interviewed by Margaret Tennant

About the Authors




Research in the archives of the welfare bureaucracy or voluntary organisation can be an unsettling experience. Academic detachment is ruptured by the immediacy of narratives conveying deprivation, the most rancorous interpersonal conflict, and basic injustice. Individual stories surface even where we think we are dealing with abstract policy formation, but case materials are often the most poignant. These stories also introduce us to individuals who tried to do something about such matters, sometimes in ways that today we judge as incomprehensible, flawed, or perhaps cruel. Frequently, we have to acknowledge the efforts of fundamentally decent men and women who, at no small cost to themselves, tried to help others. Sometimes these people altered the course of society, and their lives might have been considerably more comfortable had they not responded to the needs they saw. They are not ‘past judgement’, but the verdict of the present needs to take account of time and context, and to include an awareness of contemporary difficulties in dealing with social needs; we need to move beyond simply judging the past, to understanding it.

As welfare historians, we have also had the experience of delving into historical materials, comfortably distant from our present preoccupations, only to find in them very immediate echoes of contemporary discourses. Margaret Tennant’s PhD thesis focused on the charitable aid system operating in New Zealand at the end of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. In the lengthy annual reports of the Inspector-General of Hospitals and Charitable Institutions (they might well be termed diatribes) were condemnations of ‘loafers’, ‘degenerates’ and ‘brazen-faced beggars of the female sex’ which resurfaced in 1970s concerns about dole bludgers and solo mums. Bronwyn Dalley’s study of twentieth-century child welfare revealed a long history of attempts by the state to work through families to resolve welfare issues. Each generation of social workers saw their own system as unique, and superior to anything tried before; ‘family solutions to family problems’ reverberated through the records of welfare agencies.

More recently, we have seen denunciation of past mistreatment in welfare institutions. There have been calls to respond to those now seen as victims of physical and sexual abuse, child migration schemes and foster care. The notion of ‘the past as a foreign country’ is overworked, but it reminds us that the context of welfare practices and expectations of what could realistically be achieved have changed, often radically. Those of us who teach in the area of social policy are struck by the certainty with which students – future practitioners – can leap to judgement about their predecessors. But the speed with which values and practices change, especially in a small country where the range of debate may be narrower than in more diverse societies, suggests that today’s ideal may well be tomorrow’s abuse.

The history of social policy in New Zealand has increased in range and depth over the past two decades. A collection such as this would have drawn substantially upon thesis research in the 1980s. Over the 1990s a number of government social service departments had their histories written and a handful of non-profit organisations have also commissioned studies of their past activities. Past Judgement brings together recent research in a range of social policy contexts. It does not aim to offer comprehensive coverage of social policy, but it has particular strengths. The first set of essays surveys two centuries of specific issues: Tennant on welfare history and on government and the voluntary sector, Michael Belgrave on the welfare state, Peter Lineham on religion and social policy, Derek Dow on Maori health research and Warwick Brunton on mental health. The other chapters are more focused with regard to time or issues: Gaynor Whyte on old-age pensions, Margaret McClure on social security, Linda Bryder on Plunket – New Zealand’s most historically significant voluntary organisation – Dalley on child abuse, Bronwyn Labrum on discretionary social welfare, Aroha Harris and Danny Keenan on social policy as it affected Maori, and Merv Hancock on his social work experience and family policy. One emphasis is the period after World War II, a previously under-researched era often regarded as a rather dull one for social policy, as for society as a whole. The collection explores how policies were put into effect, and the interface between consumers and providers of services. It highlights the role of the voluntary and community sector, as well as government actions, suggesting a co-operation and complementarity in many areas that challenge traditional notions of welfare ‘sectors’.

The writers in this collection share an awareness of the links and tensions between past and present. Some have been policy-makers, others have actively contributed to social services as paid workers and volunteers, while Merv Hancock, the subject of the final interview, has operated in all these contexts. The majority of the contributors are themselves children of the welfare state and unease is implicit or explicit in their analyses of developments over the late 1980s and early 1990s. The contributors’ research has been generated in academic and professional history contexts, and it is, in most cases, the product of a very grounded interest. While making no claims to predict the future, these essays illustrate the complex dynamics behind past policy decisions and their implementation; here is a context for understanding the present.

As editors of the collection, we would like to acknowledge our respective institutions, Massey University and the Ministry for Culture and Heritage, which have in various ways facilitated our involvement with this volume. Between 2000 and 2002 Margaret Tennant also benefited from a grant from the Marsden Fund administered by the Royal Society of New Zealand, and for this she wishes to express particular appreciation. Historians in New Zealand are eligible for very few individual grants of the level made through the Marsden Fund: they are precious and enormously valued by recipients. We would also like to thank the various libraries and archives that assisted us, and fellow contributors, in our research, and Wendy Harrex of University of Otago Press for showing faith in the project.


1: History and Social Policy

Perspectives from the Past

Margaret Tennant

Social policy has been variously defined. In a recent text it involves ‘actions which affect the well-being of members of a society through shaping the distribution of and access to goods and resources in that society’.¹ While discussion of social policy is often more narrowly restricted to social service provision in areas such as health, housing, education and income maintenance (as it is in most chapters of this book), some definitions extend to economic activity, the arts and recreation. In the case of W.H. Oliver’s historical survey for the 1988 Royal Commission on Social Policy it even extends to public works, land settlement, and agricultural efficiency. Oliver’s compass, though wide in one sense, was narrow in another, for his emphasis on ‘things deliberately done by government to promote wellbeing and to limit the effects of misfortune’ would now be regarded as too state-focused.² The role of the market and the voluntary and community sector, and their interface with government are now an integral part of most discussions of social policy. And an effect of developments of the late 1980s and 1990s has been to consider things deliberately not done by government and other social service sectors. This reminds us that theories, definitions and approaches to study are themselves products of a particular historical context and need to be historicised. The concept of social policy itself has a history, and although the term is a product of the twentieth century, debates about pathways to social well-being are not. The historiography of welfare probes and itself reflects these debates – this volume falls within a longer historiographical tradition which has been played out at popular as well as academic levels.

Policy and nostalgia

For many New Zealanders the connection between history and social policy is probably visual and nostalgic – if it exists at all. A core of familiar and now widely promulgated images reinforces a largely positive and progressive view: old-age pensioners from the 1890s, the state house, men at 1930s depression work camps, young dental nurses at the Willis Street Training School in Wellington, children sipping school milk, the district nurse weighing a baby with her hand-held scales, ‘toothbrush drill’ at health camps, and on the voluntary sector side, Plunket’s Karitane nurses and the first meeting of the Maori Women’s Welfare League, with Whina Cooper and Mira Szaszy to the fore. Often enough, the benevolently smiling Michael Joseph Savage also appears as the personification of Labour’s welfare state. Photographic collections such as Those Were the Days and Looking Back, illustrated (and reprinted) histories such as The Sugarbag Years and school resources have played their part in this process of cultural imprinting.

Film images have likewise tended towards the positive, based, as they often were, on government ‘propaganda’ films (to use a term which once had less negative connotations). The 1940 Centennial film One Hundred Crowded Years follows its historical re-enactment of settlement with images of schools, hospitals, old-age pensioners and Plunket babies and a rousing script extolling ‘the monuments which testify to the national concern for human wellbeing’. Here, emphatically, ‘New Zealand leads the world!’³ Material from the National Film Unit subsequently became a firm part of our welfare state imagery. It was screened in short clips and commercially repackaged as part of video collections for the 1990 Centennial ANZ Magic Minutes series, and some footage was rolled out again for TV1’s The Way We Were hosted by Paul Holmes in 1995 and Millennial Moments at the end of the decade. Greater ambivalence was shown in the Cradle to the Grave programme which was part of TV1’s 2000 series, Our People, Our Century. The past century had ‘not delivered the egalitarian society which seemed possible in 1900’ and the ‘old dream of godzone where none would be too rich or too poor and where all would be cared for from cradle to grave has only in part been fulfilled’.⁴ Recent social policy directions produced a more trenchant critique in the 1996 film Someone Else’s Country. Described as ‘the story of how the new right elite took power and exercised it relentlessly to turn our country into their version of the model free market state’, this was played in cinemas around the country and viewed mostly by audiences antagonistic to the changes of the period.⁵

Inasmuch as they touched upon social policy, autobiographies have also tended to reinforce a nostalgic view of the welfare state, or of its early years at least. As a generation which had lived through the depression reviewed their lives, the Labour Party’s 1935 election victory and the promise of social security became ‘Almost like a Second Coming’ in memoirs such as To the Is-land. Janet Frame provides the image of her father ‘in a spontaneous dance of delight in which we all joined’, removing the family’s medical bills from behind the clock and thrusting them all into the fire, while the children made ‘whooping cowboy shouts of joy’.⁶ Gathered in the chook house which doubled as her father’s office, Lauris Edmond and her family likewise greeted the Labour victory with shrieks of delight: ‘we’d wanted Utopia to come, and as far as we could see, it had’.⁷ For Dorothy Ford memories of neighbours’ jubilation at the Labour victory were supplemented by Savage’s (unfulfilled) election promise of ‘Every woman a washing machine’.⁸ And Ruth Park recorded her mother’s bliss when, after depression experiences of family dispersal and depression hardships such as ‘snagging’ (queuing outside the biscuit and jam factories or the bakery for crumbs and rejects), the family reached the top of the list for one of Labour’s state houses: ‘"Just imagine! …. A new house! I’ve never lived in a new house in my life. And we’ll be together again"’.⁹ These memoirs show how depression mandated Labour’s family-oriented welfare state. They also chart the levels and varieties of depression poverty as well as informal means of support from family and relatives which can so easily escape considerations of social policy (though ever since the 1846 Destitute Persons Ordinance, social policies have certainly promulgated such transfers in the guise of ‘family responsibility’).

Personal memoirs alert us to changes in discourse, and language provides reminders of the more ambiguous aspects to our welfare pasts. ‘Snagging’ may have disappeared from common usage, but soup kitchens (nowadays serving more than soup) have not. The ‘loafer’ and ‘degenerate’ of the nineteenth century did not vanish from the social compass but reappeared in the ‘dole bludger’, solo mum, and long-term beneficiary of the late twentieth century. ‘Charity’ and ‘philanthropy’, at one time honourable terms, gained negative connotations of condescension and control, and were partially replaced in the twentieth century by ‘voluntary sector’ and the more recent (and so-far largely academic) ‘third sector’. In the guise of ‘civil society’ and ‘social capital’, however, they are increasingly promulgated as social desiderata: charity has been reformatted and rehabilitated as a fundamental and politically sanctioned ‘social glue’.¹⁰ Sometimes it is less the term than the meaning attached to it which has shifted over time. In charting the historical registers of a term such as ‘dependency’ in the United States context, Nancy Fraser and Linda Gordon disclosed its ideological basis in relation to ‘broad institutional and social-structural shifts’.¹¹ A similar approach to the genealogy of ‘need’ has been attempted in the New Zealand context by Bronwyn Labrum.¹² She shows how a burgeoning consumer society established a set of ‘needs’ which became ‘the terrain on which negotiation between the state and families was carried out’. Its meaning was particularly malleable as applied to Maori, she suggests. While Labrum’s focus is discretionary assistance and state social work, ‘need’ is also a key motif in McClure’s work on social security and in Belgrave’s discussion of social policy more broadly over the twentieth century. As Belgrave points out, the state was eventually expected to respond to psychological and cultural needs as well as material.

At various times the state and other agencies have actively promoted a language shift in an attempt to alter or shape popular perceptions. ‘Lunatic asylums’ were officially renamed ‘mental hospitals’ in the 1900s, an indication of the medical profession’s ascendancy in the treatment of mental illness and an attempt to remove stigma. ‘Native Affairs’ became ‘Maori Affairs’ in 1947, and growing reference to ‘whanau’, ‘hapu’ and ‘iwi’ in recent reports, and in such legislation as the 1989 Children, Young Persons and Their Families Act, acknowledges Maori language, social structures and collective ethos much more deliberately than before. The connection between history and social policy is marked by language shifts as some terms are promoted and others disappear or go underground on account of an acquired stigma or perceived offensiveness. Attitudes have proven more resilient, sometimes surviving to taint the new terminology, sometimes giving new meanings to words in constant usage. The introduction of the term ‘benefit’ was an attempt to disassociate social security measures from the stigma attached to receipt of a pension. It was a term associated with friendly societies and company superannuation schemes, with ‘respectability, work and worthiness’, as McClure has noted (until it, too, acquired negative connotations).¹³ And meanings attached to the term ‘reform’ took a new direction over the 1980s and 1990s as the so-called ‘New Right’ captured a term previously associated with initiatives of the political left.

The exalting of past golden ages is an attractive activity, be they times of individual striving, or of collective responsibility for the well-being of fellow citizens. The Business Roundtable-sponsored work of David Green (From Welfare State to Civil Society, 1996) was soon found to be less than robust in its depiction of a New Zealand past where flourished family responsibility, mutual associations and community and voluntary welfare – before the voluntary sector, too, was corrupted by expectation of state support. But those on the left who position their golden age in the 1930s and 1940s often neglect the continued moralism and means testing built into social security, the generational transfers which meant that some sections of the community benefited more generously from its outreach than others, and the plight of those, especially unmarried, divorced or separated women, whose situation did not fit the ideal family construct underpinning Labour’s welfare state. Nonetheless, the popular depiction of the welfare state is still relatively benign. It remains to be seen whether a new generation will supplant Savage, the state house and school milk with Muldoon, multi-generational dependency and union militancy, as in Michael Bassett’s The State in New Zealand, for example.¹⁴

Themes in the history of welfare

At a more academic level, recent research has complicated such simplistic scenarios. Overall, the history of social policy has tended to operate at three levels. The first is the macro-level, with a focus on welfare regimes. These often compared a range of welfare states, but typologies of government and voluntary (or non-profit) sector interaction have also emerged. The second approach has been largely political, examining at a national level ideological and political struggles in one or more policy areas; while the third has focussed on welfare implementation, often drawing upon localised examples.¹⁵ The essays in this book concentrate upon these last two levels, and, although many are alert to overseas developments, their main focus is on the local scene and indigenous influences on social policy. Nonetheless local developments frequently fed upon the international image of New Zealand as a ‘social laboratory’ – a label earned, in the first instance, by the enactment of labour legislation, old-age pensions and female suffrage in the 1890s, by social security in the 1930s and 1940s and, conversely, by the speed with which New Zealand appeared to be dismantling the welfare state and embracing a market ethos by the early 1990s. It is the characteristic speed of ‘short sharp’ periods of rapid reform which makes New Zealand’s social policy history quite different from most western states, Belgrave suggests.

A now considerable social science literature on welfare regimes has produced a number of typologies of welfare states, from the residual, institutional–redistributive and industrial–achievement models proposed by sociologist Richard Titmuss in the 1970s, to more complex ‘league tables’ which rank countries according to social expenditure as a percentage of Gross Domestic Product.¹⁶ Just as Titmuss’ model characterised Anglo-Saxon countries such as Britain, Australia and New Zealand as residual welfare states covering only basic needs, later scales also tended to rank New Zealand and, more especially, Australia, relatively low, despite the fact that both have at times been regarded internationally as welfare innovators. One of the most influential of typologies of the 1990s was formulated by Gøsta Esping-Anderson, and it placed Australia and New Zealand in a category of ‘liberal’ welfare states in which means-tested pensions and only modest universal transfers predominate. Setting aside issues about comparability of data, criticisms of these studies have noted their narrow focus on income maintenance, and the way in which they ignore pre-tax and pre-transfer income as well as a whole range of other services which contribute to policy outcomes.¹⁷ Michael Hill has noted that much of this analysis is dependent upon when data were collected and it often lacks a historical dimension to explain why some states moved from being ‘welfare state leaders’ to ‘apparent laggards’. Adding this dimension to quantitative studies has proven complex but, Hill argues, it is needed to put ‘flesh upon the picture emerging from the statistics’.¹⁸

Where historical analysis has emerged from welfare state comparisons, it has often focused on the influence of the political left. One attempt to do this in relation to Australia and New Zealand came from Frank Castles in his 1985 book, The Working Class and Welfare. Castles argued that New Zealand and Australia were ‘workers’ welfare states’ where political activity from the left resulted in pensions and other forms of social security being subordinated to wage regulation and protection.¹⁹ In other words, social amelioration came through the protection of wage earners, usually at the expense of the dependent poor (and, some have pointed out, at the expense of women’s status as independent citizens). This explains why Australia and New Zealand did not rank well in tables which stressed universalism and citizen entitlement and why, in more recent years, they have also been characterised as ‘reversible’ welfare states.²⁰ As Belgrave notes in Chapter 2, this policy fractured as the dependent population expanded in relation to the labour force and New Zealand came to accept much higher levels of unemployment in the 1980s. He argues for a shift from moral welfare state, to family welfare state, to rights-based welfare state and finally into a targeted and residual welfare state, but he also suggests that sufficient residues remained from older patterns to create contradictions in the way the welfare state continued to operate.

If political scientists and economists have focused on broad international comparisons of welfare regimes, historians have developed national welfare analyses that extend over time rather than space. Historians are sometimes taken aback by the limited time perspective of policy-makers whose notion of ‘history’ may encompass a twenty or thirty-year span at the very most. As a specialist in British as well as New Zealand history, David Thomson is among those advocating a longer-term view on welfare which ranges over centuries and looks for cycles of response to human need.²¹ Their argument is that over successive generations the emphasis given to central and local government, to charity, kin and informal neighbourhood support, may oscillate. At the time New Zealand became a colony, the English public relief system, the Poor Law, was becoming more restrictive. Thomson suggests that an ‘old world’ pendulum swing between public and private welfare became in the colony a more extreme pursuit of individualism and family responsibility. His 1998 book provided ‘the purest test to date of what happens when a society turns its face against public assistance to the poorest and most vulnerable’.²² Essays by Belgrave, Tennant and Lineham in this book range over nineteenth and twentieth-century New Zealand history, though they touch upon the British inheritance only in passing. They emphasise continuity as well as change, and an underlying theme here is the reassertion of significant parts of late nineteenth-century ideologies a century later. If there is a ‘lesson’ for policy-makers in the longer-term approach, it is that their own cherished policies may equally prove ephemeral or, at best, recyclable.

A corollary of this longer-term view is the recognition that social policy is not only about the state. Histories written in New Zealand and elsewhere prior to the 1970s tended to be politically focused and very much about ‘the rise of the welfare state’; they emphasised the expansion of citizen entitlement to statutory benefits.²³ With increasing criticism of the state’s role, first from the political left (in terms of its ‘hegemonic’ or social control function) and then even more strongly and successfully from the right (which saw the state as inefficient, costly, and encouraging dependency), historians either became less laudatory or sought to defend the welfare state from uninformed criticism. They began to write about the welfare state in terms which questioned its inevitability and permanency, and other forms of welfare delivery acquired a new interest. The notion of a ‘mixed economy of welfare’ is now widely utilised. This focuses on the state, as well as the voluntary sector, the market and, sometimes, the ‘informal’ (largely neighbourhood and family) sector. The balance of the different sectors is seen as shifting over time, and not always in the direction of public sector dominance (hence the ‘pendulum swing’ identified by Thomson).²⁴ In this volume I draw attention to shifts in the relationship between the state and the voluntary sector in New Zealand since the nineteenth century, arguing that ‘our usual chronologies based on the move to, and retreat from, a welfare state become more complex if the voluntary sector is taken into account’.

Other chapters show a sensitivity to the relationship between state agencies, the voluntary sector and the community, suggesting that the outreach of government bodies was never as complete as had once been assumed. Linda Bryder notes how women acting in a voluntary capacity claimed infant welfare work as their own, while also gaining large amounts of state funding for the Plunket Society.²⁵ This was largely achieved against the wishes of key Health Department personnel in a relationship that was often competitive, sometimes acrimonious. Bronwyn Labrum’s work suggests a more positive and complementary relationship between state and voluntary agencies working in the areas of child welfare, social security and, most especially, Maori affairs. She also deconstructs the notion of ‘the state’, reminding us that ‘government’ is not a unitary entity and that there may equally have been a ‘mixed economy of welfare within the state’.

Labrum’s and other essays show the state stretching itself in different ways and co-operating with a range of institutions, including families. Aroha Harris challenges depictions of the Department of Maori Affairs in the 1950s and 1960s simply as dominant and controlling in its relationship with Maori communities, showing a much more complex and ‘multi-dimensional’ situation. Boundaries between the Department and communities merged and blurred, she suggests, making it ‘difficult to assign labels of collaboration or resistance, conservatism or activism’ to such bodies as the Maori Women’s Welfare League or tribal committees. Over time, voluntary agencies and the churches also took on an advocacy role, attempting to influence government policy on a range of issues, including some which had a distinctly moral dimension, as Lineham argues in Chapter 4. Such essays explore the importance of the voluntary and community welfare sector, shedding light on the boundaries between welfare sectors in the past. Some social scientists are now asking whether the notion of ‘sectors’ will matter in the future, so intertwined are state, voluntary sector and, increasingly, for-profit social service activities.²⁶ As the ‘very old and slippery’ concept of ‘civil society’ is revived, welfare sector performance and distinctiveness in the past warrants more consideration.²⁷

Another trend in recent historiography has been the focus on policy implementation and the experience of those on the receiving end. This recognises that welfare is not only about the formulation of policies, but about their delivery and impact. In part, this arose from the ‘new social history’ from the 1960s onwards which sought to foreground the experiences of the powerless, the sick, ethnic minorities, women and children. It is an approach which is less likely to see recipients of welfare as passive and helpless, but as interacting with those delivering services, resisting, and sometimes, by their responses, helping to shape new policies. It also incorporates administrators, who may have policy aspirations beyond those of their political masters and mistresses. In her close study of the early years of the old-age pension, Gaynor Whyte suggests that a policy has a life which is ‘shaped, moulded and reformulated by the interaction of administrators, recipients and the environment’ (see Chapter 8).²⁸

Chapters by Labrum, Harris and Dalley, and the interview with Merv Hancock suggest that the responses of state social workers in areas such as Child Welfare, Maori Affairs and Social Security may have been more flexible, humane and culturally sensitive than Puao-te-ata-tu and other powerful critiques of the 1980s acknowledged.²⁹ Certainly, they undermine earlier ‘social control’ perspectives by showing instances where families, Maori and Pakeha, welcomed state social workers into their midst. Families, like organisations and government departments, were not unitary entities: they included the weak and the powerful, and, as Dalley suggests with reference to child abuse, social work interventions had the effect of empowering some family members at the expense of others. These chapters provide a contrast with McClure’s on social security, however. In underlining the sense of citizenship and belonging which came with statutory benefits, she emphasises the humiliations associated in many people’s minds with discretionary forms of welfare.

A number of authors in this volume draw on historical case files to illuminate both sides of the welfare interface, though all have taken care to use such material with sensitivity – names and identifying details have been changed, for example, as it is the action and context rather than the individual identity which is of interest. Social work case records have a history of their own and, as Linda Gordon noted in her influential history of family violence in Boston, they go hand-in-hand with the professionalisation of social work.³⁰ Their completeness, physical form and language changed over time, and many users have grappled with the ‘methodological quandaries presented in sources composed by those who were also responsible for surveying, analysing, and often disciplining [stigmatised subjects]’.³¹ These mediated sources reveal as much about the social service worker and agency as they do about the client, but many of the challenges they pose differ in degree rather than kind from the careful reading and evaluation required of any historical record or text. They are nonetheless a particularly rich source if used carefully and with an eye to language, narrative structures and on-going tensions between representation and ‘reality’.³² Dalley, Labrum and McClure tease out the importance of language in defining such issues as social ‘adjustment’, ‘abuse’ and ‘need’ in social worker-client interactions at different times. Historians influenced by cultural studies approaches are likely to see case materials and encounters between clients and social workers as cultural performances, in which all participants played out (and sometimes deviated from) expected scripts. As the ‘contact zone between the powerful and the marginal’, case materials are a rich source for historians.³³ But at the same time as analysis has become more sophisticated, the potential for using such materials has lessened in the New Zealand context. The 1993 Privacy Act has had consequences for historians wanting to examine the impact of past social policy, and it is making the retention of such essentially human material less likely for future generations of researchers. The review of policies from a consumer perspective and the questioning of politicians’ and administrators’ claims about their long-term effect may effectively be stifled in the future. On the other hand, the historical specificity of late twentieth-century notions of ‘privacy’ may provide fruitful subject matter for our successors.

A focus on the consumers of welfare raises questions about specific groups in social policy. A strong theme in our recent welfare history has been diversity, and a consequent inability of the centralised state to respond to an increasingly complex view of ‘need’. In particular, gender, ethnicity and age have cut across more universalistic conceptions of needs and rights. Gender has been a relatively strong theme in the history of social policy over the past twenty years, with commentary focusing on women as both providers and consumers of welfare. In regard to the latter, the Australasian ‘workers’ welfare state’ identified by Castles has been characterised as the ‘working man’s welfare state’, where the converse of high wages and high employment for white men was women’s domesticity and participation largely as secondary beneficiaries of the state. Many writers have pointed out how the welfare state was underwritten by unpaid female household labour.³⁴ Melanie Nolan has complicated the notion of a male breadwinner model promoted by the state, however. Nolan argues that in the first half of the twentieth century the breadwinner wage was undermined first by the introduction of family allowances and by an education system which promoted a liberal and vocational education for both sexes. In the second half century, state ambivalence towards women’s position became even more pronounced, with policies simultaneously promoting and undermining domesticity, since the state itself needed paid women workers.³⁵ Belgrave’s chapter in this book places greater emphasis on the welfare state as being fundamentally about women, with services as well as benefits focused on the gendered and domestic role of women as mothers and carers: the welfare state ‘provided a status and acknowledgement for women’s [household] work in a way that was completely unprecedented’. Moving from state policies to familial relations mediated by such policies, Dalley and Labrum agree with Nolan that issues regarding women’s place were not clear-cut in the post-World War II era. Their respective chapters in this book show how, in Dalley’s words, families – and mothers – ‘were both the source of and solution for social problems’.

Some analyses of welfare have focused more on women as providers of welfare and the contexts in which such roles evolved. The shift of focus towards a ‘mixed economy of welfare’ has assisted this approach, since women were especially active within formal and informal voluntary welfare contexts. Pensions and social administration have been characterised as masculine domains, only recently penetrated by women and necessitating adoption of the ‘macho-management’ styles of the 1980s and 1990s. The personal social services and counselling, on the other hand, have been more associated with women and their supposed ‘caring’ capacities. Jane Lewis argues that as welfare services were centralised in Britain over the twentieth century, and based more strongly upon national insurance and statutory pensions, women’s influence was marginalised. It decreased once structural change came to be seen as more important than changing the behaviour of individuals.³⁶ For New Zealand, it has been argued that women’s voluntary welfare never gained the purchase and status that it had in Britain, though where it did exist it was certainly characterised in gendered language which was both positive and negative. Against supposedly bureaucratic and mechanistic public welfare, women’s charity was presented either as neighbourly and caring, or as gushing, indiscriminate sentimentality.³⁷

Maori have entered the history of social policy in particular contexts. In recent years they have been positioned as victims of colonialism and institutional racism, of a welfare state which encouraged dependency or of a pension system which discriminated against them. In terms of specific policy areas, Maori health and education have been the focus of the most comprehensive empirical research.³⁸ Attention to Maori health came partly out of a concern about Maori numbers and life expectancies from the first part of the century; well-being was first a matter of survival. In this volume Derek Dow extends his earlier work to trace the evolution of research into Maori health since the mid-nineteenth century, considering the often uneasy relationship between research and policy. In the field of Maori education, historical studies have focused most closely on the Native School system and on the suppression or survival of the Maori language, reminding us that well-being is also about cultural integrity, as Mason Durie has pointed out.³⁹

So, too, was it about land and economic standing. W.H. Oliver has argued that the first instrument of social policy in New Zealand was the system set up by William Hobson in 1840 for the purchase and resale to settlers of Maori land. Nineteenth-century Pakeha ‘enablement’, he suggests, was predicated on Maori dispossession of land.⁴⁰ Social policy in regard to Maori, therefore, was tied up with larger issues, constitutional, economic and cultural, and attention to the Treaty of Waitangi has supplied one important context for examining these issues. Claudia Orange’s 1985 book provided a significant historical resource for discussions of the Treaty and its policy implications, and this has been taken considerably further in recent years. In this volume Danny Keenan explores some of the government reports which grew out of the Treaty debate, reports which are now significant historical documents in their own right. It examines Crown interpretations of the Treaty and, like Dow’s work on health research, raises questions about the actual impact of the submissions, consultation and ‘reporting on Maori’ that went on from the late 1980s.

At the same time, attention to Maori issues challenges the categorisation of welfare into neat policy areas. Many Maori groups today complain about the fragmentation of Maori social services and the need to deal with a range of government agencies. Histories based upon specific areas of social policy, such as health or housing, likewise do not do justice to Maori social policy in its broadest sense, or of Maori affairs policy in narrower, governmental meanings.⁴¹ There is a need for histories which explore Maori social policy on a wide front, in much the same way as Nolan examined women’s relationship with the state across a number of issues and departmental areas. Such works would need to challenge boundaries not only between government agencies in their dealing with Maori, but between welfare ‘sectors’, since the whole notion of ‘sectors’ (like notions of ‘welfare’) is unsettled by Maori social arrangements. In particular, the idea of ‘voluntary work’ and of helping ‘others’ jars with Maori notions of social inclusiveness and family.⁴² Just as feminism challenged past and present understandings of social policy in the 1980s and 1990s, Maori perspectives, applied critically, have the potential to generate valuable new frameworks for the future.

Does history matter?

Beyond Treaty considerations where history has proven to be both fundamental and contested, how relevant is history to social policy today? However embedded nostalgic images and popular attitudes, do we need to know any more about our welfare pasts? A ‘History and Policy’ website initiated by leading British historians of social policy in 2002 was prompted by concerns about the output of think-tanks in that country, which had sometimes achieved considerable influence over government on the basis of simplistic or obsolete interpretations of the past.⁴³ Anne Else has suggested that the past was sufficiently important to those involved in New Zealand’s post-1984 reforms to prompt attempts at reshaping the history of the welfare state:

In a textbook example of how to run a campaign to change people’s views, the various channels of mass communication became saturated with multi-level representations of the welfare state of the recent past as an ambiguously wrong term, leading to a dead end of budget blow-outs, dependence and irresponsibility.⁴⁴

Citing examples, crude and sophisticated, which involve an exalting of charitable altruism, personal independence and traditional families in the nineteenth century, and an emphasis on more recent failures of the state, Else suggests that ‘New Zealand society now has perhaps the most ambiguous relationships with its own past of any developed country’. New Zealand is ‘one of the very few nations which does not insist that the curriculum for the mandatory years of schooling contains at least some compulsory content on national history’.⁴⁵ Given this omission, she suggests, the history available through political, marketing and media channels becomes disproportionately influential, inside and outside the corridors of power. But even if those critical of the welfare state clearly had the ability to market their message (free pamphlet summaries of David Green’s work being widely disseminated, for example), media outlets were not totally captured by these perspectives. History informed the work of commentators writing against the direction of economic and social policy during the late 1980s and 1990s. It has been a strong element in Brian Easton’s columns in the Listener (one of the few economic voices consistently critical of the direction of social and economic policy since the late 1980s) and in Sandra Coney’s and Else’s own contributions to various media.

In the 1990s, a raft of social policy histories also appeared in book form, though their readership was probably more limited. Written largely under the aegis of the Historical Branch of the Department of Internal Affairs they provided detailed, critical and intensively researched studies of such policy areas as child welfare, housing, social security and health.⁴⁶ Most of these were commissioned histories, which raises the question of why a government department (or any other agency) may decide at a particular time to invest in a history of its own organisation. Do such histories influence an organisation’s practice in any way, or are they to do with promotion, legitimacy and prestige (the credible scholarly volume, ever useful for gifting to distinguished visitors)? Are these histories markers of transition, recording a past which is already seen as distant and irrelevant? It may be significant that these substantial welfare histories appeared in the 1990s, a time of marked change and increasing managerialism in government departments. Graeme Davison has suggested that, in practice, ‘modern managers are careless of history, when

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