New Zealand Prime Minister Appoints First Female Indigenous Foreign Affairs Minister

woman wearing girls rule socks

Newly re-elected New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has named an indigenous woman as Minister of Foreign Affairs, a first in the country’s history. Nanaia Mahuta, of the Maori indigenous people of New Zealand, is now a top official in Ardern’s diverse cabinet and will be sworn in today.

She is one of five Maori to serve in this cabinet and is one of the eight ministers who are women. Mahuta has served in Parliament since being elected in 1996, representing her people and local government. The Maori make up about 16% of New Zealand’s population. Mahuta told Radio New Zealand she’s privileged to lead the conversation in the foreign space. She also spoke with New Zealand news channel TVNZ1 and said she hopes, “many other women of Maori descent will see this as lifting the ceiling once again on areas that have been very much closed to us in terms of professional opportunities.”

Mahuta is also the first woman to wear the traditional Maori chin tattoo while serving in Parliament, known as moko kauae. “Moko is a statement of identity, like a passport, “ she told the Guardian back in 2016 when she started wearing the tattoo. “I am at a time in my life where I am ready to make a clear statement that this is who I am, and this is my position in New Zealand.” 

On appointing Mahuta to the position, Ardern stated, “She is someone who builds fantastic relationships very, very quickly, and that is one of the key jobs in a foreign affairs role. You only need to look at the difficult work that she has had to conduct over, for instance, her local government portfolio, and that to me demonstrates those diplomacy skills that we need to represent New Zealand on the world stage.”

Ardern’s cabinet is at its most diverse, with ministers of African and Sri Lankan origin, along with three members of the LGBT community and three members who are of Pacific Islander heritage. The cabinet also includes its first openly gay Finance Minister, Grant Robertson.

The Realist Woman’s take:

The Maori people now have the world’s attention all thanks to the appointment of Nanaia Mahuta. Prime Minister Ardern is a woman of action and works to be a leader that represents all New Zealanders. Her cabinet has young and older members, men and women of diverse cultures and backgrounds. The very people who are indigenous to the country now have a seat at the table. It’s a wonderful thing to see that she doesn’t just talk about these things but she means them by doing what she says she’s going to do. 

Our world works better when we come together and it’s refreshing to see New Zealand leading in a way many other countries aren’t.