Q: Whose career inspires you – and why?
A: In early April, we bid farewell to Jacinda Ardern – our former prime minister – as she stepped down from parliament.
It’s been an extraordinary privilege to be part of her caucus and see up close how to lead with not only kindness but also decisiveness. She always put people first and has been a significant source of inspiration in my leadership journey.
Q: What are the main challenges you’ve faced in your career as a politician to date?
A: The biggest challenge is often spending a large part of the week away from my family. I have three children, and it’s difficult missing some of the little and big events in their lives. However, it’s made me more present when I’m with them, and I love that we talk politics and democracy around the dinner table.
The other big challenge is being able to quickly absorb large amounts of information and often make decisions at pace. You soon learn that you need a great team around you to help navigate critical information from the more trivial.
Once you’ve developed strong professional relationships in the house, it becomes much easier to not only make decisions at pace but also anticipate what’s coming around the corner.
Q: If not politics, what would’ve been your career – and why?
A: Over the last 18 years, I’ve been fortunate to play a number of different roles. I have been a private practice lawyer, community lawyer and senior manager at the Human Rights Commission, and held fiduciary roles in governance at an international NGO and a large trust board.
In my younger days, I held positions in policy with the Office of Ethnic Communities and Office of the Children’s Commission, and even as a climate campaigner for Greenpeace.
In most of these roles – as with my present one – I was drawn to the fact that they enabled me to voice my values, and protect the rights and freedoms of some of the most vulnerable groups in society. When I leave politics, I intend to continue chasing those spaces that allow me to continue doing this.
CV IN A NUTSHELL
Vanushi Walters counts a background in law and advocacy, with national and international experience. In addition to working in private practice, and the public and community sectors, she has served in governance roles with Amnesty International (AI) and Action for Children and Youth Aotearoa (ACYA), and as a trustee for Foundation North.
Furthermore, Walters has held senior management roles as the General Manager of YouthLaw Aotearoa and Manager of the Human Rights Commission’s advisory and research team.
Presently, she sits as the Chairperson of New Zealand’s Justice Select Committee, Labour Caucus Co-Chair of the Ethnic Caucus and Chairperson of the Inter-Parliamentary Union for the New Zealand Group. She is also a member of the Regulations Review Committee.
Q: What is your take on the political sphere following the exit of Jacinda Ardern?
A: It’s election year here in New Zealand – which always makes for a particularly lively political year!
I’m proud of what the Labour government has achieved this term and my sense is that we’re heading into elections in 2023 firmly behind our exceptional new prime minister with a renewed sense of energy, and a focus on the bread and butter issues affecting New Zealanders.
Q: Is there scope for more bilateral trade between New Zealand and Sri Lanka?
A: I hope to see more bilateral trade between New Zealand and Sri Lanka over the coming years.
Early in this parliamentary term, New Zealand’s High Commissioner to Sri Lanka Michael Appleton arrived in Colombo and I believe this has really strengthened our bond. There are strong connections between the countries – whether they’re tied to dairy, tea, cricket or international students – and I hope those bonds continue to grow.
Husband – Rhys
Wellington Girls’ College
Diocesan School for Girls
MSc in International Human Rights
Law (University of Oxford)
LLB (Hons.) and BA in Political
Studies (University of Auckland)
Member of Parliament (Labour Party)
– holds the Upper Harbour seat
COUNTRY OF RESIDENCE
CITY OF RESIDENCE
Q: And how would you describe your connection with Sri Lanka?
A: I was born in Colombo, and have sublime memories of visiting Sri Lanka as a child through my teens, 20s and 30s.
Being gloriously battered by the waves at Mount Lavinia, walking the halls of the Colombo Town Hall, picking up rolls and chocolate cake from Green Cabin, and running out to order from the kottu wagon are memories bound to the distinctly Kiwi parts of my identity.
As Sri Lanka has wrangled with serious issues over the years, I’ve not only watched but felt profoundly connected to them – and in particular, those who are enduring human rights abuses.
We often treat democracy as a noun but in truth, it’s a verb. And it was something else to see waves of people on the streets claiming it last year. Even if merely watching through a screen, it was like being taken straight to the beating heart of justice.
My hope for Sri Lanka is that the weighty experience of the last year will act as scaffolding for responding to the people’s voice, and all Sri Lankans will feel and be part of an evolving democracy within the country.
“My hope for Sri Lanka is that the weighty experience of the last year will act as scaffolding for responding to the people’s voice, and all Sri Lankans will feel and be part of an evolving democracy”