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  • Writer's pictureAnna Brankin

A vote for the future

Updated: Oct 17, 2023

Anna and her baby daughter Cassie. They are both smiling at the camera standing at a lake with the water and trees in the background

The general election feels different this year. Indecision settles over me like a heavy weight every time I glance over and see my ballot papers sitting on the edge of my desk, the obnoxious bright orange reminding me to go in and cast my vote. Should I vote for the party with the policies that align most closely to my personal values, the one that’s promising to make the changes I want to see? Or should I vote strategically in an attempt to block a coalition?

Maybe my sense of despair stems from the fact that no one seems to be offering up any policies that will address the real issues facing our society. Or maybe it’s because this year, I’ll be casting my vote with my eight-month old pēpi on my hip.

Becoming a māmā has irrevocably changed me. Most of these changes have been for the better: everything from newfound depths of strength and razor sharp maternal instincts, to the boundless aroha I feel for this magical little soul.

Becoming a māmā has also made me afraid. When she was brand new, I used to watch her breathing as she slept, some part of me convinced that she was kept alive only by my force of will. I moved so carefully around the house with her in my arms, intrusive thoughts running through my head as I imagined clumsily smacking her head against the door frame or falling down a flight of stairs that doesn’t even exist in our single storey whare. I let go of these fears as she grew, but they were quickly replaced by others. Most of these fears I can mitigate. I can ask whānau and friends to practise good hygiene and keep their distance if they’re feeling māuiui. I can puree her food and take online courses to make sure I know how to help a choking baby. I can baby proof the sharp edges and dangling cables throughout our whare.

There are some fears I have less control over. I’m afraid that the dreams I have for her future will become just that. I want her to grow up exploring the same beautiful ngahere that I grew up exploring, to swim in the same lakes, rivers and bays that I swam in, and to share my passion for our incredible taiao. I want her to have a warm and healthy home, food on the table and access to the education, health and social services she needs. Even more, I want her to live in a country that understands that society is measured by how it treats its most vulnerable members – where all whānau can enjoy those basic human rights. Where our indigenous culture and language is celebrated as a taonga that will strengthen our country rather than further divide it.

6 month old Casssie happily crawling through grass in her backyard. She is wearing a cream coloured onesie and a big blue sunhat with rainbows on it.

Becoming a māmā has also made me fierce. When I vote this year, I will be voting for a future in which those dreams become a reality – and I am challenging my whānau and friends to do the same. Let’s extend our thinking beyond the next few political terms and vote for the interests of future generations. If you’re feeling that your vote won’t make a difference, remember that together, we have power – and I have to believe that I am not alone in dreaming of a healthier and more equitable world for our mokopuna.

When you cast your vote this weekend, think about my pēpi. Think about your pēpi. Think about your neighbour’s pēpi – whatever it takes. What better way to shape our society than to think like a new māmā looking out for her baby’s future? Mō tātou, ā, mō kā uri ā muri ake nei – for us and our children after us.

Nā Anna Brankin

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