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Greens co-leader reveals breast cancer diagnosis

Adam Pearse,
Publish Date
Mon, 17 Jun 2024, 12:31pm

Greens co-leader reveals breast cancer diagnosis

Adam Pearse,
Publish Date
Mon, 17 Jun 2024, 12:31pm
  • The Green Party co-leader Marama Davidson has announced she has breast cancer.
  • Davidson is set to undergo treatment, which she thinks will take four months.
  • The cancer was found in a routine mammogram and was caught early, she says.
  • The Greens have faced challenges this year including Golriz Ghahraman’s resignation, Fa’anānā Efeso Collins’ death and Julie Anne Genter’s outburst in the House.

The Green Party co-leader Marama Davidson has announced she’s beginning treatment for breast cancer.

Davidson said the cancer, which was picked up during a routine mammogram about a month ago, required her to undergo a partial mastectomy and would lead to her being off work for about four months.

She urged other wāhine to get checked themselves, acknowledging the level of breast cancer was disproportionately high for Māori women.

”I have held off telling people about my diagnosis while I continue to focus on Parliamentary work,” she told journalists today.

”I do want to be clear, we are fortunate to have picked this up early enough to give us the best odds of getting rid of it, thanks to the breast screening program. I reiterate how important it is that our breast screening programmes … can make sure more people are screened in time to save lives.

”Wāhine mā, please book in your mammograms.”

She said fellow co-leader Chlöe Swarbrick and the rest of the Green MPs would take on her responsibilities as co-leader, noting it was not the first time the party had functioned with only one of its two co-leaders for a period of time.

Davidson would be taking time off after Matariki at the end of the month and asked for privacy during this time.

Green Party co-leader, Marama Davidson, announces cancer diagnoses to media. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Green Party co-leader, Marama Davidson, announces cancer diagnoses to media. Photo / Mark Mitchell

She intended to stay on as co-leader of the party after treatment and she would return with “fierce” determination to fight for people and the planet.

Davidson has six children with husband Paul Davidson. “My husband is my absolute rock of emotional support,” she said.

“I don’t find it easy to listen to the many wise voices who have been telling me to look after myself for a while,” she said.

Davidson said despite everything, she was feeling good and grateful for the support.

“If anything, the diagnosis really helped me to focus,” she said, adding that if she could continue to work, she would.

”I know that this team will step up, will hold the space for me to be able to return.”

On the importance of early detection, Davidson said she had attended a breast cancer event at Parliament several years ago, where she was encouraged to get her mammogram.

Davidson said some groups were more likely to be diagnosed with cancer, including Māori and Pacific women, and Māori and Pacific women were more likely to die.

Green Party co-leaders, Marama Davidson and Chlöe Swarbrick attend press conference with Green MPs. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Green Party co-leaders, Marama Davidson and Chlöe Swarbrick attend press conference with Green MPs. Photo / Mark Mitchell

Davidson said she was given a pamphlet that made the realities of the inequities in the health system for Māori and Pacific women more stark.

“I just want to make it really clear, the surgeons, the nurses, all of the health workers, have been absolutely stunning in doing their work in a sea of insecurity.”

“It’s been a rough time, right,” Davidson said, adding that the Green Party team supported each other and the work continued.

Swarbrick was told of Davidson’s diagnosis “a few weeks ago”, she said.

“Marama Davidson is one of the strongest people I have ever met... I cannot begin to express how proud I am to stand along beside her,” Swarbrick said.

Messages of support and sympathy have come from across the political spectrum, including from Prime Minister Christopher Luxon who said his thoughts were with Davidson and her family.

“I wish her all the very best for a speedy recovery and hope she can join us in Parliament again soon,” Luxon wrote in a social media post.

Davidson first entered parliament as a list MP in 2015.

She became co-leader of the Green Party in April 2018, alongside James Shaw.

Davidson was Minister for the Prevention of Family and Sexual Violence for three years from November 2020.

Her father is Rawiri Paratene, a stage and screen actor known for his roles in Whale Rider and The Insatiable Moon.

Davdison’s iwi are Ngāti Porou, Te Rarawa, Ngā Puhi.

Difficult year for Green Party

The development added to what had been a trying start to the year for the Greens.

The suspension of MP Darleen Tana’s suspension for the course of the investigation into migrant exploitation allegations levelled at her husband’s e-Bike business has hung over the party for months. Inquiries began in mid-March, Tana’s husband denied the allegations.

Last month, it was revealed the investigation, led by barrister Rachel Burt, had used up $43,000 of Parliamentary Service funding available to the Greens’ leaders’ office.

The party told the Herald on Friday there had been no further cost incurred, however, the spokesman couldn’t provide any information about when the investigation would conclude.

Experienced MP Julie Anne Genter is also set to face Parliament’s Privileges Committee for yelling in the face of a National minister in the House in early May.

She subsequently apologised and accepted she needed help de-escalating confrontations following additional allegations from two Wellington business owners who claim they were confronted by the Rongotai MP.

The party at the time said Genter would receive both personal and professional support amid an internal disciplinary process.

Asked what cost the party had covered for the professional support, a party spokesman said Genter had offered to pay for the “de-escalation training” she’d received through the process.

At the beginning of the year, MP Golriz Ghahraman resigned from the party following allegations of shoplifting that she would later plead guilty to in court.

In February, MP and Pasifika leader Fa’anānā Efeso Collins died suddenly, aged 49, during a charity event in downtown Auckland.

Both Swarbrick and Davidson have spoken publicly about how Collins’ passing continued to impact them, their MPs and party staff.

Adam Pearse is a political reporter in the NZ Herald Press Gallery team, based at Parliament. He has worked for NZME since 2018, covering sport and health for the Northern Advocate in Whangārei before moving to the NZ Herald in Auckland, covering Covid-19 and crime.

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