Wellington New Zealand
December 5, 2012
I made a connection with Louisa Wall through the Loyola University Center for Research and Learning. The Director there, Phil Nyden, remembered her for her perspectives on community development. While she continues to have a strong community development focus in her role as an elected official, MP Wall is also is playing a lead role in passing marriage equality for New Zealand.
Her perspective is impressive for its breadth of engagement with community leaders. Early on in our conversation she explained how the traditional center of a Maori community is the Marae and that on the Marae there is a role for everyone – no matter who they are or what their skill set is. There is a role for everyone. This really resonated with me in regards to leadership development and its impact on community health. *
Louisa Wall draws on her experience growing up within the Maori community of Manurewa, her base, and her political astuteness to be an effective progressive leader within the current minority party of New Zealand Parliament. She is also a strong advocate for youth leadership and this bit begins with a story about the local high school in her district.
Louisa Wall comes from a long tradition of leaders and has a calm and clear presence that I imagine is effective for her constituents, marriage equality, and other fights for justice in New Zealand. She is a member of the Labour Party and you can find out more information here: http://www.labour.org.nz/louisawall. Also, here is an OpEd she recently wrote for the New Zealand Herald regarding adoption and gay marriage. Check it out –> http://www.nzherald.co.nz/opinion/news/article.cfm?c_id=466&objectid=10872764
*Coming from the United States both Laura and I were amazed by the powerful presence the Maori Community has in New Zealand society. It is not rare to have a Maori elected official in New Zealand. In fact there is even a Maori Political Party that elects their own leaders to Parliament. The Maori are one of the most powerful indigenous groups in the world. They are regularly winning significant concessions from the New Zealand government and maintain a central role in New Zealand identity. This of course has much to do with historical context, as well as the unwillingness/inability of the New Zealand government to massacre indigenous populations as has happened in Australia, the Americas, and other parts of the world. The strength of the Maori Community can also be related back to their ability to maintain traditional community practices that involve leadership development and their adaptation these practices to modern realities. The idea mentioned above about making sure that everyone has a role to fill is an example of this. We visited the Marae in Tourere and witnessed this and other customs that I imagine would be instructive to many people outside of the community as well. In the United States so many people are denied a meaningful role or any kind, whether it be dignity on the job, singing in a local choir, or even washing dishes at a community event. Our communities suffer from this loss and the powerlessness that accompanies it. Even though Louisa Wall does not identify as a community organizer, I hear in her story a call to build transformative organizations that engage all levels of community in clearly defining problems impacting us and the solutions needed to fix them.