Dame June Jackson with her son, Labour MP and broadcaster Willie Jackson. Image: supplied

I never thought I would support this bill. But, then, there’s Mum

David Seymour’s End of Life Choice Bill passed its second reading in parliament last night by 70 votes to 50. Among a number of heartfelt speeches from all sides of the house on the conscience issue was this, from Willie Jackson.

The below has been edited for length and clarity

I never thought in my life that I would support such a bill as this. I have heard so much kōrero tonight about individual rights. I was brought up in a traditional Māori way, where the individual had no rights—no rights whatsoever. Brought up in a collective, where whānau decided everything. We had no choice when we came into this world, and we have no choice when we go out. You can say you want to be buried somewhere. I’ve been to so many tangi where people were buried in the wrong place it’s not funny. My father always said, “Dead people have no rights. The whānau decides.”

Whānau decides the names of the kids. I named my son – I gave him one name, Dad gave him another name the next week, and he’s had two names all his life. The collective is everything. Whānau, hapū, iwi is everything. Tikanga is everything. That’s how I was brought up. That’s how many of our Māori members have been brought up.

Tariana Turia is someone close to me. Others like her have lobbied me. We had a message tonight from one of the whanaunga saying: “Here you are, won over by the white, liberal vote in parliament”. That is what Māori members face sometimes, and I understand it, because I understand the background, the upbringing, the history, and the mistrust in terms of the house system, and the way that some of our people have been treated. Who will ever forget Rau Williams in 1997? Who will ever forget the health support that he was denied? Our people, whether they’re Māori, working class, poor, disabled, don’t trust the system.

They don’t trust the system. I’ve heard so much kōrero tonight that I respect from both sides – from both sides. But my experience tells me that our people are nervous; our people are scared. Despite all the great work done by the select committee – and I acknowledge you all – there is still a lot of distrust out there. That comes through experience and it comes through history. So I always thought I’d vote against this bill.

But then, of course, we have personal experiences, and my personal experience is my mother is dying. When you watch my mother, if you’ve watched her – and some people in the House know her – you will understand how tough that is.

My mother, June Jackson, was a speaker for our people and a leader for our people – a total mana wahine. A leader in South Auckland for women, she led our marae. Our women led our marae, and Mum was at the forefront. Threw all us males on the side. Threw us on the side and led the way. Vibrant. Passionate. A leader. An absolute leader. No one would shut her up.

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Twenty years on she was appointed to the Parole Board, by the National Party. (National also gave her a damehood. I don’t agree with damehoods, but Mum still took it. Thank you, again, National; we had a great day.)

But my mum is just one of the greatest advocates, and I know people like Gerry Brownlee and Maggie Barry have all acknowledged her. So have people in the Labour Party, and Marama Davidson of the Greens. You’ve all acknowledged Mum. But Mum’s not that person any more, and as a whānau we’re watching her. And I know that she would never have believed in euthanasia. I know that. But then I think Mum, if she saw herself today, she may well change her view.

So I’m saying today that this kaupapa deserves another kōrero. I’m not saying I’m going to vote for it in the end, but there’s been some valid kōrero put up. Some expert people have gone through this, and rather than just condemn it, maybe it’s worth another kōrero. I don’t speak for our Māori caucus; I’m a co-chair, along with Meka Whaitiri. We split right down the middle. There is no one view. There is no one tikanga. No one has the Māori view. We can only reflect our personal experiences.

 


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