E tū member New Zealander of the Year!

Kristine wins NZer of the year (Photo credit: New Zealander of the Year Awards)

At E tū we are so proud of our member and equal pay hero, Kristine Bartlett, who was named Kiwibank New Zealander of the Year at a gala event in Auckland last month.

To cap the occasion, the presentation was made by another E tū member, the Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern!

Kristine says the announcement itself remains a blur.

“I can’t remember it! I know I was …I was just totally overwhelmed, speechless, I just did not believe it and even today, I can’t believe it’s happened. But it’s out there now and I can accept it …I’ve been on cloud nine to be honest.”

Judging by the response, Kristine was a hugely popular choice, a reflection no doubt of this ordinary working woman whose fight for equal pay brought extraordinary results. That includes last year’s historic $2 billion equal pay settlement. Kristine has also helped make pay equity a household name and inspired other women to lodge claims.

Ask Kristine where she got her courage and drive, and she pays tribute to her mother.

“You know, she struggled and nobody thought about them in those days. I think, looking back, not just in my family but a lot of families, solo mums – there was no benefit in those days and a lot of women struggled at home … so yeah, that came to the fore.”

Kristine has also always acknowledged E tū, which chose her to front the famous equal pay court case that led to the equal pay settlement.

“Without them I would be nowhere today – and all the other support out there,” says Kristine.

“I think once somebody stands up, people can see the wrongs that have been going on. It took my union to put me in front and I feel so proud and privileged to have been chosen.”

Since the award, Kristine has been busy with media interviews and attending functions in her role as New Zealander of the Year. She is back at work, and the big question is how long for, given her heavy workload.

Kristine admits she feels torn: “I love my job. So, I do want to keep working. But there’s still a lot of fighting to be done and it’s got me all wound up to keep going – to help if I can.

“I just feel really proud it’s come as far as it’s come in pay equity and I want all the women who are going through their pay equity cases to just keep going – if I can do it, you can do it.”