Clark takes time out to share her story
These days Helen Clark describes herself as a freelance public advocate, and that means putting her expertise and passion behind global issues.
The endearing title of ‘‘Aunty Helen’’ may not be as formal as her other roles: former New Zealand prime minister, former United Nations Development Programme leader and wlong-serving Labour leader, but it seems more fitting as Clark continues her focus on women’s leadership and gender equality.
As a freelance public advocate, that role, she says, is working on global issues about which she is passionate – ranging from sustainable development, including climate action, public health issues and evidenced-informed drug policy.
Clark will be in Invercargill on Wednesday to speak at a KIND Women event.
This year, during the 125th suffrage celebrations, she also became the new patron of the National Council of Women.
Clark has been outspoken about New Zealand’s ‘‘horrible’’ domestic violence statistics, and said the cycle had to change, before the country would see change.
‘‘I believe we have to break the cycle of violence by investing heavily in family services and positive parenting.
‘‘The cycle begins in the home. Children who are exposed to that grow up seeing it as the way people behave towards each other.
‘‘New Zealand should study what is working well in other societies and look to adapt best practice to our context and to innovate.’’
New Zealand had a wellestablished history of having strong female leaders, Clark said.
When asked if the current prime minister was facing different challenges to what Clark experienced in office, she said: ‘‘It is well established in New Zealand that we will have women prime ministers. As a young woman at the top, Jacinda Ardern is facing some challenges that I did not face.
‘‘Yet around the world we see young people rising to top positions.
‘‘We should embrace and welcome fresh ideas and perspectives which they bring to public life.’’
Clark has recently published Women, Equality, Power: Selected speeches from 35 years of leadership.
The book’s publication was timely because this year marked 125 years of women’s suffrage, she said. And she will do a book signing while in Invercargill.
Clark has a strong connection to the south with Southlander Heather Simpson having worked for her for many years as her chief of staff.
Simpson was listed among New Zealand’s most influential people in 2004 by Listener magazine.
When Clark was asked of her impression of Southland women,
‘‘I believe we have to break the cycle of violence by investing heavily in family services and positive parenting. The cycle begins in the home. ’’
and if she considered them strong, feisty or independent, she replied: ‘‘My impression of Southlanders is that they are down to earth, direct and hard working.’’
KIND Women member Rebecca Amunsden said the group was realistic when it thought about trying to get Helen Clark to Invercargill.
‘‘We knew it was a long shot, we knew she was busy but we were hopeful.
‘‘When it was finalised, we were all jumping around like it was Christmas.’’
The public response to Clark’s visit was overwhelming, she said.
‘‘The tickets sold out in 12 hours.’’
The event was then moved from Centre Stage to the Civic Theatre to accommodate that response.
‘‘There are still some tickets left but we won’t be surprised if they sell out,’’ Amunsden said.