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Turia Speech: Winston Churchill Memorial Trust Awards

Hon Tariana Turia Speech:

Minister for the Community and Voluntary Sector

Winston Churchill Memorial Trust Fellows Award Ceremony, Government House; Wellington 11 August 2011, 2pm

Your Excellencies, the Governor General of New Zealand, the Right Honourable Sir Anand Satyanand, and Lady Susan Satyanand, members of the Trust Board, Chief Executive Brendan Boyle, Fellows and welcomed guests.

This is a very special event for us all today – to acknowledge and honour the achievements of the twenty-three Winston Churchill Memorial Trust Fellows, who completed their Fellowships in 2009 and 2010.

It was the ancient Greek philosopher, Aristotle, who once said, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then, is not an act but a habit”.

Today’s event provides us with one of those rare opportunities, to acknowledge the hard work, the commitment and the perseverance of people who have taken up the calling to learn and to give back through the knowledge they share on their return.

It is our time to pay tribute to excellence – to celebrate the commitment of more than seven hundred New Zealanders, who through the means of the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust Fellowship, have taken up the challenge to step outside our own borders and seek new experiences and knowledge that will enrich our nation.

It is also an opportune time – when thinking about the contributions made to our nation – to place on record my appreciation to Sir Anand and Lady Susan, for the selfless and gracious commitment you have given to Aotearoa over these last five years.

It seems only yesterday that Anand and I shared a corridor on the Ground floor of Parliament Buildings. Anand in that time had been appointed as the first Registrar of Pecuniary Interests, after having completed two terms as Ombudsman.

Such is the nature of the man that literally one day he was my neighbour, the next he was anointed as the Governor General of Aotearoa. His humility, his modesty and respect for others is something I greatly admire.

I want to express my appreciation to Sir Anand for his commitment to te reo Maori; his profound belief in the significance of Te Tiriti o Waitangi as the foundation of our nation today; and the multiple ways in which he and Lady Susan have served New Zealand these last five years.

I can think of no better way to be introducing the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust Fellowship biannual awards, than to refer to a passage that Sir Anand himself used in a speech just a few months ago, at the Arts Foundation Icon Awards Dinner.

The words come from New Zealand poet, novelist, and journalist Iris Wilkinson, better known to most as Robin Hyde,

“It’s just dawned on me that I am a New Zealander and surely, surely the legends of the mountains, rivers and people we see should mean more to us than the legends of any other country.”

What we are recognising today, in the wealth of research interests advanced by our Fellows is in every circumstance, the knowledge of other countries being applied to our own settings; knowledge being used to make a profound contribution to communities throughout the land.

Sir Winston Churchill believed that world peace and greater international understanding could be promoted through ordinary people being able to travel to other countries and experiencing other cultures.

Each of these Fellows has travelled overseas with the intention of searching for solutions to local problems, or gathering knowledge that has national significance. Their research covers the fields of art, health, social services and human development. It spans from building technology, to workplace literacy, to public art projects, and beyond.

Some have looked at ways to improve community wellbeing.

Phillippa Pitcher looked at community services in the United States and Canada in her commitment to increase community wellbeing in inner city environments.

Patricia Flanagan travelled to England, Canada and the United States to investigate projects designed to improve health outcomes for people with chronic conditions.

Other Fellows have delved into the richness of our past.

Dr Ian St George researched historical documents held in London which he subsequently drew upon in publishing two books – one on Reverend William Colenso’s letters, and another on Reverend Richard Laishley’s album of paintings of New Zealanders.

Dr Patricia Te Arapo Wallace went to the US – visiting 18 museums in 10 cities across nine states in 28 days to study images of the cloaks that are stored in museums in the United States.

Her study tour gave her a unique opportunity to view precious taonga such as kaitaka (large, smoothly woven cloaks); korowai (finely woven cloaks with tassels) and kahu huruhuru (feathered cloaks). It also brought to the surface the fact that the best collection of our precious korowai, some dating back to 1820, are preserved outside of Aotearoa.

Chris Paulin visited a number of European museums to study fish hooks collected by Captain Cook and other early explorers, in order to understand how Māori hooks were manufactured and functioned in the eighteenth century.

Others have tackled some of our more complex contemporary issues.

Janis Walker chose to investigate synergies between Sweden’s Natural Sustainability Framework and the tangata whenua view of the natural environment.

Francis Stark travelled to the United Kingdom to understand how digital technology could be used to preserve and access audiovisual archives; and Dr Betsan Martin studied water management systems in selected Pacific nations to enhance our own knowledge of management practices for our waterways and ecosystems.

In the limited time that I have today, I cannot do justice to all the innovative ideas that these Fellows have brought back to New Zealand. But I know that a wealth of knowledge has returned with them.

Thank you all, for your efforts, and for your commitments you have made in order to take up this challenge. I have no doubt that the international knowledge you have brought back will have tremendous benefit for our communities and your professions.

I want to also thank the members of the Trust Board, ably led by Rachael Selby [Graeme Hall; Bruce Robertson; Dr Airini; Professor Helen Nicholson; Fiona Tregonning; Len Cook; Margy-Jean Malcolm; Mary Schnackenberg].

With applications coming from such a broad cross-section of society, the extensive work you do to assess and select applications for funding is greatly appreciated.

Finally, I want to conclude with some words which I think apply to every one of the twenty-three Winston Churchill Memorial Trust Fellows, who completed their Fellowships in 2009 and 2010; the Chair and Members of the Trust; and the honourable Patron of the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust, Sir Anand Satyanand and Lady Susan.

“Excellence can be obtained if you care more than others think is wise; risk more than others think is safe; dream more than others think is practical; expect more than others think is possible”.

I wish you all well, in your ongoing pursuit of excellence, for the wellbeing, the strength and prosperity of Aotearoa.

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