Parliament TV has become staple TV in my household this year. Previously, my 3 fashion savvy grown daughters have been more interested in the Kardashians than what their Mum is up to, but 2015 was quite the year. I never fail to get a full fashion critique for my outfits in the House, and friendly reminders on when my eyebrows need extra attention. They can’t wait to see the drama unfolding with Mum on the TV. My Mum even tapes Parliament TV on her VCR!
This transition from political activist to an official Member of Parliament has been a big one for my whole family. My Dad couldn’t come to my swearing in ceremony because he was in London. But then his three siblings came to represent him. My mum and my stepmum came. My siblings and their children all came. My kuia came. My aunty, who has health issues, travelled from Auckland and the trip actually wiped her out but she still came. I can’t understate this, my becoming an MP is a big deal in my family. I need to thank each and every one for their continued support and love.
I really love this job. I understand even more now, how much of a unique position I am in and challenges that I come with it. I am acutely aware of the privileges of this job also.
The House of Parliament is like being in a ring with pitbulls. It is brutal. It spurs me on and energises me. I wondered whether that would have an impact on me, I was warned by many. I like the direct feisty engagement of it. Rather than feeling downtrodden, it engages me. The absence of certain voices makes me all the more determined to represent the voices that I stand for.
It is very much an older-white-man-in-a-suit-world, and the system is set up to favour their world view. It is hard sometimes, but it strengthens my resolve to claim the contribution that I have to make. As a younger Māori woman, I want you to know that I belong here. I want to help others who look like me to get here.
In the short 8 weeks since I started as a new MP it has been my fortune to have had a good run in the House: I delivered a maiden speech that was widely viewed, I have stood in 3 question times to call the government to account on human rights and Pacific climate concerns, I have delivered 5 speeches during legislation debate on issues of housing and benefit entitlements, and I had the honour of giving an adjournment speech to acknowledge those doing it tough over the festive season. They say ‘start as you mean to go’ and so it was always going to be an eventful entrance period I guess.
Climate change, particularly from an indigenous perspective, will remain a focus issue for me. I hate not being able to be with my colleagues on the frontline at the Paris climate talks, or with Te Hiku o te Ika activists opposing deep sea oil in the Far North, but I am representing those concerns in the House in Parliament. I am taking the people’s voices and actions into the House of Parliament and helping to amplify and advocate for their concerns.
So what are my 2016 ambitions?
I want to be a credible and respected voice for Māori and kaitiaki responsibilities in Aotearoa. Children have been at the forefront of my work, and will continue to be.
I am really looking forward to getting around the country next year to make connections and build relationships with stakeholders in my portfolios. I am keen to listen to their stories and see the work they are doing in communities, in the economy and for the environment.
I take my responsibility as representative seriously, and so it’s important to me that I bring the ideas and concerns of the communities and groups I represent into Parliament and politics.
I will be looking to run issue campaigns on kaupapa in my portfolios to help build public pressure for policy changes. There are many ways to achieve this, and I’m keen to hear your thoughts about the best way to do it. Let me know what you think.