© New Zealand Broadcasting School 2020

Ruth Dyson: 9768 days in parliament

Jen Black
Jacinda Ardern and Ruth Dyson
Ruth Dyson and Jacinda Ardern  Parliamentary TV

She was the first minister for disabilities, the second vegetarian, and 37th woman in parliament.

In March 1994, three months before Chlöe Swarbrick was born, Dyson opened her maiden speech in Te Reo Māori, Samoan, and English. In her valedictory speech last week she added New Zealand Sign language to the opening. 

Although helping NZ Sign Language become an official language of New Zealand, Dyson wished the legislation was more prescriptive.

Dyson was instrumental in eliminating the adult cochlear implant waiting list, but the Deaf Community is just one of the voices she has been able to amplify.

When Dyson became an MP, there was no voice for the disabled. She changed this by becoming the first spokesperson, then minister, for disability issues.

Dyson's Port Hills electorate has been through a lot in recent years. From the earthquakes in 2010 and 2011, and the 2017 fires.

Her speech touched on the "wartime powers" given to Gerry Brownlee after the earthquakes, which disempowered and frustrated many.

"In August 2020, we still have inadequately or unrepaired homes," Dyson said.

She emphasised the importance of breaks within parliament; To not fill the dinner break with meetings and to ensure all members can get home to their families on a Thursday night. And Dyson walks the talk, creating a walking group with other MPs.

Ruth Dyson - Valedictory Statement