Jacinda Ardern, New Zealand’s prime minister, has welcomed an invitation to bury her placenta in a symbolic gesture that would honour a Maori tradition.
The 37-year-old leader, who announced last month that she was expecting a baby in June, was responding to the request from Maori leaders to bury the organ at a historical meeting site linked to the founding of the modern state of New Zealand.
"The fact that the suggestion was made and that there were elders alongside me who really acknowledged that - it felt like a significant gesture, a really symbolic one and it meant a lot to me,” she said.
"That is something of course I would like to talk to my partner Clarke [Gayford] about; we haven't had that opportunity yet."
The request was made as Ms Ardern became the nation’s first female leader to address a historic Maori welcoming ceremony. Burying placentas is a traditional Maori custom.FAQ | The placenta
She was speaking at a marae, or traditional meeting ground, at Waitangi, where representatives of the British Crown and Maori chiefs signed a treaty in 1840, regarded as the nation’s founding document. The treaty effectively established New Zealand as a British colony and gave the Maoris land and citizenship rights – though the precise meaning remains contested.
The treaty grounds have often been the site of protests and calls for greater rights, including a famous incident in 1990 in which a protester threw a wet t-shirt at the Queen.
Ms Ardern delivered a preamble in Maori and then spoke in English, saying she wanted to address inequalities affecting the Maori community, which makes up about 15 per cent of the country’s population.
Noting high rates of Maori unemployment, poverty and imprisonment, she said: “So long as this [inequality] exists, we have failed in our partnership. But I inherently believe in our power to change.”
She added: “Because one day, I want to be able to tell my child that I earned the right to stand here, and only you can tell me I have done that.”
Ms Ardern, the youngest ever Labour leader, became the nation’s third female prime minister last year after a stunning election result which ended almost a decade of rule by the centre-right National Party. She was speaking ahead of Waitangi Day on Tuesday, a public holiday which marks the anniversary of the signing of the treaty.