Ardern’s put a great focus on the topics important to her personally and that have proven to require attention in the nation. This includes everything from tackling period poverty, to protecting Māori lives and culture, to reacting to the economic crisis caused by imposed restrictions of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Ardern is highly focused around tackling issues that many previously have struggled to successfully address in New Zealand parliament, let alone prioritize. Her dedication to such topics are typically characteristic of the person she has proven to be. Ardern will go down in history with many “firsts” attached to her name and to accompanying her decisions both in policy and in life.
In regular communication with the Kiwi people of NZ, Ardern frequently uses social media as a form of mass-communication and arguably a more effective information sharing system.
Arden’s Poster Child: Prioritizing Family and Life
Ardern has shown dedicated initiative in the context of family matters, from child poverty to domestic abuse, and of mental illness, given NZ’s incredibly high suicide rates. Under the matters of family life and both psychological and physiological illness, period poverty and further emphasizing the arts to youth have also been given significant attention by Ardern
New Zealand faces significantly high suicide rates in its small population of 5MIl. Ardern is known to have faced experience with the matter at a young age, with a neighbor committing suicide while she still live in Murupara. Ardern herself has said that the topic was “deeply personal” for her, famously having a candid conversation with Prince William in 2019 in Davos about mental health issues. This also establishes her close ties to the UK; and her appeasement and replicatory policies she tries to inculcate to homogenise the commonwealth.
To effectively address the issues through fiscal policy, Ardern launched a “Wellbeing Budget” in May of 2019, investing just under 2 BIL NZD with the hopes of not only tackling mental illness, but also child poverty and family violence. Ardern, who is also the Minister for Child Poverty, took the opportunity to reorientate the government’s annual budget to shift focus onto these topics, explaining that “when our children do better, we all do better”. Before becoming Minister for Child Poverty, Ardern was the Minister of Vulnerable Children. Her youth was in comparison to the rest of Parliament in her first decade there and her self-proclaimed passion for children made her ideal for the job. Some have dubbed this as a refocusing on “gross national well-being” as opposed to gross domestic product.
Further, the Families Package was an initiative launched by Ardern, fittingly during her maternity leave, under which both parental parts will receive leave for longer and additional benefits for those with children under the age of three in families of low to middle income. Ardern at the time in 2019 called this her proudest achievement as of yet, in another one of her frequent and popular facebook lives.
Moreover, Ardern made headlines in June of 2020 worldwide once more for directing significant attention and funds to period poverty. She welcomed the 2.6 MIL NZD investment, with the initiative falling under the Child and Youth Wellbeing Strategy. However, critics argued that “the Budget is style over substance”, and would only push taxes higher without really changing anything. Additionally, in particular reference to child poverty, few have spoken out to criticise Ardern for simply throwing money at the problem instead of doing something substantial.
But given the widespread positive reaction internationally, Ardern demonstrated her ability to work as a trendsetter too, as opposed to only reaction to trends. Considered to be a highly-liberal move, Ardern showed no fear in addressing some controversial issues with very often little publicity. However, this is likely founded in her ability to judge the extent to which she can garner support through her understanding of the media and where she stands in public opinion.
Social Media as a Tool for Ardenian Politics
Social media and her dedication to constantly being on the front lines and with Kiwi’s in person has won her the hearts of many, not just in NZ. Her Facebook account along with her Instagram account are platforms she uses frequently, going ‘live’ on facebook almost daily to update the nation on various policies she is working on and the situation with COVID-19. In these lives, she is famous for using the time to answer questions asked by watchers, directly addressing them by name often. Particularly, Arden’s non-conservatism and openness serve her well. Her youthly character and history in communications and media is a large factor in the efficacy of this tool. This builds a strong sense of solidarity with Kiwi’s across the nation and a sense of accessibility in its informality, despite the obvious physical distance many face. Social media has been particularly strengthening since COVID-19 hit, given the physical restrictions and inability to meet as many people as she would otherwise.
It is important to note that Ardern’s love affair with Western media is a two-way street. She is highly effective in using it on a domestic level with an international effect, while international media shows what seems like an undying, unconditional love for Ardern’s image and efficacy.
Before the pandemic, Ardern was also praised for her empathetic responses. Most famously, after the Christchurch Terror attack, Ardern joined the victim’s families and the community the next day, spending time talking and even more so listening to people. Pictures showing her hugging members of the community and crying with them while wearing a black scarf in a demonstration of respect and solidarity have garnered widespread praise. This is an example of what people refer to as the strength in her femininity – showing and sharing what is seen by many as a moment of weakness out of strength. As said by Ardern herself, “I’m proudly focused on empathy, because you can be both empathetic and strong.”
Additionally, Ardern’s love for the arts, in particular music, have come to the forefront of her efforts alongside tackling the COVID-19 pandemic. Ardern also holds the title of the Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage, launching at the end May of 2020 an investment of 175MIL NZD in support of the sector’s recovery throughout the pandemic, in reaction to estimates of 11 thousand jobs being lost within a year otherwise. A particular factor of the financial boost into the sector is also preserving “Māori knowledge and artforms” as said by the PM herself.
Her personal interest in the sector is reflected by two events in her life, seen as a light-hearted, down-to-earth exemplar of an arts-driven character. Ardern is known to have auditioned as an extra in the Lord of the Rings franchise, and also DJed at the Laneway Festival in Auckland in 2014. In fact, a radio half-jokingly invited her back to play some tracks.
Arden’s stance on ethnic Minorities and NZ’s Colonial History
Ethnic minorities remain an important topic of conversation in Arden’s political career. She’s first years of childhood in Murupara – a town in which Māori gangs are prevalent – are likely to have impacted her recognition for the need to elevate in particular Māori communities out of poverty and into higher stability in society all around.
At an annual ceremony in Waitangi when Ardern was unable to recite the Treaty, she faced backlash from the Māori communities and online. However, many praise her for directly targeting the issues with a policy of sustenance: the above-mentioned Wellbeing Budget. It is targeted at minorities, who are more likely to suffer under issues of child poverty, mental illness and family violence. She hence uses a symptom treatment-based approach to prevent the formation of violent gangs, as opposed to limiting already existing gangs. This is key in her position as a nationally-recognized figure who is consistently in the public eye. Due to this obvious visibility and her responsibility as a representative of the government, upholding politically-correct standards fall under her embodiment as PM.
In her responsibilities in drawing up the Labour Party list, Ardern has also seeked greater diversity and representation for the Māori in her caucus and list in what a government under the Labour party will look like after the 2020 general election. This is the first time that Ardern has been given the responsibility as Labour Leader to draw up the party list with her influence in party structure starting to be truly felt.
Further, her dedication for their upliftment can be seen in The Wellbeing Budget whose biggest benefactor is the marginalized Māori communities, who overall face lower rates of standards of living and racism across the nation. This can be attributed to various aspects of Ardern’s character. Firstly, her non-coversative attitudes shine through, less focused on economic expansion for the already-wealthy select few, and more equity across the playing field. Further, Ardern’s ability to get on the bandwagon for trends is key. In various nations around the world, elevating marginalized communities has become a highly publicised form of policy. Combined with her youthful involvement in media and in-fact, her welcoming of sharing such intimacy on social media, along with her empathetic rights-oriented character, her stance on the Māori is clear. This same analysis of Ardern’s focus can be applied to racism in general. The Black Lives Matter movement in the USA has garnered significant attention and become highly publicized across various forums. Ardern addressed this mid-June of 2020, stating “Change doesn’t occur until you have greater representation”, recognizing the need for systemic change in the Labour Party. Arden’s liberal left-wing approach and her relationship with the media as New Zealand’s ‘poster child’ clarify how Ardern would stand on Black Lives Matter.