Election 2020: Lawyer and new Labour MP for Manurewa Arena Williams to focus on justice reform

Election 2020: Lawyer and new Labour MP for Manurewa Arena Williams to focus on justice reform

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STUFF

Jacinda Ardern claimed a “mandate to accelerate” in her victory speech following Labour’s landslide win.

Lawyer and new Labour MP Arena Williams plans to focus on advocating justice reform and more affordable health care for her community during the next three years.

Williams won the safe red seat of Manurewa in south Auckland on Saturday.

The 30-year-old, of Te Aitanga-a-Māhaki, Ngāi Tahu, and Ngāi Tūhoe, stormed to victory with more than 10,000 votes over her closest rival, National’s Nuwi Samarakone.

Labour’s Arena Williams is now an MP after winning the Manurewa seat.

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Labour’s Arena Williams is now an MP after winning the Manurewa seat.

Williams started her career as a probations officer in Panmure, where she encountered many people before the courts for relatively minor offending who were in custody because of changes to bail laws brought in by the previous National government.

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She said she hoped to use her position as an MP to change that.

“I would like to see reform in the justice system for people who don’t necessarily have to be in custody.”

The Manurewa electorate encompasses four prisons.

In Williams’ experience, many people charged with minor offences lacked were disconnected from their family and friends, but wanted to give back to their communities.

“We have to think as a community about how we can do that safely,” she said.

While on the campaign trail, many local residents told Williams they were hoping for “more bold action on housing” from Labour.

She also heard “time and time again” about how high costs was a barrier to people accessing health care.

“Simple things like parking be very expensive,” she said.

She may be new to the Beehive, but it isn’t Williams’ first foray into politics.

While completing degrees in law and commerce at the University of Auckland, Williams served as the president of its student association.

In 2012, Williams and other university students held a protest on campus against rising student debt.

Dressed in her underwear, Williams “begged” for clothing from passers-by to illustrate how students were forced to “borrow to live”.

Two years later, she ran for Labour in the Hunua electorate, an “unwinnable” seat and National party stronghold, where she got 18 per cent of the vote.

Ahead of the 2020 general election Williams beat Labour incumbent Louisa Wall for the party’s nomination in Manurewa.

Labour has held the Manurewa seat every Parliamentary term – except for in 1975 when National’s Merv Wellington beat Labour incumbent Phil Amos by just 1300 votes.

In 2017, Wall won by a clear majority, with 59 per cent of the vote, compared to National’s Katrina Bungard with 27 per cent.

After Williams was nominated to contest Wall for the Manurewa seat, Wall launched legal action against the Labour party.

Wall later withdrew from the Manurewa race and ran as a Labour list candidate, ranked 27th.

Louisa Wall has served as Manurewa’s electorate MP since 2011, but ran on the list this year.

Andrew Gorrie/Stuff

Louisa Wall has served as Manurewa’s electorate MP since 2011, but ran on the list this year.

Williams’ father was a Papakura City councillor for many years. Her mother is a GP.

Williams has two children with husband Max Hardy.

The family, along with Williams’ mother, an “unsung hero” of her campaign, were celebrating together on Sunday.

Williams has also served as a member of the Waitematā District Health Board and on the Unitec Institute of Technology’s Te Rūnanga Advisory Group.

Stuff

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