GIRLS COME TO THE CITY
It is easier for young Maoris to settle in the city if they have a responsible adult person there to guide them, and help them over such difficult problems as accommodation. This story tells about a group of girls from the Wairoa district who were given real help by the factory who employed them, and by a Maori welfare officer. It shows that if only such help was available to everyone, life for the young city Maori could be far more secure.
Our cover girl, Aroha Te Aho, arrives at Wellington station from her home sheepfarm at Waihua, Hawkes Bay.
We have heard a lot over the years about the Maori “drift to the cities”. When it started to happen, it worried people.
But this moralising did not stop the “drift”; The pleasures of village life are sometimes a little over-rated. One may live in an overcrowded house, do a lot of hard work and suffer much inconvenience, without getting any obvious reward for one's labours. It is natural for youth to look around for something better— often it can only be found in the towns.
Most young people are too wise to fall altogether for “bright lights'. Life in the city is not easy: you have to work regularly, be very careful with money, accommodation often gives trouble, and friends and relations have a habit of getting themselves into difficulties you have to help them out of.
Worst of all is that you never know what this big thing, the City, it going to do to you next. You get talked into ideas you are really not too keen about, as soon as you seem comfortably settled, something comes out of the blue and you don't know where to turn next.
Many go back home for a while when things get just too complicated. But that does not help either, you have to leave home again.
This sort of “drift” has been going on for about 20 years. Meanwhile some things have been done to help the young Maoris in the cities: hostels, clubs, help with employment and some other welfare services. The bulk of young people, however, have not been reached by these services; many, indeed, do not need help from outside, they look after themselves very well.
INDUSTRY CAN HELP
A very good system of moving to town is that worked out by Amos Softgoods Ltd. of Wellington, whose friendly personnel manager, Mr White, brought a group of Maori girls from Wairoa to the big city a year ago, and has done a great deal to help them to get settled in.
Mr White asked Mrs Lena Manuel, the Maori Welfare Officer in Wairoa, to find the girls for him; in response, the sent him a list of available girls with their school qualifications and other details. He then travelled to Wairoa to meet the girls and their parents, told them about the job, engaged them, and paid for their journey to Wellington. He engaged twelve, to arrive at the rate of two a week.
Most of these girls had had three or even four years' secondary education; only few of them had commercial sewing experience.
At the Wellington factory lunch room; left to right: Caei Te Aho (Waihua), Teia Pomana (Nuhaka), Aroha Te Aho (Waihua) and Lybia Huata (Huramua)
Mr White promised the parents the girls would be properly trained for their jobs, that their welfare would be looked after outside working hours.
He met them at the train, advanced them two weeks' wages, drove them around on a tour to see the city; took them to their lodgings he had arranged. The question of accommodation cost him a lot of trouble—Mr White had to do a good
Mr White told Te Ao Hou he spent a good deal of time trying to find flats by answering newspaper advertisements. He wrote as many as 10 to 20 letters a week; got some replies, had long discussions with the landlords and was usually successful in persuading them to take the girls. Some of them are still living in these flats, as they proved very good tenants; in other cases when the flats were only temporary, the girls moved to Pendennis hostel which meanwhile had reopened. Meanwhile Mr White is looking for more flats in wellington. (Any offers?)
THE GIRLS SETTLE IN WELLINGTON
It turned out that the girls learnt their job quickly; more quickly that the average, they were first put in a factory where the work was simple and straightforward, this is the Kilbirnie factory where our photographs were taken. Some later graduated to the city workshop which produces the more elaborate designs. Apart from fourteen from Wairoa the company employs a number of Maori girls from other centres, including Auckland. Some of these were placed through Maori Welfare.