In a powerful and acclaimed first parliamentary speech, the new Labour MP pledges to give a voice to the voiceless
Kiri Allan was elected to parliament via the Labour list. She wrote a candidate’s diary for the Spinoff during the recent campaign. Read her entries, and those of fellow new MPs Erica Stanford and Chlöe Swarbrick – along with their maiden speeches – here.
E tū, E tū
Ngā pou o tōku whare
Tipu, Tuakiri e
Hei here i ngā pou
O tōku whare e
Tomokia e te iwi
I te reka o hua e
E te māngai, he tino honore ki te tū i roto i tēnei whare o te paremata
Mai tēnei uri o te Pirirakau, o Ngāti Ranginui, o Ngāi Te Rangi, o Ngāti Tūwharetoa hoki.
Mai te waka o Tākitimu,
Mai te waka o Mātaatua,
Mai te waka o Tainui
Ki a koutou, te mana whenua o te rohe nei, ngā uri o Te Ātiawa
Otirā, ki a koutou e ōku nei rangatira i roto i tēnei whare
Tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou
Like many monumental events in my life, you could describe my entry into this House as somewhat accidental.
As a High School drop-out at 16, I entered into the full time workforce at KFC in West Auckland, with the aspiration to work in every single KFC in the country so I might “see the world”. Incidentally I might add, joined my first union, then known as the Service and Foodworkers Union. This began my journey into this place.
The hint of adventure and thirst to know New Zealand beyond the small confines of my humble East Coast beginnings in Paengaroa led me to taking a job as a cherry picker in Blenheim when I was 17 years old.
With dreadlocks flying, $50 in my pocket, a second hand back pack on my back, and with a borrowed tent strapped to my pack, I commenced my first long-distance hitchhike down country towards those cherry-field. En route, I was required to stop in Wellington.
It was as I was walking towards the ferry terminal that I noticed an odd shaped building to my left. I walked up the pathway and stared up and wondered what this place was all about. I made a quiet promise to myself that I would find out, and that, one day, I would work in this building.
I could not have anticipated that this would come in the form of being a Member of Parliament.
To those in my party, who have put your trust, faith and confidence in me to represent our values and our vision for a greater New Zealand – I thank you.
I am one of 10 children, from a mixed family that transcends race, class and geography. My dad, a son of a solo mother who raised four boys in Gore to be resilient, hard-working and kind men. Her ancestors arrived here in 1848 aboard the vessel Blunder, landing in Port Chalmers from Scotland. My father’s father, the son of migrants from Aberdeen, Scotland, that came via Sri Lanka where they were the owners of tea plantations.
My mother’s father, a fisherman and World War II veteran. Her mother, a Pirirakau princess was raised in the centre of our universe, Te Puna.
I have the honour of carrying my grandmother’s name: Kiritapu. My nana spoke only Te Reo Maori until the age of five when she entered into the Native Schools system. On her first day at that school, her name was changed to “Kitty” and she was strapped for speaking Te Reo. Whatever the intention, it was nevertheless the effect, my nana’s cultural identity was whipped out of her at that school, and so too, some might say, was her voice.
Nana, I stand here in this House to honour your name, and to give voice to the voiceless, who for whatever their circumstances, cannot speak for themselves.
Growing up, central government politics were not part of our daily discourse. But standing up for what was right and honourable was of fundamental importance. This was epitomised by my mother, Gail. During my formative years, I saw my mum lead a walkout from our community, a community we loved, but a community whose leadership she perceived was abusing its power. It was a stance that took courage, and my father’s support.
Mum, for standing up for what you believed in, in the face of all adversity, I thank you for giving me the courage to, in turn stand up for what I believe in.
I’m an extraordinarily proud New Zealander. We come from a country that punches above its weight.
A country that in the 1893, in a movement led by Merepeka Mangakahia and Kate Sheppard, became the first country that gave women the right to vote.
A country that stood for being clean, and green by taking a “nuclear-free” stance.
A country that has been bold enough to face its past, and embark on a process for reconciling our history by establishing the Waitangi Tribunal and engaging in the Treaty settlement process.
A country that is the home of: Weta Workshops, Flight of the Conchordes, Lorde and my cousin: the director of Thor: Ragnarok.
In 2016, I was fortunate enough to marry my best friend because this parliament was one of the first in the world to recognise marriage equality. I am indebted to the members of this House, from both sides, and particularly Louisa Wall and the Hon Grant Robertson for championing something so simple: the right to marry the person you love.
We are a small but mighty nation. However, despite our proud history, there is still an incredible amount of work to be done.
During the course of the campaign and indeed all throughout my electorate on any given day, I meet with many people that shared their stories of how our community is faring. In the words of one of my constituents “there is ugliness in the shadows, if people take the time to look”. I look.
I look, at the family of seven living out of their car at Thornton beach.
I see the working aged man in Ōpotiki who has been waiting for over four years for a heart operation.
I see the nine Gisborne families who over a period of weeks were left behind by their loved ones taken by suicide.
I see the kids who are left parentless by their mums and dads who are lost in the irrationality that is P.
I see the strain on the face of the full time working mum in Kawerau who can’t afford the gas to get the kids to sports.
I see the forestry worker from Ruatōria who passed away in a workplace accident exactly one year after his cousin did. In the same way.
This ugliness that lurks in the shadows of the East Coast is sadly not unique.
They say it is easier to invest in building strong children than fixing broken men and women. I am committed to giving my all in a government that invests in ensuring that our kids reach their true potential.
I am not one of those people that thinks that government can fix everything or do everything. But I believe that the role of government is to work collaboratively with the communities that we serve to enable the many, and not just the few, to reach their full potential.
The law is a funny thing. Although we don’t actively think about it when we go about our day to day lives, the law sets out the parameters and rules by which we collectively live. The law touches so many aspects of our lives – from telling us to stop at a stop sign, to influencing whether our economy is performing well, and whether jobs are available – the impact of the written word of law is pervasive, and deeply felt when it is working well – but much more so, when it is not.
As a lawyer, I learned to operate within the confines of the existing words of the law. But as a member of this House, we are privileged to influence and determine its content – and this is not a privilege I take for granted.
I am filled with genuine hope entering into this House, as part of the sixth Labour led government, and particularly under the leadership of Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.
Prime Minister Ardern has the compassion, empathy and connection to the people that we seek to serve, and under her leadership, and the leadership of our Executive – I feel like we are on the precipice of true change.
Recently, I had a young man from Taneātua who had just finished high school, come up to me on the street and ask: “Kiritapu, if I vote for you, will it help get fellas like us get a job?”
This kid is the type who is too easily written off as being a future burden on the system, and not an asset to invest in.
I am proud to be a part of a government that will give kids like this, kids like me, a shot.
We know that the way to do this is by doing the basics, and doing the basics right. By stimulating our regional economies, focusing on our core industries, nurturing community buy in to a local work force, and ensuring that the infrastructure is there to support such growth.
While it is positive, I’m not just talking about the growth of the shareholders bottom lines – I’m talking about the successful growth of people in meaningful jobs and industry and community working together for the benefit of all.
There are many people on my journey that have helped me to reach my potential.
I want to acknowledge all of my constituents on the East Coast. To my members who worked doggedly for nine months on our campaign for change. You know who you are. Thank You.
In particular, to my Campaign Chair and my LEC Chair, Sir Michael Cullen and Lady Anne Collins, both of whom were my campaign mentors, and as I embark on my journey in this House, I know I am indebted to you both for the wisdom, guidance and patience you have so graciously bestowed upon me.
Mum, Dad, Aunties, Uncles, my brothers, sisters, cousins – thank you, for grounding me, holding me and loving me – we are but a sum of each other.
Finally, ki a koe e te tau, te pou toko manawa – Natalie, for the love, guidance, wisdom, patience and everything else you give to me and out family – thank you, and, boy, I know, I owe you!
Sir, I commenced my remarks in this House today referring to my 17-year-old self stumbling across Parliament. On that same day, sir, that young girl penned a short spoken word piece outside on this lawn, that seems appropriate as I stand in this House. Sir,
We are raising a nation
Of our beautiful babies
This is our generation
Where we lift our heads high
Be gone the days of our forebearers
Where they were taught to be shy
Because this land
It is our promise
And that is for sure
Being strong in our identities
Fostering visions of equality
We named our daughter Hiwaiterangi. Hiwaiterangi is one of the nine stars of Matariki and it is the star that we cast our hopes and aspirations to for the year ahead. My prayer is that the work I do in this House, alongside my colleagues, lays the seeds so that my daughter, and indeed all children in this nation, will fulfil the dreams and aspirations of our forbearers for a fairer, more equitable Aotearoa, New Zealand.
Otirā, e te māngai, e ōku nei rangatira i roto i tēnei whare, ki a koutou te whānau, e ōku nei rangatira ki runga – tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou katoa.