ACT MP Karen Chhour opens up about finding her whakapapa

By Rukuwai Tipene-Allen

Karen Chhour at Parliament House / Stuff

She's a fresh face of the rejuvenated ACT party, but Karen Chhour, a warm and well-spoken newcomer to politics hasn't had an easy road to parliament.

Chhour, is fittingly the ACT party spokesperson for Social Development, Children, and Child Poverty Reduction, she is not just passionate about it, she's lived it, having been raised in care. Chhour says lockdowns and covid fatigue have made a difficult time even harder for families, 'the issues that families face are exacerbated.' she tells Te Ao Māori News.

"Even though people's wages were still being paid. The price of everything went up and you've also got your kids home 24/7... Kids eat a lot more when they're bored".

Chhour says she's heard from people that their grocery bills have doubled in the last twelve months. 

"[Families] are deciding whether they pay the rent or feed the kids."

For her part, as a child Chhour was put into care before being fostered by a couple she recalls as 'lovely'; but as she grew older she became more and more curious about her whakapapa. Her journey of finding her roots was 'significant' Chhour says.

"My foster mother that took me in when I was younger she's tracing my whakapapa to find out where I come from exactly."

"I know I'm from up north, but I don't know where exactly and because of lockdown I haven't been able to go sit down with her and have a real conversation around that."

In an exciting turn of fate the day before the MP was elected to parliament as no. 7 on the ACT list, she received a phone call from a man in Australia saying that he may be her father. 

"I've got another side of my family that I've discovered that I never knew and they live in Australia; I have siblings I've never met and a father I've never met." 

"I'm really excited for when the borders open up and I get a chance to actually go meet some family I've never met." she said.

Marae visits and whakapapa wānanga are all part of Chhour's plan of reconnection. 'It's been a huge year for me, an exciting year and I feel very privileged to be here.'

Chhour says in 2021 she was learning to be an MP and how to work in the new role through lockdowns, next year she hopes that she will be learning more about where she comes from.