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June 1, 2014 | by  | in Features | [ssba]

Working with Shane Jones

Parliament can be a daunting place to start your first job. Politicians walk around with an air of importance, security is constantly scanning you, the media charge around in a scrum, and the maze of corridors in Parliament means you may have just forgotten where your office is.

I first heard Shane Jones speak in my POLS 111 lecture, and was instantly captured by his floral rhetoric and unique style of politics. Fast-forward three years, and I find myself working as his Executive Assistant in Parliament, a Māori boy from Te Whānaua a Apanui who grew up in Rotorua working for Matua Shane, the taniwha of the North!

I always found Māori MPs to be incredibly inclusive, and with Shane I was free to wander in and out of any meeting, untethered from the usual niceties of an EA staying on the quiet side of the closed door. I still remember sitting down in an ornate boardroom across from the Governor of the Reserve Bank; Shane turned to me to say, “Boy, this is the Reserve Bank,” and proceeding to explain their function at a very basic level in front of the Governor and his senior advisors!

Shane and I would start each day with a cuppa and talk about whatever was trending, at which point Matua would say: “Son, what do the young people think of…?” I found myself a spokesperson for my generation, offering sentiments that Shane would echo in Parliament that day with his unique facility for language in full flight in the debating chamber.

Last week, Shane gave his valedictory speech, and with it ended nine years in Parliament. Shane Jones, the MP who fought for Māori to be, not only an included but also an indelible part of Aotearoa. This was the narrative entered into in the Treaty of Waitangi that promotes our status as a bicultural nation. This was the office I worked in and the ideas that I was exposed to.

My time in the highest Marae of the land has come to an end, for now. I came in on the coattails of Shane and leave when the rhetoric that captured me, three years ago, ceased to resonate within the debating chamber. It was an extremely humbling experience to have operated within Parliament, to have assisted a Māori MP, and to have worked with Matua Shane Jones.

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