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Speech: Long Journey For Sevenpence

Speech notes:
Minister of Internal Affairs, Hon Jack Elder
Launch of "Long Journey for Sevenpence"
National Archives Foyer
Thursday June 17, 5.30pm

Megan Hutching, Roger Hall, Claudia, Roger Blakeley, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you so much for the opportunity to be with you tonight for the launching of the latest publication from DIA's Historical Branch.

It's been an extremely busy and productive year for the branch with some 11 publications so far and one more to come before the end of the June year.

As many of you know, the branch developed from two institutions in the department in the 1940s, the Centennial branch and the War History branch. It is the government-sponsored body responsible for the fostering, funding, monitoring of New Zealand history at large, and for the production of histories related to state activities.

You may be aware of my abiding interest in history. It was one of my majors in my degree and it was one of the subjects I taught before entering politics. So my presence here tonight is more than just a pleasant duty as Minister.

I want to congratulate Megan Hutching for her latest publication. It is a further example of what the Historical Branch sets out to do in its objective of combining "thorough, accurate and objective research with presentation that has flair, imagination and is interesting to read".

I am sure, though, Megan, Long Journey does not bear any resemblance to Mark Twain's advice to historians "Get your facts first, and then you can distort them as much as you please".

I would bet its more in keeping with Marcus Tullius Cicero who said: "History is the witness that testifies to the passing of time; it illumines reality, vitalises memory, provides guidance in daily life and brings us tidings of antiquity".

Others to follow will speak in greater detail about Long Journey for Sevenpence. But, it's the story of the post-Second World War assisted immigration scheme. And it draws on the experiences of some of the migrants themselves.

Many countries have benefited from the contributions migrants bring to their new homes. New Zealand certainly has. The first glimpse of their new home made an indelible impression on many new Kiwis as the migrant ships entered Wellington Harbour or headed up Rangitoto Channel around North Head into Auckland.

It was reminiscent of the mass migration to the United States before the turn of the Century as Europeans arrived in the New World. I mention this by way of noting you've chosen an appropriate day to launch this book because back in 1885 on this very day the Statue of Liberty arrived in New York aboard the French ship "Isere".

We don't have such a monument to migration but we do have the migrants themselves, and their descendants, from all nations and walks of life, who have done so much to enrich New Zealand.

Megan, your book truly meets the Historical Branch's Mission Statement "to contribute to an enhanced awareness and knowledge of New Zealand history among government, policy-makers and the New Zealand people".

Congratulations to you and the publishers, Victoria University Press.


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