Newshub Nation: Labour MP Priyanca Radhakrishnan shares her backstory

How well do we really know our politicians and the personal values and experiences they bring to decisions that affect us all?

Newshub Nation's Backstory series goes behind the scenes into the lives and childhood photo albums of our political leaders.

Born in Chennai, India, Labour's Community and Voluntary Sector Minister Priyanca Radhakrishnan grew up in Singapore, a childhood she described as "safe and sheltered".

"But I really wanted to step outside my comfort zone," Radhakrishnan said. 

After a lot of research, she ended up in Palmerston North "in the middle of winter," she laughed. 

She described witnessing pyjamas at the supermarket as "a complete culture shock".

Radhakrishnan's father, 80, is a civil engineer, who continues to work because retirement "wasn't for him". 

"I think I've learnt work ethic from him," Radhakrishnan said. 

Radhakrishnan describes her now-deceased mother as "amazing, she was the first feminist I ever knew". 

"She was someone who was very staunch about integrity," Radhakrishnan told Newshub Nation. 

"Even if it's difficult, tell the truth," was a key tenet that her mother passed on. 

"I've lost her, but part of her is still with me."

"It was before COVID," Radhakrishnan recounted."Which actually was a blessing because by then she was bed-ridden and through COVID that really would have been difficult". 

"She had Parkinson's and early onset dementia." 

"It's very difficult just seeing someone you love waste away," she said. 

Radhakrishnan recalled her entry into Parliament back in 2017 as both "sad and funny at the same time". 

Radhakrishnan's mother desperately wanted to attend her maiden speech but was too unwell to travel. 

"My dad would walk into her room and see her getting ready and ask where she was going and, she kind of conflated things, and she would say she was going to Buckingham Palace to watch my maiden speech," Radhakrishnan said. 

Radhakrishnan's mother would also tell people on the street her daughter was a member of Parliament in New Zealand and "everyone thought she was making things up".

"I like to think she'd be proud."

"Sometimes I think of myself as a bit of an accidental politician," Radhakrishnan said. 

"But I feel the privilege of being someone who's migrated to a country and then gets to represent this country at the highest levels of decision-making."

"I think it says more about New Zealand frankly, and New Zealanders, and the political system of New Zealand than it does about anything else," she said.  

Watch the full video for more. 

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