New Green MP Golriz Ghahraman has given an emotional tribute to her parents and the sacrifices they made for her to become a human rights lawyer, and now an Member of Parliament.

"You gave up everything when you stood up for freedom. You gave up everything - your friends, your family, your professions, your language - because you weren't willing to raise a little girl in oppression," she said in her a maiden speech this evening.

Ghahraman, New Zealand's Parliament's first refugee MP, said she wanted to give a voice to minorities, and "every person who's ever felt excluded, out of place, been told she has limits on her dreams".

She grew up in Iran amid tanks, torture, and phone-taps.


"I remember the bombs, the sirens, running to the basement. Waiting. Mostly I remember the kids, my age, who stopped speaking because of shell shock."

Her parents fled to Auckland and her first memories of New Zealand, as a 9-year-old, were of a warm welcome and an abundantly green country.

She eventually became a human rights lawyer and worked in Rwanda and Cambodia, holding genocidal regimes to account and fighting prejudice.

"It was living in Africa working on genocide trials where I then learned how prejudice turns to atrocity. Politicians scapegoating groups, as a group, for any social ills, dehumanising language in the media, used for political gain. Every time I see that I think, 'that is how it starts'.

"Human rights are universal - we don't have fewer rights based on our religion, where we were born, or who we love. There is no such thing as 'the deserving poor', or the good refugee - we have rights not because [we are] good. But because we are human."

Earlier fellow Green MP Chloe Swarbrick, Parliament's youngest MP at 23, said politics needed a facelift so people wanted to engage in decisions that informed "who is rich and who is poor ... who has a future and who does not".

"It's hard to engage in a system that doesn't look or sound like you, that talks down to you, disparages your participation, and you can't change."

She referenced the anxiety and depression of her teenage years, saying she broke down during a campaign debate on youth suicide.

"As I cried, I couldn't help but realise that this mental health epidemic rippling through our communities was the logical end point of austerity; the consequence of decades of economic and social reform that have shredded communities, safety nets, care."

She said there needed to be more kindness in politics, and less theatre.

"We're supposed to be poised to jump at each other's jugular at the faintest sign of weakness. But things like kindness, as I'm so glad our new Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has put on the agenda, is not weakness. It's human."

Rongotai Labour MP Paul Eagle, who also gave his maiden speech this evening, struggled to compose himself as he spoke of the emotional reunion with his birth-mother, decades after she was forced to give him up for adoption.

"My birth mother told me of her sadness, how she missed me and worried about how I was doing. At shopping malls, she would look at each little Maori boy and wonder if it was me.

"But over 45 years later, it's still nice to know that she wanted me and would've kept me if she could."