Sunrise Celebration — Suffrage Day, 19 September 2018

I was invited to speak at the above event with the following promo:
Join Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and MC Jennifer Ward-Lealand as we honour the fight for gender equality in Aotearoa. The morning’s Suffrage 125 celebrations will continue with renowned songstress Annie Crummer and New Zealand Poet Laureate Selina Tusitala Marsh performing live, along with other women leaders and musical guests.

Be a part of history at this special event that marks 125 years since New Zealand became the first country where women were able to vote in a general election. This event is hosted by the National Council of Women, Auckland Council and Auckland Live.

Buy your breakfast or a hot beverage from one of the visiting food trucks while you enjoy the entertainment. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is scheduled to speak just after 7am, so make sure you arrive with plenty of time to get a good spot.

Free admission.
I thought it 'appropo' to share the speech I gave to a crowded Aotea Square in Auckland. I titled it ‘Inappropriate Woman’:

My mother was an Inappropriate Woman

Today is her birthday.

Sailigi Tusitala was born in 1944 on 19 September, in Samoa. Her name, Sailigi, is the Samoan transliteration for siren. On the night of her birth, a year before World War 2 ended, the sirens rang out in Apia. And my mother, who had the loudest voice in the village, certainly lived up to her name.
I am wearing one of the dancing tops she wore in the late 1970s. Mum:
  • danced her way through New Zealand’s economic boom when the immigration floodgates opened its arms wide to the Pacific
  • danced her way through the economic downturn in the late 1970s when our house was Dawn Raided
  • danced her way through sexism and racism, ageism and classism
  • danced on Avondale RSA tabletops and, in turn, taught me how to be an Inappropriate Woman.
I define ‘inappropriate’ here as being ‘not proper or not suitable for the occasion’.

Kate Sheppard was an Inappropriate Woman.

You, Jacinda, are an Inappropriate Woman.

Because when one is ‘not proper or suitable for the occasion’ one changes the occasion, forever.

And we, as a nation, were hanging out for change, as the awarding of me as your NZ Poet Laureate attests. As the voting in of a Prime Minister who gave birth while holding office, attests. I wrote this poem to mark the occasion:

Jacinda and Clarke and the Baby and Us: A Rondeau

The baby’s here, the baby’s here!
Aotearoa, New Zealand, what a year!
Jacinda, our partnered and pregnant world first
Has, this 125 Suffrage year, given birth
To a wee girl so dear

Women are extending the frontier
In Census 2018 let’s be clear
And count the ways women in the stats have reversed
The baby’s here, the baby’s here!

Patsy, our Governor General is near
Sian’s our Chief Justice, Lianne’s Christchurch Mayor
Jenny and Carmel for Labour (but Winnie came first)
Marama co-leading Greens, another burst
But the real labour has happened, let’s be clear:
The baby’s here, the baby’s here!

In this year of new beginnings and anniversaries, my fellow Inappropriate Women, we still need to Lead.


You’re leaders in the making
You’re making history
You’re redefining this nation’s

Gender equity
It’s trailblazing from all over the country
It’s Kate Sheppard and Xena in the city

And now
In tautua, service, lead our community
Lead through uniqueness, your diversity

Lead through leaning, lead through learning
Lead through others, lead by earning
...............................................................Your own way in this world.

Lead in alofa, lead in compassion
Lead in fun, lead in your own fashion

Lead by falling forward when you make a mistake
Lead by giving more than what you take

Lead when your strategy is a forward-thinking story
Lead when the task in front of you holds no glory

Let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes’, let your ‘No’ be ‘No’
Lead and follow in the footsteps of all your heroes

Lead by creating out of happy accidents
Lead by taking risks when there’s no precedent

Lead by following the cup of tea trail
Sit, listen, eat, and they’ll follow without fail

Lead by digging up diamonds in those around you
Lead when you scale the heights, then plummet to ground zero

Lead with transparency, lead with laughter
Lead in celebration, lead in disaster

Lead with your strengths, lead in honesty
Lead when you see between the lines of policy
...............................................................And into the people’s eyes.

Lead, even in the times you just want to follow,
Lead for today, lead for tomorrow

Lead and when you want to end all injustice
Lead in the crowd, lead when it’s just us

Lead when you want to revolutionise
When you no longer want to be hypnotised

By what everybody else says is right
Lead when you have your vision in sight

Lead from the front, lead from behind
Lead from the middle, wherever you find
...............................................................Your standing place.

In the workplace, in the home
Lead when everyone’s watching, and when you’re alone

Lead with an eye on your dream, an eye on the rest
Lead when you can look at yourself and assess
Your weaknesses and strengths with clarity
Remembering humility and charity

Lead when you’re brave enough to ask different questions
And when the answers aren’t good enough, to raise objections

Lead and give yourself permission to fail
Lead and take the less-often-walked trail

Lead and never forget to be kind
Lead with the heart bound up with the mind

Lead with a child’s curiosity
Lead with the end goal of unity

Lead with national excellence and innovation
Lead through intimate conversation

Lead with courage and determination
Even in the face of discrimination — Lead.

Lead with balance, a sense of fair play
Lead to help others lead in this way

Lead through connecting, lead through informing
Lead through changing, lead by transforming
your own patch of earth in this world

And now,


Pics and coverage

Selina with Annie Crummer
With Annie Crummer

Selina with Jennifer Ward-Lealand
With Jennifer Ward-Lealand

'Within the ordinary stands the extraordinary': 125 years of women's suffrage

The Friday Poem: ‘Jacinda and Clarke and the Baby and Us’ by the NZ Poet Laureate

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