Kiwi could be first lady of Aussie

BY JULIE ASH AND KATIE CHAPMAN
Last updated 05:00 28/08/2010

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She could well be Australia's next first lady – and she hails from Wellington's "nappy valley".

Margie Abbott has fond memories of trudging off to school in Wainuiomata in her galoshes with her slippers tucked in her school bag – and says her Aussie children can do the haka.

The wife of Liberal Party leader and hopeful prime minister Tony Abbott was born in Hutt Hospital and grew up in Wainuiomata before moving to Australia in 1983. She attended Fernlea School in the 1960s and then Wainuiomata High School.

"I can just remember things like every weekend I went down to Richard Prouse Park and I was very much involved in athletics," she told The Dominion Post last night. "I played soccer for the Wainuiomata club for years and loved that."

Former classmates remembered Margie Aitken as a quiet, academic girl. "She was a good student," said one. They are now watching avidly to see if she becomes Australia's first lady.

Ms Abbott trained as a teacher in Wellington and taught in Wainuiomata and Upper Hutt. She moved to Sydney in 1983 and met her future husband in a pub. They have now been married for more than 20 years.

As for the red speedos her husband famously sports, she says she would never ban him from wearing them. "But he does have plenty of board shorts in the cupboard."

They are both rugby fans but she is a little dismissive when asked who she now supports. "I support good rugby."

Their three daughters, Louise, Frances and Bridget, may wear green and gold – Bridget has played netball for an Australian schools team – but they are a little bit Kiwi. Ms Abbott learnt Maori at Wainuiomata College and taught it, as part of cultural studies, at her daughters' school.

"My girls have grown up knowing how to do the haka at a very young age and knowing various Maori songs. There is a little bit of Kiwi in all of them."

She said she was incredibly proud of her husband: "My life now has been my life for the last 16 years ... but obviously we are at the very sharp end of political life per se in that he is possibly – subject to counting and negotiations – maybe, a leader of the country."

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- The Dominion Post

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