I only really met Grant Robertson a few years ago, in the build-up to his inevitable entry to Parliament. Aaron and I spent a couple of hours over a few weeks volunteering for Grant’s campaign for Central Wellington. We didn’t do much, just delivered a few pamphlets here-and-there, manned the office one afternoon per week, and took part in a few placard swings.
Grant won the seat, of course, and is now nearing the end of his first term in Parliament.
Aaron and I began visiting Grant’s office office at Parliament weekly to chat about issues and current affairs, plus some more flippant junk, for our radio show.
Grant is a professional, articulate, humble man who has a lot of talent, as evidenced today in his promotions under Labour’s reshuffle, with a Dominion Post headline summing up the situation: ‘Robertson big winner in Labour reshuffle’.
In just his first term, Grant has impressed the Party greatly, taking on the Health portfolio ahead of other, veteran MPs.
He’s managed to somehow become an out-gay MP who isn’t referred to as such on every occasion that he is mentioned in the media, which is a huge step forward for GLBT people in New Zealand. It looks as though Chris Carter’s over-use of the ‘gay card’ hasn’t left a bitter taste in the mouth of our media.
Grant is definitely one of my top gay role models in New Zealand, and he is going to do great things in his life. Just watch.
Andy: Tell us about yourself.
Grant: I am Grant Robertson, a 39-year-old male, living in Wellington with my partner of 12 years. I grew up mainly in Dunedin, but moved to Wellington 16 years ago, and apart from a couple of years overseas have lived here ever since.
What do you do now?
I am the MP for Wellington Central
What is your history in the GLBT community (please don’t be shy/modest)?
I am currently the Chair of the Labour Party Rainbow Caucus, and have served as a member of the Rainbow Sector Council of the Party for the last five or so years. I have been a Board member of the New Zealand Aids Foundation, as well as volunteering for the Foundation for many years. I established UNIQ when I was the Co-President of the New Zealand University Students Association in 1996. It’s great to see it still going all these years later.
How important are GLBT role-models for young, queer people who are coming out and/or new to the GLBT world?
Incredibly important. We all need someone to look to for guidance. In my maiden speech to Parliament as an MP I paid particular tribute to Chris Carter and Maryan Street for their trail blazing in the world of politics. It’s the same at a personal level. Having someone who has made a success of their life and dealt with all the issues that come up for GLBT people is essential.
Are visible, successful role-models utilised enough in the well-being of our community?
I guess for some people it might be quite hard to know about successful GLBT people, or how to get to talk to them. Especially if they live in the provinces. There is definitely scope for more to be done.
Do we look up to our role-models enough?
For people who have role models I am sure they do. Sometimes our community can fall victim to the ‘tall poppy” syndrome and we should support people as they have successes in life.
Are there any GLBT role-models in the media (NZ, internationally, movies/media, etc) that you think are valuable? Who are they? And why?
I think any GLBT person living a fulfilling, happy life is a role model. There are still loads of barriers to doing that, so making a success of your life is an achievement worth celebrating.
Who do you look up to?
In the political world both Helen Clark and Marian Hobbs were great political role models. In a gay sense I have great admiration for couples who have stuck together, especially those who came out pre law reform. Des and John here in Wellington, and Malcolm and Euan down in Dunedin stand out for me. And there is my Mum, who I admire for lots of reasons.
That’s the end of my gay role models series — I hope you’ve all enjoyed it. Role models are a really important part of life, in my opinion, and I hope you all take the opportunity to get to know yours better (in real life or by researching).
Thanks to all of my gay role models who took part — you’re all awesome!
- Gay role models
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- Farewell Chris Carter MP
- NZ Gay MPs condemn Malawi
- Gay role models: David Hindley