The art of connecting with people

00:41, Mar 18 2014
Southland Times photo
Invercargill City Councillor Rebecca Amundsen.

For the next 100 days will follow newly elected Invercargill City Councillor Rebecca Amundsen.

She's not an unfamiliar face to people  who live in Glengarry, or those who voted for her.

She's a mother, a landlord, a project leader and now a city councillor.

But this isn't just our project, it's yours too.

Get involved by posting comments, asking questions and answering polls each week as we follow Rebecca's first days in office.

Each week Rebecca will also write about her council musings.


In 2011 we did an oral history project involving interviews with 16 people from Southland. 


We talked with them about what it meant to be a Southlander and why people are so loyal to this province.

One of the common themes was that Southlanders like to know people. 

I am often amazed when I am with a group of Southlanders by their ability to connect people. 

And I am often asked the question do you know so and so? He was ...

Of course one of the difficulties of not being a born and raised Southlander is that I don't have those two degrees of separation that other people have.

Another common theme in our interviews was that Southlanders are willing to support people who are passionate and willing to work hard. I totally agree with this sentiment.

When we came to Invercargill in 2001 for the first year of the Zero Fees Scheme we were in our early 20s and had no real idea of where our life was going.

We have asked ourselves more than once where we might be now if we hadn't moved to here and are sure we would be doing nothing like what we do now.

I am from a hard working, working class family where most of the men are or were labourers of some kind and most of the women raised children. 

I was lucky that I had a mother who during the 80s was passionate about the 'Girls Can do Anything' message and always made sure my sister and I knew that we could do anything.

But with the exception of an aunty who became a school teacher we had no role models to follow.

But in Invercargill, as a result of some good decisions we found people who believed in us and became role models we could learn from and be challenged by. 

We will always be grateful to those people for their support.

And in fact we will always be grateful to this city for the opportunity it has given us that no other place and no other people could have done.

And I hope that as a city councillor I can give something back to my city and especially its people.

So knowing how much Southlanders like to know people here are ten things you might not know about me.

1.  As a child I always had short hair because I didn't like my hair being brushed.

2.  I learnt to drive in a cemetery in a Mark 2 Cortina.

3. I love books and I have heaps of them, but I hardly ever read them.

4. I still have two of my baby teeth.

5. I spent 10 months living in Japan as an exchange student - I loved Japanese food, loved meeting all the other foreigners there and managed to annoy my host family who were hoping for a 'Japanese' type girl, not an independent Kiwi girl.

6. Although I have a degree in Social Anthropology I have never been to university - no I didn't buy my degree on the internet, I studied for four years through Massey University as an extra mural student and was the first person in my family to go to university.

7. I have never had a nine-to-five job - among other things I have worked part time as a waitress, motel cleaner and librarian. The most part time jobs I have had at one time is five.

8. I was a teenage parent. I am also the daughter and granddaughter of teenage parents.

9. I was a smoker but I quit in 2008, I used to drink way too much coffee so I stopped that in 2010 and now I have to work out how to quit the chocolate habit ... suggestions welcome.

10. When Phil and I got married in 2008 I choose to keep my own surname because if I took his my signature would be RR Orr - way too many 'R's I reckon.

Speaking of my surname - Amundsen - I am not related to Roald Amundsen who was the first person to reach the South Pole.


The Southland Times