My mum left school at 15 to help look after her baby twin sister and brother and then became a cleaner and KFC worker. Dad left school at 16 and worked at West-plains Abbatoir. Both left school with no qualifications. They now both work together at the freezing works.
Union and Labour values are in my DNA.
I experienced the struggles many families go through. As a working-class family we had little money, but my parents worked hard to give my brother, sisters and me opportunities. Thanks to the hard work of my parents, and my own determination to move from Invercargill, I was the first in my family to attend University. Education was my ticket out of Invercargill to the “big city” of Christchurch,
The lesson I took from my parents isn’t just that you should work hard and aim high – it’s that you should treat people with respect and help support others. And that those who do well have an obligation to help build ladders for the next generation of battlers to climb up, not pull the ladder up behind them.
But it was a teacher at Cargill High School who helped politicise me. Mrs Edwards was a loud Scottish woman who swore a lot! She encouraged me to join the school debate team and to think about my country and our world and the issues people face. I was further politicised when National Party Education Minister, Wyatt Creech, announced that they would close my school. I was in my sixth form year.
Students and teachers protested but failed to save our school from closure. The closure (my younger sister was at Surrey Park Primary, which was also closed at the same time) had a big impact on me and my family. It was the first time that I realised that a Government in Wellington could make decisions that directly impact me. And that Government can make stupid decisions.
My decision to stand for Labour in Christchurch Central was made after reflecting on my own life after the earthquake. I decided that I wanted to be part of the 20 year rebuild to ensure that we grasp the opportunity to create a better city and ensure that we always put people at the heart of that rebuild.