“You look a little bit dark for my liking”: Māori and Pasifika women’s experiences of welfare receipt in Aotearoa New Zealand

Claire Gray


INTRODUCTION: Based on empirical research with Māori and Pasifika lone mothers, this article considers the way that discourses of ethnicity and welfare combine to shape the lived experience of welfare receipt.
METHOD: Drawing from 16 focus groups and interviews conducted in 2014 throughout Aotearoa New Zealand with women receiving Sole Parent Support, we analyse the way participants spoke of their experiences with Work and Income New Zealand.
FINDINGS: Our findings indicate that the negative experiences related to the receipt of welfare in New Zealand are intensified for women who identify ethnically as Māori or Pasifika. Many of the women who took part in the research attributed poor treatment, including the denial of access to welfare entitlements, to their ethnicity. Participants spoke of avoiding visits to welfare offices because of the racism they anticipated experiencing in these spaces.
CONCLUSIONS: There are significant implications for these findings. We argue that identifying as Māori or Pasifika can have consequences in relation to accessing welfare entitlements and that ethnicity may negatively influence interactions within welfare offices in Aotearoa New Zealand.


lone mothers; welfare; ethnicity; racism

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.11157/anzswj-vol31iss1id500


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