Election Candidate Profile: Dr Elizabeth Kerekere
Ikaroa Rawhiti Electorate
As the Green Party candidate for Ikaroa-Rawhiti Dr Elizabeth Kerekere is vowing to fight for issues that matter to Maori, just as she has throughout her entire career as an activist.
An activist at just 15 years old, Dr Kerekere was born in Gisborne and grew up in Dunedin where she looked after her siblings as the eldest of four.
"I was involved in protest marches and writing strongly worded letters to MPs but I was also junior member of the Maori Women's Welfare League.
"So from a very young age I had a well rounded view of different ways you create change and make things happen in the community."
While training to be a teacher at the University of Otago, she said she always found herself in committees and boards representing the communities she was a part of.
"That's been the trend my entire life. Everything I get involved in I end up in regional and then national positions. So as I've gotten older that representation has gone international as well."
Best known for her advocacy for takatapui (Maori LGBTIQ), youth development and Maori relations, Dr Kerekere said she was proud to stand for the Greens and wanted to serve as a vessel through which the community's voice could be heard.
"What I'll bring to the Greens is someone who has been working inside Maori communities for 35 years.
"I bring lots of great networks, organisational strategic planning skills and also a deep commitment for fighting for our people and fighting for issues at whatever level I'm involved in."
As founder and chairwoman of Tiwhanawhana Trust (takatapui well-being), she also sits on the board of the Lesbian and Gay Archives of New Zealand, the Intersex Roundtable Working Group and is co-chairwoman of youth development organisation Ara Taiohi.
A driving force for her campaign was a desire to sit at the table where decisions were made and to be qualified to make those decisions.
The goal was to ensure the voices of Ikaroa-Rawhiti were heard, she said.
"I'm still learning all of the issues across the electorate but those core things of going out, talking to people, listening to what they say and making sure their voices get heard [are important]."
She recently completed a PhD in takatapui health and wellbeing at Victoria University in Wellington despite not having a masters degree.
"The university acknowledged my expertise in the topic. Normally you need a masters before you can go into a PhD but they waived that for me based on my experience."
Currently living in Gisborne, Dr Kerekere is affiliated with Ngati Oneone, Te Aitanga a Mahaki, Te Whanau a Kai, Rongowhakaata and Ngai Tamanuhiri.
The Green Party candidate said she was unable to have children but had 31 nieces and nephews between her and her partner that she considered her own.
"I think because I couldn't have children I'm more drawn to mentoring young people so I can be an aunty to lots of people. It means that I'm always looking out for young people."
After advocating for change her entire life, she said her work would continue regardless of the outcome on September 23.
"That fire that sits in me never goes out. It's there, it's always driving me to do more and to get better at what I do."