Fightback’s annual educational conference, held on July 3 and 4 in Wellington, gave around 80 attendants an opportunity for political discussion and debate around topics ranging from the housing crisis to combating rape culture. The opening session, “Where next for the Left?” featured a frank but constructive look at the state of left-wing politics in Aotearoa/New Zealand by Daphne Lawless from Fightback and left-wing blogger and disability rights activist Giovanni Tiso. This discussions covered the accessibility of left media, discussion and “toxic cultures” in some left organisations, and the need for freedom of discussion and unity around common goals.
Feminist Sandra Dickson gave a compelling presentation on work to prevent sexual violence by consent education. Fightback is involved in initiating a campaign to make education around consent and countering sexual violence compulsory in high schools. This discussion had the biggest attendance of any at the conference, indicating that fighting rape culture in Aotearoa is an issue of concern to many.
Other guest speakers included Tertiary Education Union president Sandra Grey (joined by Fightback speaker and student Ian Anderson) on transforming tertiary education, and Steve Flude from the Wellington Soup Kitchen (joined by Fightback speaker Joel Cosgrove) on homelessness and the housing crisis. The conference ended on a high note with Fightback member and Unite Union organiser Heleyni Pratley reflecting on the success of the campaign against Zero Hours contracts, which forced McDonalds and other fast-food employers to agree to provide guaranteed hours for their workers.
Audio recordings and notes from presentations and discussions will be available on the website.
Conference attendees continued their discussions in a more relaxed atmosphere at a fundraiser held by the Eyegum Music Collective, supporting Fightback’s conference in exchange for Fightback members helping facilitate Eyegum’s safer spaces process.