We Are Beneficiaries have been telling the stories of people who are often talked about by the political establishment and the corporate media but are mostly denied the chance to speak for themselves.

WHEN METIRIA TUREI told the country what she was forced to do in order to survive on a welfare benefit, she immediately became the target of a campaign of vilification orchestrated by the political establishment and its media allies.

There was little sympathy for Turei's story and even less support for the political message she was expressing.

When Turei needed all the friends she could get, Jacinda Ardern and the Labour Party also abandoned her. Ardern told the media that there would be no place for Turei in the cabinet of any Labour-led government. (Ardern has also rejected the Green Party's policy to immediately increase all main benefits by $20 a week.)

Turei, concerned about the mounting pressure her family was under, subsequently resigned as co-leader of the Green Party.

Ostensibly Metiria Turei's 'crime' was to fiddle the welfare some twenty years ago - in order to provide for her young child. But her real 'crime' in the view of the political establishment was, as a parliamentary politician, to break with the neoliberal consensus and raise questions about economic policies and an ideology that have consigned many New Zealanders to a life of subsistence and 200,000 children to poverty.

Inspired by Metiria Turei's honesty, a group of artists launched a social media campaign to continue to highlight the deficiencies of the welfare system. It began posting images to Twitter and Facebook. They were immediately embraced by a large audience.

We Are Beneficiaries then opened up the campaign, inviting people to write brief stories abut their own welfare experiences and what they would like see changed. Some of these stories have been illustrated by the artists of We Are Beneficiaries - which have also become city billboards.

We are reminded that, whoever becomes government in the coming days, the struggle will continue.


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