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April 16, 2018 | by  | in Politics | [ssba]

Chatting With Marama

Salient TV gets to know our new Green Party Co-Leader. Here’s the serious interview. Head to Facebook for Marama’s hot takes on Weet-Bix, E-Bikes, and Shortland St.

Lauren: Can you go through your life up to this point? What’s been the most formative and what you’re most proud of?

Marama: Gosh, I guess the most relevant thing in my background is I was born into two teenage parents, young Māori parents, who had been displaced from their land, their language, and their culture. They were learning as they grew older that they had a political analysis about the injustice and what had happened through the colonization process. They helped me to have a sense of injustice very early on, and that’s been an ever-present factor in my whole life. They were very involved in the tino rangatiratanga movement and activism, they were very involved in the Māori urban 70s uprising where a lot of young Māori people were starting to speak out.

I did some pretty ordinary things, went to school, university, was a young mum. Through university I started to come into contact with different environmental, social justice, and tino rangitiratanga movements. Then I had a 10 year career at the Human Rights Commission, that was really influential, it really helped me analyse everything from a human rights angle. I grew somewhat of a profile long before I came into politics. That was how the Green Party came across me, particularly Metiria Turei. I noticed when we were at rallies and public events, we were saying the same things. It was a natural alignment to come into the Green Party; the party’s values and visions aligned with my own. Making sure people are looked after. Making sure the distribution of power is fair and just, and looking after our environment for the future to come. To be able to continue my life’s work is an incredible privilege.

L:  Just picking up on that topic of cultural displacement, justice and injustice: how do you take that grief and difficulty that came with colonisation of what Māori people have lost and translate that into a very uncaring political system?

M: That continues today. With any power analysis you have to understand class analysis as well. Daily, people are getting in contact with me about how much of a hard time they’re having just to try and get by. They’re trying their hardest to support themselves and their families. Maybe it’s people trying to raise a child with a disability, who can’t work, because they’re constantly having to attend to education problems…. That’s hard for me to hold, but it’s important for me to understand, because that’s what keeps driving me to pull the levers that will make change for everybody.

L: It’s so incredible having someone like you in Parliament representing people and you obviously genuinely care about these issues which can be exhausting at times…

M: Oh look I’m here because I have my own fortune and privilege, which is that I have a support network and a family network who support me to do this often horrendous job. But what I know is that there is so many people who need us to represent them. If I can do it, I should do it, and that’s what I try and remember every day.

L: How can you bring your connection with the community into Parliament when it’s something that’s abstracted from the community?

M: I’m heartened by some of our next crop of politicians that have come in, across the parliament lines actually, where they maintained these connections. The challenge is keeping these connections. This is a little bubble of an elitist way of living that almost no other ordinary New Zealander lives. I find it important to keep reaching into those communities who are on the front lines of the issues we’re trying to fix up, and if we are not connected to the very people who are right at the forefront of these issues which are Green Party priorities, then we are irrelevant, then we lose our sense of reality.

My priority is to go where politicians don’t normally go. That’s why I was the one through the election that’s standing outside the Work and Income offices in the lines for three hours with people just waiting to get a little bit of help, and did that consistently through the election. That’s why I am the person who will stand with the Tamaki Glen Innes community, when they are fighting against state housing sell offs and no other politicians will turn up.

L: There’s been whisperings currently that Greens are maybe becoming increasingly irrelevant in this government at the moment. What are you going to do to fight to stay relevant?

M: The first term for any smaller parties in any MMP government in their first term around the world, have faced the same risk of being invisible and being eaten up basically by the larger parties, and so we have a clear job to stay independent and unique in our voice. People need to understand that we are the most progressive political party in Parliament right now and without us people will not be able to continue to hold government to account, and also that we are effective in working with our coalition partners to achieve real change.

L: When you want to be a little bit tender to yourself, or do something nice for yourself,  are there certain shows, films, or music that you go to?

M: Totally. My dog, my children, my husband, my family are my sanctuary and I hold that very dearly and protectively. They are my space where I get to be grounded. Do the dishes, do the laundry, and take our dog for a walk in the bush is probably the top of my list of heaven. And those are just ordinary things, but those are things I don’t get to do often.

Because this job is all consuming it’s also important to keep things in perspective and not take yourself too seriously, and having a real good joke and cry, and understand that actually you are just as dispensable as every other human on this planet.

L: Cool thank you. Actually speaking of movies, have you seen Black Panther?

M: Actually that’s my next priority, we even tried to get there last weekend. Our next family outing is to Black Panther, I can’t wait.


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