- Anna Radford
Piet Radford was a CAFCA member continuously from 1993 up until his February 2021 death, aged 85. He very regularly included a generous donation with his annual sub, and over a 26-year period (1994-2020) he was a regular very generous donor to the CAFCA/ABC Organiser Account, which exists to provide my income. Indeed, his 2020 donation was his most generous one.
But, as with too many other CAFCA members, I never met him and knew nothing about him. It wasn't until after being notified of his death that I did some research and discovered that he was a potter. His Facebook page self-description is: "Aging hippie - observing the changes. Thinks that life is one really amazing experience". I'm indebted to his daughter Anna for this obituary. Murray Horton.
Peter (Piet) Edward Radford was born in Palmerston North on 22 January 1936, two days after Edward VIII's accession to the throne. Like his (middle) namesake, much of my father's adult life was defined by a refusal to conform to the norm. He trained as a teacher in the early 1970s and, along the way, became involved in Palmerston North's thriving counter-culture - lots of dope, Pink Floyd's "Dark Side of the Moon" played really loud, and mixing with a very bohemian crowd.
He had just qualified as a teacher and had accepted the posting for his first job when he read the Neil Postman and Charles Weingartner book "Teaching Is A Subversive Activity". It so profoundly influenced him that he quit teaching, paid back his bond and became a potter instead. During this time, he was concerned about the Vietnam War and went on anti-war protest marches in Palmerston North.
Piet was always interested in the peace, environmental and alternative lifestyle movements and was generous in his support of them. He was also supportive of people in need. I remember him telling me about a young man he met while travelling in Cambodia. The man had badly broken his leg as a child and it had never been properly set, thus affecting his mobility. My father kindly paid for a corrective operation because he knew that spending what was a relatively small amount of money to him would radically transform that young man's life.
Unconventional, Unique, Creative
In the mid-70s my parents split up and Piet bought a block of bush in Oratia, west Auckland and placed a covenant on much of the land so it would remain in bush. He lived there, as well as residing in a couple of communes. But; my father being the incredibly strong-willed person that he was, didn't always gel with others so in the end it was easiest for him to live at his own place. True to form, it was a very unconventional abode, built from salvaged materials to a unique and creative design. Over the years Piet built a number of dwellings on his land and rented them out to like-minded people, thus creating a small community of people who liked living an alternative life-style.
Even though his health started failing him just before he turned 80, Piet never let that hold him back. Despite a major coronary and triple bypass, he was off overseas on holiday within six months, motorcycling around. And despite being blind in one eye and having compromised vision in the other, Piet played tennis every week until he was nearly 85.
However, in the end he couldn't beat the cancer that had taken hold and - as the disease progressed - he became progressively weaker and had to give up the tennis. But he never let it get him down and seemed unafraid of his impending death. He wanted to die at home in his beloved bush, which he did, held by my brothers John, Brody and I. We hope you're having a ball enjoying your next big adventure, Piet. Fly freeeeeeeeeee.
- Gillian Southey, for Christian World Service
Barbara Stephens died on December 21, 2020 in her 81st year. She was a familiar face at many of the public events and protests where CAFCA members could be found. Barbara was always clear as to which side she was on and did not hesitate to challenge injustices like the benefit cuts or speak at solidarity rallies. My first acquaintance with her was in her role as National Coordinator of Christian World Service based in Christchurch. She soon became a friend and mentor.
I always think of Barbara as a fearless and compassionate woman. She would just as easily give anything to someone in need as challenge Don Brash on neoliberal economics - the personal and political could not be separated. Her analysis was deep and sharp. In her later years when she came to dinner, Jim and I knew that she would bring neoliberal economics and colonisation into the conversation - and she always delivered. We could have timed how long it took but by then we were all deeply engaged in conversation.
Barbara was born in Nelson, the oldest to three brothers. Christianity was central to the family's life and her parents were very active members of the Church of Christ. Her Christian faith sustained her throughout her life and provided an ever-expanding space where she could encounter God, people, and the natural world. No matter what the church did, she was always ready to challenge its teachings and practices when it came up short, just as she did in other places in her life. Her faith was rooted in a strong sense of social justice and sound thinking.
After leaving school Barbara worked for a local accountant before heading to Dunedin to train as a deaconess alongside Presbyterian and Church of Christ colleagues. At the time, deaconesses performed significant work in communities, visiting older people and those who were sick, helping people who were poor and vulnerable, running children's programmes, and supporting church life. She was one of the first three women ordained as ministers in the Associated Churches of Christ (now the Christian Churches New Zealand), but in later years joined the Methodist Church.
Barbara was a strong feminist who did not hesitate in pressing for greater representation of women in places where decisions were made or insisting on inclusive language at all times. She actively participated in women's groups exploring new expressions of spirituality and feminist theology. With a small group of women, she prepared and led an Ecumenical Church Service at the 1975 United Women's Convention which affirmed the role of women "to serve and love and change the world". Her spirituality and politics were very close throughout her life.
Liberation Theology In Asia
In the early 1980s she accepted a position as the Education Secretary for the Christian Conference of Asia (CCA, a regional gathering of national church organisations) based in Singapore. In Asia she encountered emerging theologies that explored faith from places of suffering. Like many progressive church people, she found Liberation Theology with its strong emphasis on understanding the local context and commitment to structural social change empowering.
Moved by the reality of families living on rubbish dumps or marginal land, displaced and indigenous peoples, and the plight of women ignored and exploited, she worked with local Christians and peoples of other faiths who took up their need for justice. Working in Asia with its strong people's movements and new non-Western theologies was exciting and an opportunity to develop a more global analysis. Inevitably CCA staff became involved with local Singaporeans critical of the Government's treatment of workers and on other human rights issues. A year after she left CCA, the Government expelled the organisation from the country.
CWS National Coordinator
Returning to Aotearoa New Zealand, she took up the position of Coordinator of Christian World Service (CWS), the justice and development agency of the newly formed Conference of Churches in Aotearoa New Zealand. CWS had always worked with and been a member of Corso - its first Christmas Appeal in 1945 collected donations for Corso's relief work in Greece - and the Catholic Commission for Justice, Peace and Development. The three organisations had worked closely together and the annual fishing trips organised by their male leadership were legendary.
Times had changed and while Barbara held an equally sharp political analysis, she was totally committed to more participatory methodologies. She worked more collaboratively, encouraging learning and consensus decision-making in keeping with her approach to development. She was highly critical of a charity model that involved doing good for those less fortunate.
Instead, she worked from an understanding of poverty as a result of unfair structures that depended on the exploitation of the poorest people for cheap labour and the land and sea for their resources. They had a right to a decent livelihood and respect. Aid was about redistribution from this unjust global and capitalist system that had similar impacts overseas as in Aotearoa New Zealand.
Barbara Saw The Big Picture
Such thinking meant Barbara found a ready home amongst church people but also with all people working for change. Barbara offered CWS's resources to the community. People would drop in to use the photocopier, for conversation, or to organise protests or church services on social justice themes. In those days, there was more time to discuss the issues of the day and to organise. One of the regular visitors was Marie Venning from the Development Education Trust who came over to photocopy information on NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement being negotiated between the US, Canada and Mexico which she had discovered.
Instinctively Barbara knew it would not be good for the world, and so when Marie, Leigh Cookson, Eileen Shewan and Anne Edmundson started GATT* Watchdog, she was supportive, delegating me to represent CWS in later meetings, and attending protests and workshops. * GATT = the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, now the World Trade Organisation (WTO). Ed.
Barbara always had the capacity to see the Big Picture and the links between the domestic and the international. Institutions like the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund were promulgating the neo-liberal economic policies that were destroying the lives of poor people and the environment on which we all depend.
The benefit cuts announced in Ruth Richardson's 1991 Mother of all Budgets had parallels in the Structural Adjustment Programmes of these international financial institutions that caused large scale unemployment in many developing countries. For Barbara economics was about people or in the words of theology, the oikoumene or ecumenical, the whole inhabited house of God. Economics and Ecumenical come from the Greek word oikos. Globalisation was a betrayal of people, their livelihoods and their cultures - and in particular indigenous peoples.
Learning was important to Barbara. She led workshops in churches and the wider community that were always participatory and helped people develop a structural analysis of the economic and social structures. She inevitably incorporated her growing understanding of tino rangitiratanga and power relations in Aotearoa into a global analysis that put people first. She did not hesitate to call out racism but was always inclusive of all people.
A frequent topic of conversation at CWS was the intense competition between agencies. After aid agencies successfully lobbied Government for a joint funding scheme for aid, CWS was able to make much more direct relationships with partners overseas. VASS (Voluntary Agency Subsidy Scheme) was jointly run by Government officials and non-Governmental organisations (NGOs) based on good development principles and processes.
Agencies could get a block grant, giving them and the partners more certainty in funding and enabling partner groups to implement more substantive programmes, producing long term change. It also meant that some Government aid or Official Development Assistance reached the people New Zealanders were supporting. Barbara had a keen interest in education, majoring in sociology at Victoria University and in her retirement earning a Masters of Arts in Sociology at the University of Canterbury. Her thesis explored the understandings of partnership as practised by six different NGOs.
"Let's Turn The World Upside Down"
Perhaps this is best illustrated in a story former colleague Elizabeth Mackie told at her memorial service in Christchurch: "One of my favourite memories of Barbara's time as Coordinator of Christian World Service, is her attendance at a global meeting in Cyprus, convened by the World Council of Churches to discuss the principles and practice of overseas aid. Barbara had been challenged by the Board to come up with good reasons for what they saw as expensive travel for an event which might result merely in more words on more paper".
"Barbara was up for the challenge, but typically, she did not simply sit down and write her rationale. She gathered the staff and the relevant CWS committees and engaged in lively discussion, lining us all up in a continuum from those who thought she definitely should not travel and those who thought she definitely should. The debate was vigorous. The final question to be answered was 'what do we have to contribute, that others may not think of?''. The answer became LET'S TURN THE WORLD UPSIDE DOWN. In other words, let's see reality from the perspective of the South. Let the poorer countries of the world set the agendas and the rest support their initiatives and finance their programmes".
"The next step was to create an image of the globe turned upside down and get large posters made, showing Africa and South America, most of Asia and Oceania in the Northern Hemisphere and Europe and the USA in the South. Armed with bundles of posters, Barbara set off for Cyprus. Just before the formal opening of the conference, she enlisted the help of former colleagues and friends from her time as Education Secretary at the Christian Conference of Asia".
"While the other delegates were at dinner, they papered the walls of the conference room and corridors with the upside/down posters. They even plastered them over the walls inside the toilet blocks. There was uproar from the Northern aid agencies and contented smiles from the Southern Hemisphere delegates".
One of the fundamental lessons I learnt from Barbara was the need to be clear about whose side you were on. I will always remember her for her absolute generosity, the importance of connection and clear thinking, and unfailing commitment to live what she believed. In 1993 Barbara wrote some background material for a Church Leaders' statement on social justice which included a call to increase Government aid or Official Development Assistance (ODA) to 0.7% of Gross National Income, a plea that had its origins in the World Council of Churches before being adopted at the United Nations. At the time New Zealand's ODA was languishing at 0.24%.
In the article, Barbara differentiated between what was good aid and bad aid. Here is what she wrote about good aid:
"Good Aid, therefore is aid:
DEATH IN THE FAMILY
- Murray Horton
CAFCA expresses our condolences to our member, Pete Snowden. "Oh, Murray, I forgot to send you this (photo) of my father Denis, late last year in Auckland Hospital. I took him Watchdog which he enjoyed. He said is Mike Treen in this edition, knowing that we have been friends since school days. He passed 31 January 2021 aged 97. By all means use the photo in a future edition, he would be happy about that. He read it from cover to cover and really enjoyed it". That's the sort of unsolicited endorsement we like. Sadly, for Pete's dad, Mike Treen did not feature in the Watchdog he was reading in the photo (the December 2020 one) but Mike is in this issue, with bells on. Dad would have enjoyed it.