Former New Zealand Diplomat Stepping Up for New Lynn

So here is the official announcement: I have put my name forward to be the Green Party candidate for the New Lynn electorate.

I’ve spent a good part of my life working in New Lynn, Avondale, Blockhouse Bay and Kelston. I care about the communities that live in this electorate and I want to stand up and tackle the issues they are facing – especially growing income inequality, housing insecurity and homelessness.

As a teenager I spent time on the streets in New Lynn, and I know first-hand what struggle in this electorate feels like. I also know that under National things have gotten a lot worse and that the electorate needs strong leaders who are unafraid to speak up – in all spheres of life – to stand up for the issues that matter.

Across the different communities in the New Lynn electorate I see many strengths and some amazing community organisations that are doing great work. I want to represent this community and bring the passion it deserves to Parliament.

Most importantly I want to grow the Green Party vote in the electorate and demonstrate how our policies can and will make a positive difference when it comes to housing, transport and income inequality.

As a Pasifika woman, under the age of 35, with children, who has had a successful international career, academic success and who has a heart first and foremost for the community – I am excited about this decision.

I am also really excited to announce that my campaign manager will be a strong local Pasifika leader, mum, and active Green Party member – Shari Neva-Moffitt. I asked Shari to be my campaign manager because she shares the same values, worldview and background to me. As a strong woman who has overcome significant struggle (her first-hand experiences with Autism being one of them) I have a tremendous amount of respect for Shari and am so happy she has agreed to walk this journey with me.

Our final Green Party candidate selection process will take place next Saturday 18th February. I’ll be putting my best foot forward next week and will hold my head up high for the New Lynn electorate. Wish me luck xo

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Fuck being mum

(This is the post that I hope my daughter reads before she decides to have children)

When I was a girl I thought I could grow up to be whatever – do whatever – I wanted. My mum told me that. My nana told me that. My teachers told me that. And I believed them, all. I never thought there would be a difference between what I ‘could’ do and what the boys in my classes ‘could’ do with their lives. I never thought there was a difference between what I ‘could’ do IF  I chose to have children vs. IF I didn’t.

You see choosing to have children AND choosing to be successful in my career, in my life, was never presented to me as an ‘either/or’ choice. So I’ve approached my whole life that way. Finished school. Met my partner-in-life. Finished my first degree. Got engaged. Finished my Masters. Started my career. Got married. Had baby number 1 (when I was 28). Continued with my career (while my partner took care of baby number 1). Took a break from my career at 31 (while my partner started his career). Had baby number 2. Completed a Fulbright. Took a part-time job for a while. And have now started working full time and am about to take the biggest step of my career so far: putting my name forward to be ranked as a candidate on the NZ Greens List.

So things from here on in should be all good, right?

Uh-uh say all the knowing mums and dads reading this post. Why? You know why. Don’t try and make out like it’s not the case. The truth is – it’s because I’m a mum, eh? Would you shake your head like that if I was a dad with two young kids?

You see, I’m at the height of my career. But so is my husband. We are both in our early thirties. And we have two (wonderful) children that we love more than anything in this world – and they need time, care and attention. And as much as I want – with every bone of my body – to say it’s all good and it doesn’t make a difference whether it’s their mum or dad whose home with them: the truth is, I know in my heart of hearts, that it does. It does to my kids. It matters to them.

And that’s why for the first time in my whole life, I’m doubting my course. Up until this moment in time I’ve never doubted anything I’ve set out to achieve. Never doubted anything I’ve put my name forward for. But for the first time – as I write, with tears streaming down my face – I am questioning whether I am making the right decision. Even though, ethically – and intellectually – and in every single fibre of my body I KNOW that I have a hell of a lot to contribute to making a difference to politics in this country. But I also know that there are some amazing women who are also putting their names forward (or standing again) who have either chosen NOT to have children (for whatever reason) OR whose children have grown up or are older than mine. And the sad thing is: I hate that our society is structured in such a way that for any parent – woman or man – who wants to be successful in their career AND have children (and be a great parent to those children) that THIS IS WHAT IT COMES DOWN TO. That our society has been structured in such a way that a whole bunch of us are just expected to suck it up and remain mum – which google tells me is:

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Well. Fuck you Google. I refuse to be silent about this anymore. I am a mum, and I’m proud of it. And to all the mums, dads, teachers and people out there reading this – I am asking you to stop being mum about this issue too. The truth is, we cant do it all. The truth is, a whole bunch of us HAVE to choose, whether we like it or not. And the truth is that for a long long time – and right now – most of us who are HAVING to choose are women. So what does that tell us about our society? Are we going to keep staying mum about that? Or are we going to do something about it? The choice is yours.

And the choice is mine too. But I dont want my children to pay for it. So what should I do?

Hey TVNZ: Back off our Burqas

So this post is going to be short and sweet. Because the message is simple and should be straight-forward. It’s for TVNZ.

After a week of public discourse around the implications of racism in our country, your organization publishes a divisive poll with a picture of an unnamed woman on it (did you even bother to ask her permission?) and the words “Should New Zealand also ban burqas and full face veils?

I mean seriously – did you even consider how this would make NZ’s Muslim community feel? Stigmatised, targeted, discriminated against-much?! Hello: TVNZ?! I hope your senior executives have done some serious ‘Michelle Boag’ moment thinking here and realised this kind of rubbish is what lies at the heart of racist rhetoric. So from now on: can you stop asking stupid questions (that contravene people’s human rights) and Back off our Burqas!

 

Throw out the stick!

This morning I woke up with one word on my mind: resilience.

It’s a quality that is fundamental to the human condition, to being able to survive the heady journey between birth and death. Yet resilience is not often spoken about in relation to leadership. In contrast it is most often spoken about in relation to survival. Someone who survives a traumatic experience (or several) is often described as being very resilient. Like a piece of wood that gets hammered over and over again yet refuses to split.

But here’s the thing, the wood doesn’t need to be hammered in order to prove it is resilient. It is resilient regardless. What if we recognised that resilience can and does exist independently of trauma? That resilience is an inate quality that we all – as human beings – are born with.

That’s not to say that we don’t recognise the relationship between trauma, resilience and survival – but it does suggest that we may want to rethink the rationale for some of the approaches we take to get the social and economic outcomes we want as a society.

In government this is seen most acutely through the way in which social development policies are conceptualised, designed and implemented. The National-led government has taken the ‘hit them with a stick’ punitive approach in their social development policy setting. The idea being that if they threaten or apply benefit sanctions people will get off the benefit quicker than they would otherwise. But getting off benefit does not necessarily or directly correlate with getting into meaningful, long-term, sustainable work.

And what happens to the people whose benefits are cancelled because of this sanction regime who don’t have any work? What is the real, net and cumulative cost to our society of cutting them (and their dependents – often children) off? Do the costs get picked up in our justice, health and education sectors – and if so who ends up picking up the tab? Is the short term saving to the taxpayer worth the long-term cost? I say it’s not.

I think it’s high time for us to go back and ask ourselves some fundamental questions in light of all of this. Starting with what does a modern, forward-looking, comprehensive  21st century social security system look like for NZ? And how can we make it work in a way that resilience is recognised as a strength we all have but also that at some stage in everyone’s life we are going to encounter some kind of hardship, crisis or struggle- and that having a security net provided by the State – is a core and important part of the compact between us as citizens and our government.

Thinking this way can be challenging as it forces us to consider what being a citizen means at a deeper level than we might otherwise be used to. But like anything in life, if we don’t take the time to think and challenge ourselves, we are just going to stay exactly where we are – applying the same solutions to the same ‘problems’ and then asking ourselves why things never change. I don’t know about you but I’m keen to get us out of this rabbit hole and start showing the rest of the world what NZ does best: how to innovate. But let’s do it with integrity, without the benefit-sanction ‘stick’.

From the gambler’s daughter

I am the daughter of an addict. A gambling addict. A compulsive gambling addict. A dead addict.

And this is the first, last and only time I am ever going to write about my dad like that.

Because William John Edward (Bill) Burgoyne, my dad, was more than his addiction. He was my father and I loved him. He was my sister’s father. And my brother’s father. And we all loved him. That was what defined his life. Not his gambling.

We know, more acutely, painfully and accurately than any other human beings on this earth how much our dad screwed up. How despite his sporting success as a New Zealand Kiwi Rugby League representative, many people regarded him as a ‘failure’. But that didn’t make him a failure.

Compulsive gambling is an impulse-control disorder. Put simply, that makes it a mental health issue. Our dad was sick. And back in the 1990s when we were growing up, visiting the TAB every Sunday with dad was normal. We were TAB kids and there were lots of other TAB kids, at the TAB. We didn’t realise that for lots of other NZ kids this wasn’t normal (for context – mum left dad because of his gambling – when I was only 2 and my sister a newborn – so Sundays were dads day – and we always went to the TAB). There was very little public recognition of pathological gambling as a mental health issue – let alone recognition of the impact of the condition on the children of problem gamblers.

Being the child of a compulsive gambler doesn’t make me a failure or an idiot with lots of ‘chips on my shoulders’. Neither does having the courage to speak my truth.

Anyone who knows me knows the shit I’ve had to trawl through to achieve what I’ve achieved, how I’ve defied every single assumption people have ever made about me – that I would fail school, that I wasn’t good enough to do a Masters, let alone achieve first class, that I would never be selected to work for Foreign Affairs, that I could never write a book, let alone be long-listed for an award the first time round, that I could never secure a Fulbright scholarship to Hawai’i and fulfill my parenting responsibilities to my toddler, that I could never manage a full time career with two children AND build a new four bedroom house in central Auckland during a housing crisis before the age of 35, let alone seek to represent everyday New Zealanders as a Member of Parliament  when I’m a mother with two young children (yet to be accomplished, but I’m determined…)  Do you see the pattern?

I’ve had people telling me what I cannot accomplish, cannot achieve – my whole life. And over and over again I’ve defied the odds. I may not have inherited my father’s gambling addiction (thank God!) but I sure as hell have inherited the determination, courage and perseverance that saw an ‘illegitimate’ working-class boy from Panmure whose adopted parents couldn’t even afford to buy him shoes as a kid, make it to the very top of NZ representative sport.

So despite some of the nasty insults that have been hurled at me my dad since I wrote the blog post about the Mad Butcher –  I do not regret writing that piece.

Why?

Because writing it was the right thing to do in the context of validation of what is and what isn’t regarded as acceptable ‘banter’ in New Zealand society. Particularly in the context of the Race Relations Commissioner, Dame Susan Devoy, characterising Peter in a way that was completely at odds with my own observations of him. Her comments on RadioNZ on the morning of 5 January where she defended him based on her personal knowledge and observations of his character, did not square with my experiences at all.

As a writer, who has been talking about and writing about this particular time in my life, for some years now (e.g. see the 2014 NZ Herald interview the interview with Kim Hill or better yet, take the time to read my book – for some #lifecontext) I had a responsibility to provide a counter-balanced view to Dame Susan Devoy’s personal commentary on what I knew of Peter’s character based on my experiences and observations of him.

That’s not to suggest in any way that what I had to say was the be all and end all – far from it – but it needed to be said to put the public discourse about the Waiheke incident in context. The point of my message was to provide an alternative perspective on Peter’s character whereby in my experience, he is used to saying whatever he likes to people and, like Mark Hunt, I have witnessed him using language that is offensive (so Lara’s experience did not surprise me at all) and I have heard him use ‘banter’ when he would have been fully aware that it was offensive and inappropriate – and using ‘generational differences’ as an excuse doesn’t cut it. The other part of the message was to make it clear that one of the reasons for why I think he’s used to speaking this way is because over the years his patronage (in its various forms)  has created a powerful and influential network which tolerates, accepts and is used to him using offensive/inappropriate language as ‘banter’.

There is a lot to be considered here. Particularly with respect to how these issues intersect with what’s deemed as acceptable behaviour and language within New Zealand sporting circles, perceived gender and generational ‘differences’ in what’s deemed as being inappropriate vs. acceptable language, and of course how we are doing on our journey as Treaty partners.

Finally, what do I think my dad would say to me about all of this? Do I think he would have felt that I had ‘shitted on him’ as some people have suggested, by writing my piece? The answer is no. If there is one thing about my dad that cannot be refuted, it’s that he taught us kids to have courage and to always stand up for what we believe is the right thing to do. I did exactly that. And I know that if my dad was alive I would have his full support in writing my truth. There’s no shame in that – and in fact if more people start doing it, we might actually start addressing some of the deep-seated issues that clearly need to be tackled in New Zealand today, in order for us to move forward and grow as a society, together.

 

How to Catch a Cyber-Bully

This post is dedicated to three men. Three New Zealand men, who I’ve never met before.

Mr Mark Stevens – who sent me the following private message on Facebook after reading my blog post about the Mad Butcher.

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Mr John Paul Latu, and Mr Jordan Lee. Who wrote the following messages to me in a public comments facebook discussion:

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Firstly, and most importantly I would like to make the following VERY clear:

I am NOT an idiot (Mr Mark Stevens), I am NOT a ‘doll’ (Mr John Paul Latu)

You may use language like that when you are engaging with people in your life but I certainly don’t. So don’t use it with me.

Now given the tenor and degenerative language used in each of the messages received from Mr Lee, Mr Latu and Mr Stevens I thought it might be timely to write a sequel to the piece I wrote about cyber-bullying for Metro Magazine ‘Bully Basher‘ a little while ago.  So consider this Bully Basher – Part II in that I only have two more things to say about this:

Message 1: To the Bullies 

Writing personal attacks and using hateful language doesn’t add value to your argument. It doesnt make you look intelligent and if anything it diminishes the ideas you are putting across and makes you look silly, spiteful and foolish. No one wants to look like any of those things so if you have something meaningful to say – use your brain (switch it on, take a moment to think and reflect – tick tock) and then write down something that ‘adds’ to the discussion. Puffing out air via a keyboard for airs sake doesn’t add to an online discussion. There is enough rubbish online for us all to have to sift through, if you are going to add to a discussion please make sure what you have to say is worthwhile, thoughtful and considered. I don’t think that’s too much to ask?

Message 2: To Everyone Else

Cyber-Bullies tend to be lurkers. They either send private messages (like Mr Stevens) or they write some mindless personal attack – like John Paul Latu and Jordan Lee – buried in a comments section or via twitter. Where – to their relief – normally any direct response to them gets buried (so it becomes a ‘one on one’ you vs them battle). My advice is to SCREENSHOT the hell out of the messages and post them with only one comment. “This” That’s all you need to do. Others will see what you see. And the Bully? Well they just get held account in a very public way. And why shouldn’t they? They made a public comment. If it’s justified, let them justify it – to the masses, not just to you.

None of us are asking for more than a little bit of #respect whether online or in person. I think that’s more than reasonable and anyone who thinks otherwise should probably re-read and consider Message 1, again.