Kate Fulton Ph.D
Nelson City Councillor 2010 -
I was bom in Nelson and have four generations of family who connect to Aotearoa. I am the great, great, great granddaughter of Mary Mueller, attributed the first suffragette1 in New Zealand and mentor to Kate Sheppard. In 1849, divorcing her husband on the grounds of cruelty, with her two youngest children, she sailed to Nelson on the ship The Pekin (arriving in 1850). In 1869, under the pseudonym 'Femina', she published a highly regarded and widely distributed pamphlet titled An Appeal to the Men of New Zealand imploring men to give women the vote. Her views on divorced women's property rights were incorporated into the Married Women's Property Act 1870.
Growing up in Tahunanui and central Nelson, I attended Nelson College for Girls, then the University of Canterbury where I completed a First Class Honours Degree majoring in Chemistry. In 1996, I was awarded a prestigious Elmore Biomedical Research PhD scholarship to attend Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge University. In the UK, I met my partner Ashley Buckle and had my son Jacob and twin daughters Madeleine and Phoebe.
To the best of my knowledge, I was the first female PhD student at my College to have a baby whilst studying, thus encountering many obstacles - because the notion challenged the then accepted norm. I persevered with juggling both the demands of a young family and completing my thesis, graduating in 2002. Subsequently, we moved to Melbourne, Australia where I worked as a research scientist, lectured in biochemistry and completed some study towards a medical degree.
I returned to Nelson with my children in 2009 and stood for my first term as a Nelson City Councillor in 2010. My science and health background, alongside other life experiences has allowed me to combine a perceptive and objective open-mindedness with subjective empathy for wellbeing and equity concerns. Discovering my whakapapa has also helped me realise I have inherited progressive ways of thinking which are often much ahead of their time. Many of the solutions we are attempting to create today were apparent to me some 20 years ago.
The greatest challenge I experience as a leader is working alongside personalities which are dismissive towards my values and views because they don't align with the patriarchal approach to leadership. I have often found myself navigating my way through personality attacks, intimidation and manipulation to silence my views. For example, heckling is regarded by some to be an acceptable part of the 'theatre' of the debating chamber. Such body language and a lack of respect for colleagues alienates opportunities for consensus decision-making, which requires respect and empathetic listening to all viewpoints, including those who represent a minority voice. Prone to anxiety as a result, I have been learning to take time for inner reflection and look to connect with the attributes in those surrounding me, without losing my integrity. I've developed a greater surety and quiet confidence that my voice is speaking a truth, which those that voted for me resonate with.
This was published in: Women Decision-Makers Nelson and Tasman 1944 -2018, p.44. Compiled by Dr Shelley Richardson, Elaine Henry, Gail Collingwood, Hilary Mitchell.
Sources used in this story
- Mary Mueller was a suffragist - the term suffragette refers specifically to the British women campaigners for the vote.
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Further sources - Kate Fulton Ph.D
- Richardson, S., Henry, E., Collingwood, G. Mitchell, H. (2018). Women decision-makers Nelson and Tasman 1944-2018. Nelson, New Zealand