Why New Zealand’s New Parliament is Making International Headlines

Why New Zealand’s New Parliament is Making International Headlines
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Right now you might be looking for some progressive content, so look no further than New Zealand. In a year that has been full of historic elections, New Zealand’s was one of the easiest to call. The Labor party swept the polls, electing Jacinda Ardern for her second term as Prime Minister. Now, she has rewarded the nation by presenting one of New Zealand’s most diverse parliaments ever.

The new Deputy Prime Minister, Grant Robertson, is the first openly gay man to hold the position. And Nanaia Mahuta is the first Indigenous woman to take on the role of Foreign Affairs Minister. But there’s much more to her than that.

Who is Nanaia Mahuta?

Before she was appointed as the first female Indigenous Foreign Affairs Minister, Mahuta was also the first woman to wear a moko kauae in New Zealand parliament. The moko kauae is a traditional female Maori chin tattoo. They are normally bestowed on high ranking Maori women as a reflection of their stand and power in the community.

Back in 2016, Mahuta told The Guardian: “Moko is a statement of identity, like a passport. I am at a time in my life where I am ready to make a clear statement that this is who I am, and this is my position in New Zealand.”

Now, Mahuta will continue to break ground as the first female Foreign Affairs Minister. She was first elected into parliament over 20 years ago in 1996. She’s held a number of portfolios including local government and Maori development. Much respect.

Radio New Zealand reported that Mahuta hopes she can do her new job differently to her predecessors. “I think I can do [the job] in a different way. I think that we have the capacity now as a small nation to drive out different types of solutions – much of that is invested in our indigenous perspective and how we have been able to do things different domestically and take that out into the international forum.”

New Zealand’s New Cabinet

Mahuta is part of one of the most diverse cabinets New Zealand has ever seen. And if that’s New Zealand, we should all take a good hard look at ourselves.

Ardern’s new cabinet is 20 people-strong and includes five Maori members, three with Pacific Island heritage, three openly LGBTIQ+, and eight women. Following the announcement, Arden said: “I am excited by this team. They bring experience from the ground, and from within politics. But they also represent renewal and reflect the New Zealand we live in today.”

In comparison, Australia only has six Indigenous members at a federal level and nine who identify as LGBTIQ+, out of 227 seats. We can dream.

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