To Doug Ferry, Chair of the Board of Trustees and to your fellow board members, to Sally Haughton, Principal and to the Staff, to Hon Annette King and to Grant Robertson, Members of Parliament, to Ray Ahipene-Mercer, Leonie Gill and Paul Eagle Wellington City Councillors, importantly, to you, the Students, to Families, to Friends and to Distinguished Guests; tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou tēnā koutou katoa, a warm Wellington good evening to you all.
The Principal has asked me to address the assembly this evening as I am of the same gender as you, the young women who attend this school. I feel privileged to be asked and to have the support of Anand who is the present Governor-General and my husband.
Government House has strong and lasting links with Wellington East Girls’ College so it really is a pleasure for us to share this evening. The College is a close neighbour to the Government House in Wellington and since the College was established in 1925, the friendly and enduring relationship has been alive for 85 years. I foresee that it will continue. Regular involvement of the College in events, especially involving music there, is a tradition those at Government House value as do the many visitors to the House from around the country and from overseas.
For the first two years of this five year term, we worked from Government House Wellington but a necessary decision was made that the much-loved house needed some attention in the form of what can only be described as major surgery, both cosmetic and invasive. You may like to imagine a triple bypass, double hip replacement and a face lift. When we moved to Lower Hutt in late 2008 to allow the Conservation Project to proceed, I became involved in the planning meetings. The Project is nearing completion now and we are all preparing for the move back.
Before we start to recognise those students who have earned the College’s awards, I will remind you of the Wellington East Girls’ College Mission Statement which reads as follows:-
“Wellington East Girls' College will educate young women academically, physically, socially and aesthetically in a co-operative atmosphere, so that each may realise her full potential and face the future with confidence in whatever role she chooses.”
The calibre of tonight’s outstanding pupils shows that the College is achieving the statement’s intent. We can all commend the College on its proud reputation for nurturing and developing young women who enrich our country and that reputation flows from the students and staff, it also draws on families’ and friends’ contributions to the College. One family has told me that this is a very happy place.
Education is a vital part of a young woman’s development and becoming a responsible citizen of New Zealand. Sylvia Ashton-Warner, one of our country’s famous teachers and literary figures, once said:-
“School needs to be a place for living as well as learning. The only chance our new child has before he becomes a robot.”
She was speaking about her son and the worry that she held that, when a person moves from school into the workforce, there is the risk of that person becoming entrenched in popular thought and practice.
If you use the values and knowledge you have gained at school as a toolbox for questioning and formulating your own views and standing up for them in society, you will become a good citizen. Values and the courage to not capitulate, on occasion, in other words, to stay true to yourself, will help you to earn and keep the respect of others and to contribute well to your community’s thinking.
A wonderful woman who attended this College is Dame Margaret Clark. She is a Dame Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit because of her public services to education. A highly regarded political scientist, her papers on New Zealand politics have been widely published and she has achieved at the highest levels of academia. Students and New Zealanders more generally, better understand their political system and the values that underpin it because of her insightful work which has encouraged many to re-evaluate political history.
Education gives you a broader understanding of who you are, where we have come from, and how our world works. What you learn at school is based on the accumulated knowledge and wisdom of more than three thousand years of learning stored in libraries, archives and, increasingly, in computer databases. It is brought to life for you by teachers under a structure, the curriculum. It includes too, in part, technological understanding which is ever more relevant in today’s world. Your school years are or have been a time to learn attitudes and key skills you will always need and to launch your future.
In whatever way you make a career, your time here has equipped you well and you can look to learned people, such as Dame Margaret Clark, for inspiration.
The Supreme Awards for 2010 are soon to be given. May I congratulate all of these young women who are splendid role models.
To those involved in the upcoming exams, good luck. I wish everyone greetings and fortitude in your endeavours - no reira, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, kia ora, kia kaha, tēnā koutou katoa.