‘Bring people together to solve the challenges, protecting and creating jobs, and supporting businesses’

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We met Shirin Brown a few months ago where she talked about the importance of diversity. Here she talks about being selected to stand in Tāmaki as a Labour candidate.

Where is the Tāmaki electorate?
Tāmaki includes the suburbs of Orakei, St Heliers, Mission Bay, Kohimarama, Glendowie, Glen Innes, St Johns, Stonefields and parts of Elleslie. There is a significant migrant population in Tāmaki: it’s predominantly New Zealand European and is the home of Ngati Whatua Orakei. In addition, 33% are foreign born, most coming from the UK and Ireland, Northern Asia and the Pacific. A number of people are working as professionals or in government roles, and education is a high priority. At the same time, there are lots of small businesses. With its close proximity to Auckland Central, it’s a highly desirable location and it is also gentrifying quickly which also poses specific challenges.

How does it feel to represent an electorate as diverse as Tāmaki and more importantly, to team up with the world’s most famous Prime Minister?
As a migrant myself who has made New Zealand my home, it’s really exciting to be able to represent the diversity of this electorate. It’s an honour to be working with Jacinda Ardern as our Prime Minister, as I feel she is a very strong leader, really brings our communities together, and also works to address key issues we face around health, housing, education and the economy. The country dodged a bullet because our government acted quickly and decisively. COVID-19 has highlighted how important it is to have collaborative, evidence-based leadership and I like the way the Prime Minister listens to advisors, works with other parts of the coalition and engages with community.

What skills and experience do you offer?
With six years elected to local government, and a background in teacher development and community advocacy, I think I’m good at bringing people together and work effectively with communities, NGOs and  government departments to get great outcomes for people living locally and for the environment.

Did COVID-19 have any particular implications for migrants?
COVID-19 has been particularly difficult for migrants. I’m well aware of family and friends in other countries, who had family members who died and could not attend the funeral. At the same time, people have been trapped overseas or have struggled to get back into New Zealand. And of course, there are language barriers which can make it difficult to access
resources. Racism has also seen an increase in some sectors. When people become fearful about something, they tend to stick to their own communities.

What are your plans for promoting inclusivity in a post-COVID-19 society?
I think Jacinda Ardern has worked really hard to say we are all in this together and I’d like to build on that message. It is really important that as we go into the future we take all our communities with us. I’m passionate about bringing people together to solve the challenges we face, especially the immediate issues of protecting and creating jobs and supporting businesses. I also think we need to building resilient communities which are able to adapt to changes brought on by climate change, changes in use of technology or the gig economy – all of which are potential threats. We also need to look for ways to enjoy each others company and value our strengths. Some people may be feeling distressed and isolated. Building connections in local communities, and encouraging people to connect with
each other through the things we love, like food and nature, is really important. This will also make us more resilient as we get to know our neighbours, or start discovering our own backyard and connecting locally.

If anyone would like to find out more about Brown, discuss policy, or help with the campaign, connect with her through Facebook on the Shirin Brown Labour campaign page or through the website https://labourtamaki.org.nz

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