Carmel Sepuloni

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Carmel Sepuloni

Carmel Sepuloni.jpg
24th Minister for Social Development
Assumed office
26 October 2017
Prime MinisterJacinda Ardern
Preceded byAnne Tolley
Member of the New Zealand Parliament
for Kelston
Assumed office
21 September 2014
Preceded byElectorate established
Personal details
Carmel Jean Sepuloni

1977 (age 41–42)
Waitara, New Zealand
Political partyLabour
Daren Kamali (m. 2018)
Alma materUniversity of Auckland

Carmel Jean Sepuloni (born 1977[1]) is a New Zealand politician and a member of parliament for the Labour Party. She was first elected to Parliament following the 2008 general election as a list member, becoming New Zealand's first MP of Tongan descent. In the 2011 general election, Sepuloni won the seat of Waitakere on the official count with an eleven-vote majority over incumbent National MP Paula Bennett, who subsequently requested a judicial recount, which resulted in Sepuloni losing her seat in Parliament. She returned to Parliament in 2014 as the member for Kelston.

Early years[edit]

Sepuloni was born, raised and schooled in Waitara, Taranaki. She moved to Auckland in 1996 to attend the Auckland College of Education and University of Auckland where she attained a Diploma Teaching (Primary), and a Bachelor of Education respectively. She also holds a Post Graduate Diploma in Education. Her father was a Samoan-Tongan migrant freezing worker and 'staunch unionist' and her mother was a Pākehā from a conservative farming family. She has two sons.[2] She married writer and musician Daren Kamali in November 2018.[3] Before entering politics, Sepuloni was a teacher, with teaching experience in Samoa and with Auckland Youth in alternative education programmes; an equity manager; and a research project manager in Pacific health at the University of Auckland.

Member of Parliament[edit]

New Zealand Parliament
Years Term Electorate List Party
2008–2011 49th List 35 Labour
2014–2017 51st Kelston 29 Labour
2017–present 52nd Kelston 8 Labour

First term, 2008–2011[edit]

Sepuloni came to parliament in the 2008 general election as a list MP for Labour. She was ranked 35 on the party's list and did not stand in any electorate. The promotion of Sepuloni and others was cited by The New Zealand Herald as an effort by the Labour Party to 'inject new faces' and increase the party's ethnic diversity.[4]

After the election she became Labour's spokesperson for civil defence, and associate spokesperson for tertiary education and social development. She had been involved in the party for only a year and a half before being elected.[5]

In her maiden speech, Sepuloni said "I've learned through my own experiences and the experiences of others around me, that our young in particular can quickly begin to self-stigmatise when the media and society stigmatise them. When the media only portrays a picture of a ghettoised, poverty-stricken group of trouble makers, then our youth can resign themselves to the fact that this is what they are. They may even take pride in this prescribed image, because it provides them with a level of attention and status which although negative, is attention and status nonetheless."

In June 2010, her Employment Relations (Probationary Period Repeal) Amendment Bill was drawn from the member's ballot. A bill to repeal the changes to probationary employment contained in the Employment Relations Amendment Act 2008,[6] it was defeated at its first reading 64 votes to 57.[7]

Second term, 2011–2014[edit]

On 19 March 2010, Sepuloni was selected as the Labour candidate for the Waitakere electorate in the 2011 general election, facing incumbent National MP and Cabinet minister Paula Bennett. On April 2011, she was ranked number 24 on the party's list for the election. On the election night preliminary count, she placed second in Waitakere, 349 votes behind Bennett, and with her list ranking was set not to be returned to parliament. When the official results were released on 10 December 2011, Sepuloni had received sufficient special votes to win Waitakere and defeat Bennett by 11 votes.[8] However, Bennett requested a judicial recount, and on 17 December 2011 subsequently regained her seat with a nine-vote majority, removing Sepuloni from Parliament.[9][10] This was not before the Labour Party leadership election on 13 December, in which she participated as a member-elect of the Labour caucus. Not long after leaving Parliament Sepuloni travelled to Egypt to participate as a short term observer on the NDI International Election Mission. Prior to being reelected to parliament, Sepuloni was employed as the Chief Executive for a Pacific disability, mental health and older persons NGO called Vaka Tautua.[citation needed]

Third term, 2014–2017[edit]

During the 2014 general election, Carmel Sepuloni stood as Labour's candidate in the Kelston electorate in Auckland; winning by a majority of 15,091 votes.[11]

In 2015 she was stood down as Labour's social development spokesperson after her mother was charged with benefit fraud.[12]

Fourth term, 2017–present[edit]

During the 2017 general election, Carmel Sepuloni stood again in her Kelston seat, returning to Parliament with a majority of 16,789 votes. Sepuloni was elected as a Cabinet Minister by the Labour Party caucus following Labour's formation of a coalition government with New Zealand First and the Greens.[13] Sepuloni was subsequently appointed as Minister of Social Development and Disability Issues as well as Associate Minister of Pacific Peoples and Arts, Culture, and Heritage.[14]

On 28 April 2018, Sepuloni issued a statement criticizing Work and Income for turning away a homeless woman who was trying to apply for a benefit after being discharged from hospital.[15] As Social Development Minister, Sepuloni likened the Coalition Government's approach to welfare reform to "trying to turn a jumbo jet in mid-air."[16]


  1. ^ "Current MPs - Carmel Sepuloni". New Zealand Parliament. Retrieved 16 January 2009.
  2. ^ Gower, Patrick (15 January 2009). "New Voices: Grant Robertson, Aaron Gilmore, Carmel Sepuloni". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 2 October 2012.
  3. ^ Mitchell, Stephanie (18 November 2018). "Labour party MP gets married in Fiji and enlists another MP as bridesmaid". Retrieved 18 November 2018.
  4. ^ Young, Audrey; Oliver, Paula (1 September 2008). "New generation to fly party flag at election". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 10 September 2009.
  5. ^ Neville, Alice (9 November 2008). "The back bench baby MPs". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 2 October 2012.
  6. ^ "Employment Relations (Probationary Period Repeal) Amendment Bill". Parliament of New Zealand. Retrieved 18 June 2010.
  7. ^ "Member's Bill to remove 90 day probationary period voted down". New Zealand Labour Party. 5 August 2010. Archived from the original on 23 July 2011. Retrieved 10 August 2010.
  8. ^ Carroll, Joanne; Backhouse, Matthew (11 December 2011). "Sepuloni wins by 11 votes". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 14 December 2011.
  9. ^ "Paula Bennett reclaims Waitakere". New Zealand Herald. 16 December 2011. Retrieved 17 December 2011.
  10. ^ "Paula Bennett regains Waitakere". Television New Zealand. 16 December 2011. Retrieved 17 December 2011.
  11. ^ "Official Count Results -- Kelston". Electoral Commission. Retrieved 6 June 2018.
  12. ^ "Mother of Labour MP Carmel Sepuloni in court on benefit fraud charges". The New Zealand Herald. 26 February 2015. Retrieved 6 June 2018.
  13. ^ "Who's in? Who's out?". Radio NZ. 20 October 2017. Retrieved 20 October 2017.
  14. ^ "Hon Carmel Sepuloni". New Zealand Parliament. Retrieved 6 June 2018.
  15. ^ "'Unacceptable' Work & Income turned away homeless woman – Carmel Sepuloni". Newshub. 28 April 2018. Retrieved 6 June 2018.
  16. ^ Satherley, Dan (28 April 2018). "Welfare overhaul to get underway 'in next three years' - Carmel Sepuloni". Newshub. Retrieved 6 June 2018.
New Zealand Parliament
New constituency Member of Parliament for Kelston
Political offices
Preceded by
Anne Tolley
Minister for Social Development
Preceded by
Nicky Wagner
Minister for Disability Issues