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Raewyn Good: exceptional networker & weaver of connections, died 2-12-08

It is with profound sadness and sense of loss that Village-Connections records the unexpected death of Raewyn Good. Raewyn was hospitalized with severe back pain on Thursday last week, and while in hospital, developed a severe infection. She died in the small hours of Tuesday, 2nd December, 2008.

Raewyn worked for the Ministry of Social Development (MSD) as Project Advisor and policy analyst, and for the Social Policy Evaluation and Research Committee (SPEaR). She represented MSD at the University of Canterbury Centre for Social Science Research (SSRC).

Raewyn was the quintessential un-bureaucratic bureaucrat, an exceptional and effective networker. She wove connections within, and between, community, social science and official policy. A key to this, along with her extensive personal network, was a knowledge society approach that looked for innovative policy development methodologies that could overcome policy silos by connecting across boundaries and sectors and countries.

She had the rare ability to identify and support innovative connecting concepts, and innovative connecting people.

Raewyn’s academic background was in social anthropology and public policy. She was an acute observer. She took time to learn Te Reo Maori, and lived and related well to people from diverse cultures (especially Samoans and, more recently, new settlers – newly arrived in Aotearoa New Zealand). She had enormous empathy, particularly with women who had suffered in abusive relationships.

She made constant efforts to ensure the rich but often unheard voices of diverse communities were heard and taken seriously at policy levels and in publications. Many at the social policy conference in 2003 will recall hearing Tui Atua Tupua Tamasese Taisi Efi (currently Head of State of Samoa) In Search of Meaning, Nuance and Metaphor in Social Policy and in 2005, Professor Mason Durie’s presentation, Race and Ethnicity in Public Policy: Does it Work?

In terms of Village-Connections project, Raewyn’s support, from around 2002, has been crucial. Raewyn took an immediate interest in the initial St Albans community web project, seeing its potential for inclusive community development, after viewing a CD of the project in 2002. Later, after viewing – with a small audience – Hazel’s narrative research film, The Silent Connectors, she recognized its potential for inclusive and innovative community building.

Raewyn subsequently supported Hazel’s application for a doctoral scholarship to research a new methodology that utilized communications technologies (web and film) for this kind of development. She gave ongoing encouragement to complete the doctoral thesis, and to present at conferences, and to apply for a BRCSS post doctoral award.

Many in government and academia say they want innovation, but in practice, they often do not recognize it, and if they do, in practice, they run a mile from it. Raewyn genuinely wanted innovation and recognized innovative practice and did what she could to support and implement it.

Raewyn was truly authentic and her approach to social policy development was totally based on authentic care about developing a truly inclusive society, by weaving and building connections from the flax-roots through to the top-level decision-makers.

Raewyn would have wanted this kind of connecting to continue. Hers will be a hard act to follow but we should try.

Your personal experiences and comments about Raewyn, and/or about some of the issues and principles raised in this blog, are most welcome.

Refer to the SPEaR website for a tribute to Raewyn from the Social Policy Evaluation and Research Committee
Refer to the Family Violence Clearinghouse for an acknowledgment of Raewyn’s work enabling and developing this centre
Refer to Kristen Maynard’s tribute to Raewyn
Refer to the tribute website for Raewyn and place to send messages to Raewyn’s family


  1. Kristen Maynard says:

    It is with an extremely heavy heart that I write this tribute to Raewyn whose passing can only be described in the physical as untimely. I totally tautoko what has already been said about her. Raewyn was a good friend and colleague, an amazing person, a rare taonga in the public sector, a master weaver of people, very kind, generous with her time, knowledge, and networks, and was always willing to help anyone who asked for her help. No matter how busy she was she would always be there for anyone who needed her. Raewyn knew everyone and contributed to so many important kaupapa.

    Raewyn was a key player in developing Te Rito, the Family Violence Prevention Strategy. Her work with others laid the foundation for the strategy and most of her networks built its walls. I will always have fond memories of the time we had basically only half a day to pull together two budget bids. We got together outside and within half hour had the two bids sorted. Raewyn downloaded the information from her brain, puffing away there, while I scribbled furiously trying to make sure to capture everything. We often laughed about this as we were successful in getting both putea, one of which led to the establishment of the family violence clearinghouse. Raewyn also encouraged my partner Te Kani and I to take part in the Commonwealth emerging leaders programme, which was an awesome experience for both of us.

    Raewyn always supported me to be brave in the policy work that I did, she was empowering, and really helped me through some very challenging times at work. Raewyn was a true friend. She touched the hearts of many, would help anyone and everyone, always saw the bright side of everything, was truly innovative in her approach to work, and walked the talk with integrity. I cannot speak highly enough about her and am so very humbled and privileged to have known and worked with her. Raewyn will be dearly missed by Te Kani, my baby sister and I, as well as many many others. Her passing has left a big hole in this world as well as many heavy hearts. The world needs more people like her.

    Raewyn, he tino pouri toku ngakau mo to haerenga. Thank you for always being there for me, for being such a guiding light, for your awesome mahi and contribution to this world, and for your calmness, aroha and positive outlook on life. You are a true role model for us all. We will miss you dearly.

    Moe mai oku hoa i roto i te ringa kaha o te atua. Haere atu ra ki te tua o te arai.

    Kristen, Te Kani and Justine

  2. Ruth Burton says:

    Labour party members from Hutt South mourn the passing of a great worker ,an effective contributor and most of all a fun person.

    Go in peace

  3. Alan Bramwell says:

    I’m sorry, but these comments – as was the Dominion Post obituary – fall way short. Raewyn must also be remembered for her drug offences, and her mad association with groups pushing the now-discredited satanic abuse moral panic that blighted this country – and others – just a decade or so ago. I am sure she deserves to be remembered on other fronts, but lets not be revisionist.

  4. Hazel says:

    Allan Bramwell wants Raewyn to also be remembered for ‘drug offences’ and her association with those involved with “satanic abuse moral panic.”

    Re: drug offences: from what can be seen from the public record she was convicted of cannabis possession and there is mention of “previous convictions for importing and trafficking in class B drugs.” In New Zealand Marijuana is an illegal, but very widely used recreation drug. Many inhale, particularly when they are younger. Many use it, most get away with it, and a few get a conviction.

    Re: association with those involved in “satanic abuse and moral panic.” I think looking back, most agree this was a very sad time in New Zealand and it has not been adequately processed.

    I felt enormous compassion for men who, in this climate, were often seen as rapists and abusers. It distressed me that we were then setting up conditions for driving men away from caring for children, in particular, from our preschools and schools. I spoke out about this issue at a Feminist Studies class at University at the time because I wanted men to be more involved looking after children, not less.

    But I also felt enormous compassion for those who did actually suffer abuse – in particular the children – and very sad about a climate which meant whole generations had often had to suffer in silence, or if they did speak up, they were disbelieved or their life was made hell, including by the perpetrators of the abuse.

    There were allegations of abuse. There were some disturbed people with disturbing stories. There was moral panic. Society has needed to learn how to sift – how to discriminate sensitively and to good effect. It still needs to learn how to do this more adequately.

    Allan’s contribution has made me think about what a “whole of locality” approach, such as I am working on, would look like with respect to enormously troubling issues and moral panics – in the form that they took then – and the forms they have taken since.

    I like to think that the co-creation of local developmental narratives – of the kind which has been piloted in my methodology for my doctoral thesis – would be helpful. In this, all people and groups in the locality are encouraged to engage in the co-creation of a local development narrative. Put simply, local people are given the opportunity to express their experiences, feelings, observations and ideas. These are then built into the script of an evolving “fictional narrative.” This narrative reflects local people’s experiences – positive and negative – as well as their ideas and aspirations for a “better” life and how this might achieved in the context of local and wider conditions, obstacles and opportunities.

    I shall write more specifically about this process in further Blogs.

    In the meantime, the Village-connections memorial to Raewyn still stands. It is not revisionist. Raewyn actually supported the development of this narrative-based methodology. She did so because it was able to be inclusive of all of the diverse experiences and perspectives that the members of a local community might like to share and work with; including those she might have found personally troubling.

  5. Ted Fecteau says:

    I first met Raewyn in 1973 as a neighbour in Newtown Park Flats and have only met her in town a few times since then. I have read tributes from the many people she has since worked with and am truly staggered by her passionate contributions to our community.
    I had not heard of her death before now, a whol 9 months later but I am still touched by how she touched so many.

    At rest now,

    Ted Fecteau

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