Former Labour minister Kiri Allan discusses mental health pressures for women of colour in politics

  • 26/01/2024

Warning: This article discusses suicide. 

Former Labour minister Kiri Allan has opened up on the pressures women of colour face in leadership positions after ex-Green MP Golriz Ghahraman's resignation. 

In July, former Justice Minister and East Coast MP Allan was charged with careless driving and refusing to accompany a police officer after allegedly crashing her car. An infringement notice was also issued for excess breath alcohol between 250 and 400mcg.   

She resigned her portfolios the next day and, shortly after, confirmed she would not stand for re-election. 

Months after the crash, Allan took to social media revealing her actions on the night of the crash were a culmination of her mental health struggles. She was facing challenges at work and had recently split up with her partner, she said. 

"I had gone to end it all finally, in a last bid attempt to find hope, I drove, I crashed and made the front pages nationally and internationally for quite some time. I quit my career and had to get some intensive help which lasts to today. 

"… This year has also been the biggest unwanted gift I’ve ever received. A forced stop which requires going deep into the places I’ve never wanted to venture into before.  

"It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done and far outweighs the public humiliation and shame I feel from the evening of the breakdown and crash," she added. 

Ghahraman, meanwhile, resigned from politics last after being charged with shoplifting earlier this month. 

"Yeah, I've reached out to Golriz," Allan told the NZ Herald. "The circumstances under which I left politics were of my own making and pretty horrendous and things I regret. 

"There's probably not too many people in the country that have a real understanding of what it’s like to exit politics in that way, and in the public eye. So, I have reached out." 

Allan also believes women in politics, Māori in particular, get negatively targeted more than others might. 

"I think that's an experience many women in leadership positions particularly experience... Females who are often brown, who are in leadership positions," she told the Herald. 

Green Party co-leaders James Shaw and Marama Davidson told reporters during their first press conference since Ghahraman's shoplifting accusations surfaced she had been subject to continuous threats of sexual violence, physical violence and death threats since entering Parliament in 2017. 

While Shaw emphasised Ghahraman wasn't using mental health as an excuse for her alleged behaviour, he said the threats had added a "higher level of stress" to her job than most MPs were subject to. 

"Obviously, if you're living with that level of threat, in what is already quite a stressful situation, then there are going to be consequences for that," he said. 

The party leaders said Ghahraman is seeking medical help. 

Meanwhile, Allan told the Herald she is spending time with her daughter, has a new consultancy business and is doing some work with her iwi. She is also writing a book canvassing both her own life and her time in politics.