I vividly remember the mushroom cloud blossoming across the TV screen. I was 11 years old, and so terrified that I literally watched the documentary from behind the couch. For days after I was haunted by those images, and desperate to do something.
As a child of the 70s, I had heard about political action, but as a member of Ms Taylor's form 1 class in Whangārei Intermediate, I hadn't a clue how to organise any. But then Dad mentioned petitions and Mr Boswell, the principal, liked the idea.
Before I knew it, a couple of classmates and I spent a giddy few weeks touring the other intermediate schools of Whangārei, earnestly seeking signatures supporting a nuclear-free New Zealand.
The results went into a cardboard box and down to Wellington, and – apart from the fact that shortly after, hey presto!, the Lange government banned nuclear ships – that was the end of my attempt to influence world events.
It wasn't that I'd stopped caring. I'd just exhausted my small store of knowledge about how to make my voice heard. And so, for 36 years, I turned my attention to other things.
That memory is why, as an MP, one thing I am passionate about is making sure the next generation don't have to wait as long as I did before they get their voices heard.
And so I've been retracing my 11-year-old self's steps into classrooms all over our district, not to talk politics – although it turns out year 7s can ask some pretty searching political questions – but to talk about government and how to use it: What is Parliament? What's an MP? Why is voting important? If I want something changed, how do I do it?
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I've talked Zoom submissions with kids in Parua Bay and Waiotira, fireworks petitions with home schoolers and, back at Whangārei Intermediate, I ran a speech-making workshop – in the school where I made my first speech. Last year, I even got to debate policy with the preschool Geckos Party (average age: 3).
Twice a term, I've also started a youth forum where senior students of all political persuasions come together not to talk politics (although they do - loudly) but about the tools of politics: bills, acts, first readings and select committees, making submissions and, yes, again, petitions.
At every meeting, someone who has made real change happen talks about how they did it, such as Northland MP Willow-Jean Prime describing how she took her concern about girls missing school over period poverty in the Far North and turned it into free period products in every school in New Zealand.
My aim is to engage young people with government, to help get the tools for action into the hands of those who – like me all those years ago – wonder how to get their voices heard.
What I didn't anticipate, however, is how uplifting it would be for me. For example, the senior students who, with the help of their principal, set out to tackle intolerance in their school culture, putting themselves on the line to make a better future for the kids who come next.
The young people I meet – of all political stripes, left, right and centre - are thoughtful, caring and passionate. We will all benefit if they can take that thoughtfulness, passion and care forward into political life.
• Emily Henderson is the electorate MP for Whangārei. She can be contacted at Emily.HendersonMP@parliament.govt.nz