I packed my bag and drove towards the airport, not knowing if I was going to get on the plane.
It was Members’ Day in parliament’s House, and the Holidays (Bereavement Leave for Miscarriage) Amendment Bill was due to be read for the third and final time – if the affordable housing discussions, which were being conducted under urgency, wrapped up in time.
I was stopped at the lights when MP Ginny Andersen’s EA rang. The reading was going ahead!
One plane ride, one taxi drive and several coffees later, I found myself going through Parliament security.
I went into The Beehive and temporarily exchanged my bags for a sticker and a lanyard before racing up two flights of stairs and being ushered into the House – a space that’s even more impressive in real life than it is on TV.
Ginny gave an impassioned speech about the Bill, which was sparked when I sent a letter to Clare Curran about the lack of clarity in the Holidays Act for people grieving pregnancy loss. Clare took up the cause and later Ginny drafted the Bill and submitted it to the infamous biscuit tin (the vessel that Members' Bills are drawn from). The Bill could have languished inside the biscuit tin indefinitely, but it was drawn and in the years since Ginny and others have worked hard on the Bill to ensure that people impacted by pregnancy loss can access bereavement leave.
During yesterday's final reading the Bill received cross-party support. Labour, National, Green and Act MPs stood to share their personal experiences and explain what the Bill would mean for them and their constituents. Thanks to Parliament TV On Demand, you can watch the speeches online:
It was heartening to hear so many people in support of the Bill, and I think it’s amazing that politicians are speaking about such private issues on such a public stage. Their actions will help break down some of the taboos around miscarriage and baby loss.
Several politicians from across the House mentioned Ginny’s great work in shepherding the Bill through the House and gaining cross-party support.
All speakers said the fateful words, “I commend this Bill to the House.” This means that there is just one more step – a formality – needed before the change to The Holidays Act becomes law: Royal assent.
Ginny’s EA whisked me away to the Labour Caucus room where, beneath portraits of past Labour PMs, I chatted with some of Ginny’s team. (The fast-paced banter and the beautiful surroundings made it all feel very ‘In The Thick Of It’.)
Ginny and her colleagues arrived and we enjoyed macaroons and sandwiches as we toasted making history!
The celebration was short-lived as Ginny had to return to work (MPs work until 10pm on Tuesdays and Wednesdays).
Ginny gave me a brief tour on the way out. I was introduced to the infamous biscuit tin that the Bill was drawn from, and I saw the billiards room and the glamorous Legislative Council Chamber.
Then all of a sudden – it was over. I booked myself into a hotel, head buzzing.
I’d like to say a huge congratulations to Ginny for her success with this Bill, and a huge thank you to Clare Curran who got the process started. Thank you also the Select Committee and everyone who made submissions on the Bill or helped in other ways.
Together, we’ve made a little bit of history!
More about the Bill
More about miscarriage
2023 Burns fellow Kathryn van Beek has an MA from Victoria University Wellington - Te Herenga Waka’s International Institute of Modern Letters. She is a winner of the Mindfood Short Story Competition and the Headland Prize. Her collection of short stories, Pet, is available as a podcast, and her work has also appeared in Overland, takahē, Newsroom, and the Sunday Star-Times. She lives in UNESCO City of Literature Ōtepoti Dunedin with her two rescue cats.