Goodbye. Hello.

So, John Key has reorganised his cabinet and we have a new Minister of Education.

I thought that Anne Tolley was a terrible Minister of Education, and I am glad that she has been given new responsibilities.

The Minister for Education is Hekia Parata.  My wife grew up in the Mana electorate and some of her family still live there, so I was quite aware of the by-election that saw Kris Fafoi defeat Parata.  Frankly, I thought Parata looked the better candidate, but she was always going to be up against it convincing Mana to go blue.  The fact that she was beaten by only 1,000 votes (2,000 in the election just gone) suggests she convinced a lot of people in the electorate too.

I have been reading the Parata story, and it is a good one.  Her official page on the National Party website is well-written and interesting.

I grew up in the small, economically challenged, culturally rich and politically dynamic community of Ruatoria – 120kms north of Gisborne on the East Coast of New Zealand. 

My own education started with my parents as first teachers long before it became a recognised policy; early participation in Playcentre; on to Manutahi Maori Primary School; Ngata Memorial College (all Ruatoria based – and all excellent educational experiences; being Maori and rural did not condemn you to a second rate education); Gisborne Girls High School (loved the challenging all-girl, large roll, provincial town experience); University of Waikato finishing with an MA in Maori and NZ History (and the opportunities to lead the Maori university students association, the Waikato Students Union, and participate in protest activity, most affecting, opposing the Springbok Tour); two short executive level courses first at the Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University (having won the NZ Public Service Scholarship and finding that NZ was well ahead in its approach to public sector management); then Templeton College, Oxford University (where I had the amazing experiences of conducting a choir in one of the centuries old college chapels, applying Shakespeare’s Henry V to modern strategic leadership; and studying the Art of Conversation).

Jolly good.  A very aspirational story.  In fact, a fantastic story that can make you proud to be a New Zealander.

The Gisborne Herald has some nice touches in its editorial:

Hekia Parata grew up in Ruatoria, one of eight children to her mother Hiria Te Kiekie Reedy.

She went to the local play centre, Manutahi Primary School and Ngata Memorial College. Her parents were very keen on community participation and sporting, cultural and recreational activity, so the Parata clan belonged to every club going in the East Coast township.

They moved to the city and she joined Gisborne Girls’ High in the 6th Form, or Year 12. They did not have a car, walking everywhere like they had in Ruatoria.

But this is the line I like best,

She will continue the direction set under Mrs Tolley, focused on raising achievement. The tone will be different, though, and hopefully that will be reciprocated.

Ah yes, the tone.  Tolley’s great folly was to treat a bunch of sincere, highly-educated people like they were not-to-be-trusted incompetents.

All the best Hekia.  Let’s raise the tone.

2 thoughts on “Goodbye. Hello.”

  1. Yes, I agree she is potentially a lot better than Tolley (no one greater threatened my commitment to non-violence than that woman). I believe Hekia’s sister is the principal of Tolaga Bay Area School, and I will concur with anyone who openly admits GGHS was ‘challenging’. However:

    I was once at a live recording of Backbenchers that she was on, and I was shocked at some to the stuff she said. I don’t remember exactly what it was, but she seemed quite ignorant, or at least very eager to spout the party taglines.

    Also, hmm, it’s the East Coast. In all my worldly travels I have never come across a place as racist as the one I came from. Well, no, racist doesn’t go far enough. What family you come from still seems to have some weight in Gisborne (using my mother’s maiden name will get a different reaction than using my surname when talking to different people around town- but that’s a whole other epic). I have heard (and I am just a Pakeha with no real knowledge of this) that Ngati Porou is a very hierarchical iwi, and your opportunities in life are very greatly influenced by what family you are born into, apparently. It’s complex so I am told, but I think Hekia’s lot come out at the top- which may affect her perspective- but I could be wrong on this.

    (sorry for the long comment)

  2. I thought you’d have a view on this. Being from the area. Let’s see how it pans out. Presumably badly, but maybe she will at least be able to articulate something. I’m not overly fussed by her story because stories can be used quite freely for any purpose. We used to hear all the time about Key’s upbringing. Strangely this story about the wonders of socialism is a parable to the right about how a kid from the sticks became a financial “genius”.

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