Seti Afoa / Pic, APN
At age 17 years, Paula Bennett cradelled her new born baby in her arms, looking ahead at an uncertain future. She raised baby Ana on her own with the help of the Domestic Purposes Benefit (DPB) for solo mums. Today, she became the Deputy Prime Minister (DPM) of New Zealand.
This is an inspirational story no less. An incredible journey for a then young woman, to a champion for all struggling people everywhere.
Bennett replaces Bill English in the deputy's chair. English replaces John Key as Prime Minister of New Zealand.
Bennett's rise to political heights in NZ is an incredible journey of pure survival, both personal and political. Her personal struggle as a young solo mum, was not a barrier to personal development. Bennett studied and earned a BA from Massey University.
In 2005 she entered Parliament as a list MP after unseccessfully challenging for the Labour held seat of Waitakere (Lynne Pillay). She won that seat in the 2008 General Election by the slightest of margins (632 votes). Despite the slender margin she received a huge vote of confidence from new Prime Minister John Key who appointed Bennett to Cabinet as Minister of Social Development and Employment, Minister for Disability Issues, and Minister of Youth Affairs.
Bennett won Waitakere again in 2011 on Election night by even fewer votes (349) but lost it to Labour candidate Carmel Sepuloni after the counting of special votes. Bennett challenged the new result and took back the seat after a successful judicial review.
In the 2014 Election she won the new seat of Upper Harbour (Auckland) by a significant margin of 9,692 votes.
When Key stepped down last week, Bennett threw her name in the ring for Deputy PM under Bill English. She went up against Simon Bridges for the role, and she won it with a confidence vote from her colleauges.
She currently holds Cabinet portfolios for Climate Change Issues, Social Housing, and State Services. This may change as new PM Bill English looks to reshuffle his cabinet. No doubt he has grand plans for his deputy, nothing that will faze Paula Bennett.
Bennett today reflected in the House on her rapid rise from a "17year old single unemployed solo-Maori mum from Taupo" to where she is today. She recalls that it "looked bleak actually" for her.
"I left school with no qualifications, and I didn't have a job."
"I reckon it is a credit to this country that there are more opportunities and actually you get a second chance. If you step up to them and then step in, NZ rewards you for that hard work."
Bennett credits the National Party for her second chance.
"What drove me to the National Party is that real drive behind it that you can get ahead. You can make something of yourself and you get a second chance."
That second chance just keeps getting better for Paula Bennett. Today she becomes the Deputy Prime Minister of New Zealand.