Going for Green: Elizabeth Duke

Nicky Chapman was privileged to speak to some of the Greens’ older supporters recently, and shares some of their insights.

Gratitude is not something we commonly associate with the politically passionate. Yet it’s my main emotion after talking to some of the older Greens living in Dunedin. They talk of gratitude for what they’ve received – and I feel grateful that their values and work have made all our lives richer.

Elizabeth Duke , like Pat, grew up in England during the post-war years and also benefited from free education, including a scholarship to Oxford. In 1976 she came to Otago University to lecture in Classics. Her parents only gave her two bits of advice: “Don’t go caving, and don’t join a political party”!  The political advice, she thinks, was about not compromising her values. It took her a long time to join any party because of those values, but “what got me committed to the Greens was the balance between care for the planet and the social justice”. She cites Sue Bradford as someone who shows how extremely important it is that both aspects are addressed in politics.

Her university career gave way to more direct involvement with social issues. “I started getting involved with the Quakers, who became my extended family as I was a sole parent with two primary school daughters.” This led to further theological, and Maori, studies. “Race relations here were one reason why I wanted to come here”. Finding that all was not as good as she had believed, Maori studies therefore “became a matter of justice for me’ – and she followed study with action by becoming an urban marae secretary.

In 1997 she worked for the international Quaker movement, “trying to make sure people could make their voices heard, especially those without technology”. It was only on her return to New Zealand in 2004 that she brought her skills to work for the Greens during her “retirement” (as treasurer, campaign finance manager, office volunteer…)

Elizabeth knows that “The economy is a wholly owned subsidiary of the environment” (Gaylord Nelson, US politician and Earth Day founder). For her, “the whole values of care and respect and valuing others seem to me to be indivisible. Humans can’t have a healthy life unless they are living in a healthy environment. My primary concern is for human equality. Having come to New Zealand because it valued a much greater sense of social equality, I am now horrified by how unequal we’re becoming, as is seen in our levels of child poverty.

“In a religious sense I feel we are part of the whole created universe. It doesn’t seem enough to not use chemical fertilisers and trying to live simply. The personal is political, but in order to make these things possible for other people then we need to be political.”

My two grandchildren are also a strong personal motivation for wanting a better future for all!”

Authorised by Jon Field, 2/17 Garrett Street, Wellington

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