[Mojo Mathers]: These are about the highest notes
that I can hear on the piano, $$but something that I like to do
is feel the vibrations. $$Now I can’t feel the vibrations
for the higher notes, but when I go down to the lower notes, I can really feel the vibrations
coming through the piano there. Mojo Mathers is New Zealand’s first deaf MP. As a working mum, she doesn’t
get to spend much time… …at home in Christchurch with her family. On her one free day, Mojo loves to visit
the local farmers’ market — perfect place for a Green MP. [Opawa/St. Martins Farmers’ Market]
It’s a good feeling, [‘Your Local Market’]
that the community is in control of its own food. Could we have a bundle
of [inaudible] please? The quality of the food [inaudible]
is better, it’s cheaper, and you get an opportunity to talk
directly to the people who grow and produce the stuff. It’s about building relationships
and empowering the local community. Because I come here regularly,
most of them know that they need to face me and so on. I still find I miss things, and often
the children with me say: “Hey, that guy’s just asked
you how you are.” – Do you want a croissant to go?
– No. – No.
– That’s alright… – Now miss, you been a good girl?
– Well, I’ve been a busy one! – Yeah?
– Very busy. – Keeping the prime minister on his toes?
– [inaudible] him all over the place. Mojo’s lived in Christchurch
since she was 18. Family plays a very
important role in her life, and her mum Mary is a key
member of her support team. When Mojo lost her home
in the September quake, she took refuge at her mum’s. It’s been really quite a challenge, getting the balance right between
being a mum and being in parliament. I miss my kids, I miss them a lot,
so what I try and do is make the kids my top priority
on the weekend. I really miss her, like
sometimes it feels like $$[Meaghan &Tim Mathers]
$$she’s changed, but… $$she’s still the same mum, but she’s so
$$busy and enthusiastic about her work, and it’s really good to see her
so out there and stuff, but I do miss her at home. Growing up with a deaf mum has its benefits. Sometimes in public,
if I’m just gonna say something, like “I love you” or something,
I’ll just mouth it, and it’s really good, it feels like
our secret communication. Most of my green thinking
I’ve got from you, but where did you get your values
and how did you start thinking green? I think I’ve been thinking green
all my life, I was brought up on a farm, when I was little, and I got these
values from my mum! Well yes, we were part of the
‘back to the land’ movement. $$Because we were environmentalists
we wanted to be self-sufficient. $$That was quite a popular
thing in the 1970s. We spent about 5 years of my childhood
on a farm in South Wales, and that time there had a
profound impact on me, because I found that time quite magical. We had a lot of animals, we had only 5 acres of land,
but we were trying to do the self-sufficient lifestyle thing, and so we had chucks, we had pigs,
we had goats for milk, we had a few sheep, a big vegetable garden
that was very productive. I’ve got 3 children, and my eldest
daughter is at Otago University, and she’s studying law, and I’m kind of missing her right now, I started really at parliament
at the same time that Bethany started in Otago, and I think
that the impact has been harder on the family because of that,
because Meaghan feels like she lost both her mum and
her sister at the same time. One of the things we have
really great in this family is we are sort of equal to our parents. I don’t know, you have always
made us feel like what we have to say matters.
– Yeah, it’s not like – And that sort of means that
we can tell you anything. Yeah, it’s not like whatever you say goes,
we can actually argue our point. Yeah, you are very effective at
arguing your point with me, I’ll grant you that, yes! As a child, I was confident with my family,
but I was not confident socially, and I suffered all the usual experiences
of being bullied, or isolated, of not feeling like I belonged anywhere, and I think that is compounded
when you have a hearing loss, because you really don’t know
what’s going on around you. Mojo is deaf due to a lack of oxygen
during her difficult birth. It wasn’t picked up that I was deaf
until I was about two and a half, and it was my kindergarten
teacher that picked up, and they said to my mother: “Do you realize that your daughter is deaf?” My mother was informed to
face me when she was speaking, so that I could learn to read her lips, and to always make sure that she had
my attention before saying anything. At the same time as teaching me to speak,
she taught me to read, so that I would pick up the grammatical
structure of language, because otherwise you don’t hear
all the little in-between words. I learnt to read before I even went to school, which was a huge benefit for me. Amongst my earliest memories
is just reading Tintin books. I read them over and over and over again. The experiences we have as a child
influence us for life. Here’s my DVD collection,
I’ve got my romantic ones here, and then over here I’ve got
my science fiction: Lord of the Rings, Dr. Who… I was a huge Dr. Who fan as a child, and I had to watch it every week. But one of the things I discovered
recently was that the theme tune, I wasn’t hearing properly. So as a child all I heard was
this sort of ‘Wooooooo’ sound, and it wasn’t until with
my new digital aid that I was able to actually hear
that there was a tune as well. But you know, I only ever
got half of the story. And then DVDs arrived! And they were subtitled!
Or a lot of them are. And suddenly I found that
I had this compulsion to buy DVDs, and I just think I had 20 years
of culture to catch up on. (playing recorder) Mojo’s new partner, Don, has been
involved in the Green Party since it was founded. Of course, like all of the Green MPs,
none of us are electorate MPs, we are list MPs, which means that we often have
worked for a constituency that’s across the country, and I think that is particularly the case
for me, in that I’m trying to network and link up the disability community
right across New Zealand, so like, I’ve been up to Whangerei and
I’ve been down to Dunedin and I hope to go down to Invercargill. So in that sense, where I live is not
so important as the effort that I go to to be available to that community. Today, we have Mojo Mathers to meet us. You came to New Zealand,
didn’t you, from Nepal? Bhutan. I wasn’t brought up with any
sign language in my life, when I went to school the deaf
sign language wasn’t allowed, so you actually got a black mark
if you were caught signing in or out of the classroom, so it never occurred to me that this was
a language that I could use for communication. Mojo has learnt that there is no funding
for this New Zealand sign language class. The teacher is a volunteer. They are just one of several deaf refugee
groups across the country. $$There just doesn’t seem to be anything
at all for the deaf people here. These people really need a
properly-funded programme. I think we are one of the
few countries in the world who take people with
disabilities as refugees, and yet we don’t think we have to
provide for them when they get here. ♪ (music) ♪ – Hi Paul, how are you! -Hi, how’s it going ? Great. Hi! Hi, do you want to come
and sit down with us? Mojo Mathers, I’m your buddy MP (cheering) A few of the Green MPs are buddied up
with a number of electorates that we are meant to support, and attend branch meetings
whenever we can, I think it helps to keep people motivated, to know that there’s an MP there
interested in how they’re doing. Being an MP means Mojo only gets
to spend a couple of nights at home. When parliament is sitting,
she stays in Wellington. The rest of the time she’s
travelling around the country. First thing every morning is the media call. Party members bid for which
oral question will be asked in the house. A lot of this is done by telephone conference call. Which presents difficulty for Mojo,
who lipreads. To support her, a typist in another
location listens in on the call and provides her with a transcript. I’ve imposed a bit more discipline on the call, like they have to say their name
before they start speaking, and try and not speak over each other. It took about a month before
people were able to do that. It wasn’t certain that the electorate would accept a deaf MP. I was advised not to say that I was deaf, because the people around me thought that that would be a disadvantage
in my list ranking. And so I didn’t put that I was deaf, and
I didn’t really feel very good about that. And then by the time I
stood again in 2008, I had a much higher profile
within the Green Party so most of them knew that I was deaf, but I was also on the national
campaign committee, and I was employed as the party’s
strategic policy advisor, so I think people had seen
what I was capable of, and because of that I think, you know,
they were more prepared to vote for me, even knowing that I was deaf. Representing a small party means
long hours in the office. Mojo often doesn’t leave till
after 8 at night. I have seven portfolios, but previously
when we were smaller, the individual MPs had to carry
a lot more portfolios, so they consider this to be great
that we’ve now got 14 MPs, and it allows each of us to go into our
portfolios in a bit more depth. Mojo is paving the way for
others with a disability. She is changing the way parliamentary
procedures work. I’m very conscious of the fact that
there’s a lot of public focus and attention on how I perform in the house. There’s kind of quite a lot of
responsibility that comes with that, in terms of the aspirations of
disabled New Zealanders. Because I meet with a lot of young
New Zealanders with disabilities who are members of other political parties, and they’ve got political aspirations,
but whether they can go anywhere with them will depend a lot on what happens with me. But it’s made it possible for them. And it’s made it possible for them
to dream about it, and to think about it, that they too could be a member
of parliament one day. [Narrator] Asking a question in the House for the first time is nerve-wracking. I mean, I used to have a
phobia of public speaking. I literally felt like I was going to
throw up and be sick. When I was a high school student
and I first stood up, I had to do a speech, the classroom just laughed at me, because I couldn’t pronounce
the words properly. And I was so traumatized by that
I ran away and hid. So I never spoke in public, ever. I was terrified even of
speaking in a meeting. And I felt this sort of
sense of achievement that I’d overcome some of
my fears in order to speak. And so I promised myself at that point, even though I had no idea of
what would lay in front of me, that if there was an
opportunity to speak in public, I’d try and take it up. So that’s a kind of
stubbornness, if you like, not to let my own fears
stop me from participating. [Division] Do take your time, don’t feel hurried
by any of them. I think there are so many barriers, and I mean barriers
within a political party, about accepting someone with a disability, but most of all you’ve got to be prepared
to put yourself in the public eye and have the public scrutinize you, and know that you can
never really compete on the same way as an
able-bodied person, so in my case, I’m never going to really speak as clearly as a lot of able-bodied people, unless I really think about
how I’m talking. I’m conscious that you know,
the public might go: Oh, she’s not speaking very clearly,
well, I don’t understand her, let’s not listen to her. (Speaker) Order! – Leader of the opposition.
– …over the last year we’ve seen an increase in unemployment,
and growth that was 8.5 billion less than the projected of the high
for the economic growth… (Narrator) Mojo’s entrance into
parliament was not without controversy. The country’s first deaf MP has used
her maiden speech in parliament to criticize the speaker, Lockwood Smith. Green MP Mojo Mathers
hit out at Mr. Smith for not funding the electronic note-taker
she needs in the House. Parliamentary services paid for
Mojo Mather’s maiden speech to be delivered in sign language, but that did little to ease tensions
between our first deaf MP and the Speaker. Mr. Speaker, I made the point yesterday
that funding for electronic note-takers and equipment should not be coming
out of my support budget, which all members receive,
because no MP with a disability should be expected to fund their
participation in the House in this way. (Newscaster) Lockwood Smith says
Mojo Mathers should fund the note-takers out of the taxpayer money she
and every other MP gets to pay for 80 hours-worth of
support staff each week. Plenty of signs that this stoush will drag on. Deaf MP Mojo Mathers has won
her battle for funding to allow her to follow
proceedings in parliament. The Green Party was last month
embroiled in a row with the Speaker of the House Lockwood Smith, over who would pay for an electronic
note-taking service. Now Dr. Smith says permanent funding
has been approved by parliamentary services. (Narrator) This was Mojo’s first victory. Now, the note-taker supports her
to follow the debate. It’s difficult when the House gets out-of-control and rowdy. (party members shouting over each other) …an absolute mess from
the Labor Party… I don’t pick up what is being
said in that bickering but I can see that there is
bickering going on. Don’t matter, they got trounced last year! (Speaker) Order! Now look, I must
be able to hear these questions. The level of noise is
totally unreasonable. A member is deaf today. New Zealanders are paying all of us this
incredible sum of money to sit there and essentially screech at other. I don’t think that’s really
what New Zealanders want. And it’s a shame really, because it
doesn’t reflect the cooperation that can happen outside of
the debating chamber. It just seems like the debating chamber
brings out the worst behaviour. I just think, “Oh no…” “What I am doing here?” Thank you Mr. Speaker, my question
is to the Minister of Health: Did he seek any advice on the effect
of raising prescription charges would have on New Zealanders
with disabilities? If not, why not? (Speaker) The Honourable Tony Ryall. Mr Speaker, no specific advice was sought on the impact on people with disabilities… (Narrator) Parliament changed the
procedure of Question Time. Now other MPs have to wait 15 seconds
before they can respond. This allows Mojo the time
to read the transcript of the response to her question, in case she wants to ask a
supplementary question. Mojo Mathers, supplementary question? Supplementary question: Have you sought any advice
on whether this policy of raising prescription charges will
put vulnerable people off from seeking medical assistance? (Ryall)The moderate increase in
prescription charges means that no-one need pay
more than $40 a year in additional charges. (Narrator) Parliament has never been so quiet. I don’t think it will hold up over time. I think, you know, this is just
because it’s the first time, You know, the first question and so on. By the end of 3 years, I would expect that the atmosphere will have
changed quite a bit, and that there will be people
wanting to push the boundaries back to a ‘normal’ Question Time atmosphere. Will he reconsider this policy, if it is shown to be a barrier to vulnerable people such as
people with disabilities? This government is making support
for disabled people a priority. This government has made $133 million of additional support services
available to disabled New Zealanders, and that is a tremendous commitment. When I first stood for the Green Party, I stood because I was passionate
about environmental issues. And that’s where my academic training and background and expertise and so on was. And so I was actually quite keen
not to have anything with the disability portfolios. But then over time, I think
my attitude changed, because I began to realise
just how big the barriers were, to political participation. And with that awareness and understanding,
there came a realisation that it was necessary to try
and break these barriers, in order that in the future, people who happen to have a disability but actually have considerable
skills in other areas, could participate in the political process, and if that has to be me to break
that barrier, so be it. Because if I can’t get into Parliament,
how will anyone? Because I’ve had so much advantage,
in terms of education, support, and background in activism, so what more do you need
in the way of skills? And the only barrier is the
barrier from outside, of saying that deaf people can’t
participate in political processes, so it’s time for that barrier to go. One day, we’ll look back and just say,
“How come we were so exclusive of 1/5 of the population from being
represented in Parliament? ♪ (piano music) ♪ I think it’s taken me a long time
to get to where I am now. It has been a huge struggle at times. Inside, I thought, I always kept thinking
I wasn’t good enough. I’m quite candid about who I am and
where I’m coming from. One of the things that helps me in life is when I hear about the struggles
that other people have. Other people are going through the
same things that I do, so if I can be open about what I go through, and if that helps someone else,
then that’s great. I suppose I’m just like any other
mum and woman. I love this country, I love this place, I love my kids, my family, and I want to do what I can to make it a better place for everyone.




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