A teen was reduced to tears after her speech about a friend's suicide during a Youth Parliament debate was interrupted by senior National MP Anne Tolley.
Lily Dorrance, 17, was talking about mental health and describing her loss in Parliament's debating chamber yesterdaywhen Tolley, presiding as chair, rebuked her for reading from notes.
"It was such a sensitive topic and it came from my heart," Dorrance told the Herald last night. "And she was trying to tell me because I was reading it it wasn't coming from my heart.
"When she interrupted me it was awful … As soon as I sat down I burst into tears and had to leave … It was just humiliating."
The capital has this week hosted the Youth Parliament, which every three years brings together teenagers from around the country to try their hand at being MPs, including by speaking in the House, in front of cameras.
Dorrance, who was filling the spot of list MP David Carter, left high school two weeks ago to start a midwifery course and says while she doesn't want to be a politician, she wanted a chance to speak about mental health issues.
"I wanted to make people aware of youth suicide, which I was trying to do, but then the Speaker [Tolley] said it wasn't coming from my heart. It just felt like I wasn't doing anything right. Like I wasn't good enough," she said.
"It's a big thing for us to do and it's hard to be shut down like that. It was so rude. That could put someone off public speaking forever now … It's given me anxiety about it now.
"I thought I would be heard, not bullied."
Dorrance later returned to the closing ceremony after getting support from organisers.
Tolley had tried to apologise afterwards, she said.
Other students had earlier debated with Tolley about "reading", after being given similar warnings, despite earlier being told to bring written notes.
Another of the youth MPs, Ethan Griffiths, tweeted his reaction.
The behaviour of Anne Tolley in the house right now is utterly disgusting. Interruption a young girl talking about her friends suicide while reading from a speech, demanding her to talk without notes. Shutting down points of orders, and ignoring the concerns of YMPs. Awful.— Ethan Griffiths (@ethangriffy) July 17, 2019
"The behaviour of Anne Tolley in the House right now is utterly disgusting. [Interrupting] a young girl talking about her friend's suicide while reading from a speech, demanding her to talk without notes. Shutting down points of order, and ignoring the concerns of YMPs. Awful."
Fellow youth MPs came to Dorrance's defence, saying they were horrified.
Two teens in attendance told the Herald others had also been distraught by Tolley's interjections.
"We couldn't believe it. Most of her time was wasted with points of order," they said.
In a statement, Tolley said she felt "terrible".
"I'm so sorry if I upset anyone and certainly apologised to a couple of people," she said.
"I was trying to get them to speak 'from' their notes rather than just 'read' them in the general debate which, as you know, is a robust debate in Parliament.
"I feel terrible that it upset a couple, but we heard many outstanding and passionate speeches and I certainly admire them all for that."
An organiser from the Ministry of Youth Development declined to comment. Tolley, the member for the East Coast electorate, has been an MP since 1999, when she entered Parliament as a list MP. In 2005, she won the East Coast seat. She has served as Education Minister, and Police Minister and Corrections Minister, before becoming the Minister for Social Development in 2014. In 2016 she was also appointed Minister for Children and Local Government Minister.
In her roles as Social Development and Children's Minister, Tolley oversaw the overhaul of the Child, Youth and Family to Oranga Tamariki.
She is currently Parliament's Deputy Speaker.
Tolley has three adult children with husband Allan, and four grandchildren.
Where to get help:
• Lifeline: 0800 543 354 (available 24/7)
• Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO) (available 24/7)
• Youthline: 0800 376 633
• Kidsline: 0800 543 754 (available 24/7)
• Whatsup: 0800 942 8787 (Mon-Fri 1pm to 10pm. Sat-Sun 3pm-10pm)
• Depression helpline: 0800 111 757 (available 24/7)
• Rainbow Youth: (09) 376 4155
• Samaritans 0800 726 666
• If it is an emergency and you feel like you or someone else is at risk, call 111.