Social Connections is launched

All the entries in the new Social Connections theme are now available on the Te Ara website. These entries explore the dynamics of birthing and the solemnity of state funerals. They record the pleasures of family holidays as well as moments of passionate political activism on the Treaty of Waitangi, abortion, the 1981 Springbok tour, homosexual law reform, parental discipline of children, protests about hospital closures and the decriminalisation of sex work.

Now that the Social Connections entries are online, you can view the 1964 opening of National Women’s Hospital and watch Judge Silvia Cartwright respond in 1988 to questions at a news conference after the release of her report on the treatment of women for cervical cancer at this important obstetric and gynaecological hospital. Or you can dip into entries on love and romance, sexualities and weddings or access information about more uncomfortable topics such as child abuse, ethnic and religious intolerance and domestic violence.

These entries explore the pleasures of childhood, but they also record the regimentation of children in orphanages and the spartan austerity of industrial schools. Youth club dances and scout jamborees feature in these entries as well as older people’s enjoyment of time with one another and the interactions between grandparents and their grandchildren.

You can find out about the development of Auckland hospital and also about health consumer advocacy or catch a glimpse of dental nurses in training in 1945. There is information about Māori women’s health activism and about the use of wahakura, or traditionally woven sleeping bassinets, to avoid cot death among Maori babies. Graphs provide information about the relationship between gender, income and life expectancy and also rates of preventable hospital admissions among Pacific Peoples. They highlight the consequences of persisting economic disparities.

New Zealanders are increasingly likely to have no religious beliefs but spiritual beliefs and the activities of religious organisations have been very important in the history of this country. Entries on religion explore traditional Māori beliefs and cosmologies as well as the activities of 19th century missionaries. Pacific Islanders’ churches, Buddhism, Judaism, Hinduism and the Korean Presbyterian Church also receive attention. These entries do no just explore religious beliefs and practices, but the relationship between religious belief and action on peace and social justice issues. Te Ara also captures the way in which people may be divided in death through an interactive map of the Karori cemetery with pop-up images of different sections of the cemetery.

New entries on the Te Ara site include moments that connect people from very different walks of life. One such moment was captured after Robert Muldoon’s funeral in September 1992 when Thea Muldon got into conversation with Black Power gang members. The activities of the Sensible Sentencing Trust are documented, as well as arguments by prisoners’ rights activists for less imprisonment and more attention to the social determinants of offending.

The publication of these entries marks the end of my involvement with Te Ara. Work on the Social Connections theme has been a wonderful opportunity to extend my understanding of relationships between people in families, homes, neighbourhoods, rural communities, small towns and cities and a variety of voluntary and professional organisations. I have also enjoyed working with the professional, imaginative and creative people that put together the words, images, sound files, video clips, diagrams and maps that make up the taonga that is Te Ara. At the heart of this online project are the social connections among this very dynamic team – largely invisible to those who access the website. Congratulations to all the writers, resourcers, editors and designers who contributed to the Social Connections theme and best wishes for your work on the next set of entries!

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