Setting new standards for inclusivity and diversity for the whole world, New Zealand Prime Minister, Jacinda Arden, unveiled what she calls an ‘incredibly diverse’ cabinet. After being sworn in with a landslide victory for the second time, and forming the first single-party government since 1996, Ardern’s cabinet boasts the most diverse cabinet in New Zealand’s history.
Indigenous Maori makes up a quarter of its 20-strong members, eight posts being taken up by women, and the nomination of a gay deputy prime minister can be termed as some of the highlights of this rich cabinet that is breaking all stereotypes.
Even though the New Zeland Labour Party won enough seats in the October 17 elections to govern alone, the Prime Minister has granted the Green Party of Aotearoa New Zealand two ministerial posts to secure its co-operation in government. Thus, giving Ardern a direct parliamentary majority.
This diverse cabinet includes Nanaia Mahuta, who was the former minister for Maori development, as the Foreign Affairs Minister. Making her the first woman to hold this position in New Zealand. In 2016, she became the first member of the country’s Parliament with a ‘moko kauae’, the traditional female chin tattoo worn by Maori women. Grant Robertson, who has served as the Minister of Finance since 2017, is now the Deputy Prime Minister. This move makes him the first openly gay man to hold the role in the country. Adding to the mix is Ayesha Verrall, as the Minister for Food Safety. Verral is an infectious disease physician and researcher with expertise in tuberculosis and international health.
Along with Kiri Allan, the Minister of Conservation, Verrall and Allan holds the title of being the first openly queer ministers in the New Zealand Parliament. Extending the diversity discourse, the Prime Minister has appointed Priyanca Radhakrishnan as the Minister for Diversity, making her the first person of Indian origin to be appointed as a minister in New Zealand.
Talking about her highly diverse cabinet, the Prime Minister was quoted saying, “I think it’s an important point to make. These are individuals who have been promoted for what they bring to the cabinet. They also reflect the New Zealand that elected them. I think as a country we should be proud of this.” Ardern’s 2020 cabinet speaks for a strong political will that brings forth women, Maori, LGBTQ+ and other minority groups to the forefront of decision-making roles. Something that parliaments around the world lacks and should be introspected upon.
This diverse cabinet can be said to be the embodiment of a new version of New Zealand that has grown to embrace its diverse culture, community and people as they are, internally and externally. While New Zealand has taken the core values of representative democracy by reflecting on its larger population, it’s time for governments all over to look into their cabinets and contemplated what representation means to them.