Representing Pacific communities
Posted on 05:09, January 8th, 2009 by Anita
I recently read an article by Anae Arthur Anae, National’s first Pacific Island MP. While it was written about 8 years ago, many of his points strike a chord when thinking about political representation of ethnic communities now.
Anae tried to represent every Pacific Islander, whether they voted National or not, whether they were Samoan or not, even if they only thing they shared with him was Pacific heritage. At the same time he represented every National voter, everyone who shared his moral views, not to mention everyone in his neighbourhood.
We ask so much of our MPs, we ask them to represent every single one of us, to empathise with us, to understand us, to know where we come from, to be like us.
We also ask a lot of our ethnic communities, we ask them to speak with a single voice, have a homogenous world view, and choose a single representative. The Pakeha community is not homogenous, we are full of dissent, disagreement and diversity. We are represented by many people with differing views and voting histories. Why should we expect the PI community to be any different?
Perhaps the answer is that we are all multi-faceted and we are each represented by a number of different MPs, as a Karori-ite I have Grant Robertson, but as a disabled person a different MP represents my voice better, as a woman maybe some different people again, as a Pakeha there are a whole bunch of people like me in Parliament, and so on.
Maybe that is how we need to see the PI electorate: multi-faceted individuals, families and communities represented by a wide range of MPs.
And Pacific MPs? They represent one facet of a number of PI voters, they represent another facet from a different (and probably overlapping) group, and so on. They don’t speak for all Pacific people all of the time, sometimes they speak for another group, sometimes they speak for themselves. By the same token, Pakeha MPs carry the responsibility of representing some of the aspirations or challenges of Pacific people.
I will leave the final words to Anae
Taken from Tangata o te Moana Nui: The evolving identities of Pacific Peoples in Aotearoa/New Zealand