Monday, 21 March 2011

The Social Security Act 1938

Last night I attended the opening of the 3 Wise Men of Kurow, an exhibition of a series of paintings by artist Bob Kerr which celebrate how Girvan McMillan, Andrew Davidson & Arnold Nordmeyer changed NZ for the better with the Social Security Act. To my mind the 3 men have a transitory quality about them (in the paintings) but what they stood for had a lasting positive impact on our social landscape. This painting is "A Walk Beside the Waitaki River." The opening was preceded with an amusing and thoughtful speech by historian Tony Simpson. Reference was made during the course of the evening to Mary Logan and her biography of Arnold Nordmeyer. Mary was at the opening and it added something to speak to her and listen to Tony who actually met Nordy. During the Great Depression many New Zealanders had no choice but to work on so-called schemes such as the Waitaki hydro dam. As former Prime Minister Helen Clark noted when commenting on my Facebook site about the exhibition, "The dam was built in the Great Depression by men with picks and shovels with little heavy equipment. The workforce lived in rough conditions through harsh winters. The existence of such conditions there & elsewhere was among the factors which propelled Labour into office to build a better life for working people & their families. The "3 wise men" of Kurow played an important role in that." What those men stood for and achieved is something that we must never forget. Back then and today there are people who would have us return to the inequalities of "the sugar-bag years."

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