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Sunday 12 April 2015

Candidate profile: Richard Hills

Posted in: Features
By staff - 12th August 2014

Gay Aucklander and passionate political hopeful Richard Hills is standing for Labour in Northcote. He answers a series of questions and pleads “enrol and vote!”

When did you realise you loved politics?

I think it was my last few years of high school, in Social Studies we were learning a lot about Workers Rights laws and the Civil Union Bill and its process through parliament at the time. It seemed important to me that you could fight for something and actually see positive change happen. Because of people and politics.

Why Labour?

I guess it was just a feeling. I couldn't understand why nearly all Labour MPs voted for Civil Unions it and nearly all National MPs (including John Key) were against it and at the time the Nats were vocally and quite venomously against it. I did a bit more digging on my own and it just seemed as if Helen Clark and Labour were doing things that made sense; four weeks annual leave, interest free student loans, raising the minimum wage and paid parental leave all of which National opposed. Significant issues in our history like Nuclear Free, Women's Rights, the Springbok Tour, Homosexual Law Reform it all seemed to be Labour and the left were on the right side of history and the Nats weren't. My values seemed to fit with Labour, fighting for others and putting people first.

You’ve been a candidate before, but what does it mean to you to be standing in Northcote?

I grew up in Glenfield in the Northcote electorate. I have been elected twice to the Kaipatiki Local Board for the area. I love my community. It's diverse, people generally get along, there's no real class division, you have friends from all backgrounds and the sense of community is all around. We have some amazing people in our community doing great work for others. I'm still connected to my old schools and community organisations so campaigning doesn't feel like a chore, I'm just out talking to friends or friends of friends about how we can make thing better. I know it sounds cheesy but I've travelled but would always want to come back to this area. You have to live here to feel it I guess.

How confident are you that you can win?

You don't go into an election to lose that's for sure. It'll be tough, my opponent has a 9000+ vote majority, but we are enrolling so many people every week and many are telling me they are really struggling. No matter what their background they have a story, an issue with jobs or housing either the cost or lack of. They also feel like many of the services aren't around anymore. Northcote had been a Labour seat up until 2005, so I am keen to turn it red once again, but turning out the vote is crucial.

What do you think some of the key glbti issues/concerns are this election?

I feel many of the issues for the majority voters in the Rainbow community are the same as the rest of the community, can they afford to rent or maybe one day buy a home, are there enough jobs, are wages keeping up with the cost of living, is there enough funding going towards public transport or education for themselves or their kids. Of course we also still have many issues that need to be addressed that can mainly affect our rainbow communities, such as funding for health, mental health and youth services, making spaces truly safe for everyone, addressing the rights of everyone on the gender spectrum, adoption laws - there's actually a lot of things. Marriage Equality was great and exciting but that was really just another stepping stone to full equality.

What is your advice/plea to glbti voters?

With some of the Rainbow Labour team at the party's campaign launch.
Enrol and Vote! Of course my plea would be to vote for Labour. But no matter who you support, just vote. Our voice at the ballot box is equal. Encourage friends and whanau and neighbours to vote. Enrol someone today. Also read policies from all parties and look at the history of parties too. Rainbow representation isn't always the number one thing on people's minds but I still think it says something about us. Labour has a diverse mix of Rainbow candidates and MPs standing across the country. National has one that I know of and he voted against Marriage Equality. We need representation and allies in politics. It has been important in my life to look up to people in power and think, they're a bit like me and they are pushing for equality and fairness for everyone.

What do you do for a job and how much do you enjoy it?

I'm elected to the Kaipatiki Local Board where my portfolios are Transport, Community Development and Youth. It's interesting, busy and requires a lot of meetings and talking with great people out in the community, which is great. You get the odd issue that people get angry about or you get yelled at but that's all part of the territory. My part time job is a Community Health Worker at the Auckland Sexual Health Education Unit. I work with an awesome team and mostly work with high school students right across Auckland, you couldn't ask for a better job. Young people are so keen to help their peers, change the world and do good things. We have four training hui at the start of the year and train them on every youth or life related issue you could think of, then send them out to help others. It's pretty rewarding, I learn from them just as much as they learn from me. Young people often get a lot of shit but if you give them a space to be themselves and you give them respect and they literally amaze the socks of anyone who's in the room. I could talk about them forever. We also do community education and testing and partner with NZAF at events like the BGO.

What other issues (non-glbti) are you most passionate about?

Apart from the issue of housing, Youth issues are my number one personal passion. How do we get better services and support for them, no matter their background. How do empower them to make good decisions. Making sure all young people have the opportunities to get ahead and do what they're passionate about. Youth suicide is a stain on our society and I don't feel there is enough support or even enough discussion about this. It's horrendous seeing the pain in families and schools that go through this. We all know how horrible it is, but we need massive change and quickly.

Tell us a bit about yourself outside politics ...

Haha, well at the moment it's working two jobs and campaigning. There isn't much social life to speak of. But usually I would be hanging with my amazing partner who I've been with for a long time, he was my first male partner and hopefully my last. Also seeing my friends and family, I am so, so fortunate that I have such supportive friends and family who put up with all my political stuff but keep me grounded in the real world. I also like travelling, it's important to escape once in a while.

What’s an ideal Saturday night like?

Hanging out with friends. Just relaxing. Doing something different.

What’s something people might not know about you?

I broke my foot dancing to a mash-up of Bootylicious and Smells Like Teen Spirit. I think I was 16 or 17. But don't tell anyone.

Who are some of your heroes?

My parents are my heroes. They've been through a lot in their lives and all they do is care about others. Mum had chronic illness when I was younger that still affects her today, but she’s the happiest person you'll ever meet, dad is 58 and still works 6-7days a week as a labourer. I don't know how he does it. After work on Saturday's he'll still come help me put up billboards or help me out in any way he can. They've always been supportive of everything I am and I've done. Can't ask for more than that. Also my two sisters who are compassionate and kind and stand up for what they believe in too.

If you'd like to contact me:
Twitter @richardhills777 staff - 12th August 2014

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