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Why having a diverse and inclusive Parliament matters

With New Zealand electing our most inclusive and diverse parliament yet, we spoke with 26-year-old Rainbow MP Chlöe Swarbrick on why diversity in representation matters, as well as how to look after yourself in busy times...

Chlöe says her belief in seeing yourself represented is one of the key reasons she got herself into Parliament.

“I couldn’t see myself, my friends, my family, my classmates, my co-workers in politics. It felt foreign, not representative.

“Recognising diversity in all our communities is incredibly important, so being able to put action into mobility, and the ability to see one’s self – that’s meaningful representation – and I’m really keen to do more in this space.”

Alice Anderson, the executive director of Qtopia agrees.

“The significance is about visibility and representation so that the community feels like those representing us have a depth of understanding of who we are, lived experience for what we face and compassion for our struggles," says Alice.

“We are trying to build a better future for everybody - a future which is inclusive, diverse, caring and kind. This most historic Parliament is representative of the future we want to live in."

Chlöe says inspiring young people is the best way to keep increasing diversity in politics.

“It’s about inspiration - but not being inspired to put people on a platform. Inspiration is somewhat of a mirror... the opportunity to see what you admire about yourself. It’s your invitation to get involved in something bigger."

Keeping your wellbeing up in busy times

Between the cannabis referendum, the hotly-contested Auckland Central electorate race and all the politicking in between, Swarbrick’s had a particularly stressful last few years - so what’s got her through?

“I’ve got an incredibly supportive family and great friends to talk to. But it’s also the little things like exercising frequently and focusing on rest - AND SLEEP - too. I’m also finding the older I get my diet is becoming increasingly important.”

While her calendar is completely chocka, she works hard to find chunks of time to explicitly dedicate to friends and whānau.

“I’ve recently discovered that having free time doesn’t mean it’s time to fill up. A lot of my spare time is filled with things I wouldn’t otherwise have the time to do. Energy isn’t boundless. Spending time on yourself is really important too.”

“As politicians, in order to perform for the people we represent – and to do any form of job really – we have to realise we’re not going to be productive if we’re exhausted.”

One of Chlöe’s quirks is burning through notebooks quickly. She adopted journaling, or at least writing thoughts down, in a moleskine in her early days at Law School.

“I plot out the things I have to do, jot down ideas as they come to fruition, strategies or anything that is otherwise clogging up my brain.”

Chloe’s quick to note – wellbeing is not something that can be bought.

“We can’t keep piling things like work, relationships and being part of our community on top of each other and go and buy your wellbeing. Instead it’s living life in equilibrium.”

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