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125th Anniversary of the Blind Foundation of New Zealand

Issue date: 
Thursday, 5 March 2015
Lt Gen The Rt Hon Sir Jerry Mateparae, GNZM, QSO

E kui mā, e koro mā, e huihui nei, tēnei aku mihi māhana ki a koutou.  Naumai haere mai rā ki Te Whare Kawana o Te Whanganui-a-Tara.  Ladies and gentlemen, warm greetings to you all, and welcome to Government House.

I specifically acknowledge: the Prime Minister, the Rt Hon John Key and Mrs Bronagh Key; former Governor-General, Dame Catherine Tizard; Chair of the Blind Foundation Board of Directors Richard Hoskin and board members; and Blind Foundation Chief Executive Sandra Budd - tēnā koutou katoa.

It is a great pleasure for Janine and me to welcome you to Government House this evening to celebrate 125 years of service to New Zealanders by the Blind Foundation.

The Blind Foundation and the office of the Governor-General have had an association for many of the 125 years.  My predecessors have served as Presidents and Patrons.  A quick search of newspaper archives turns up many photos of Governors-General officiating at the opening of new buildings, hosting garden parties and meeting people linked with your organisation.  One of the first visits I made to a patronage organisation was to your Christchurch branch.

My visit hardly compares to one Vice-regal engagement, that of Dame Cath.  Her tandem parachute jump to launch Braille Week in 1992 was both spectacular and a hard act to follow!  Speaking to Dame Cath the other night, I think the only thing that could have trumped that in terms of media attention was the guide dog puppy – Hobson - who lived in the House for the last year of Dame Cath’s term.

Dame Cath’s preparedness to throw herself out of a perfectly working aeroplane demonstrates an affection, respect and value that New Zealanders share for the Blind Foundation and the work you do.

The Foundation is a trusted institution.  Its consistent performance over 125 years, its inclusion in the Top 5 of most reputable non-profit organisations  and its commitment to its clients and their well-being is proof of this.  Consistency, results and dedication to its people is confirmation that sensible stewardship and dedicated advocacy can reap rewards.

This year is very much a year of notable anniversaries in the history of our nation.  The Foundation’s 125th coincides with the 175th since the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi, the 150th since the capital moved to Wellington and 100 years since New Zealand and Australian troops went ashore at Gallipoli.  Each of these events has great meaning for all New Zealanders.  They have all shaped the New Zealand we enjoy today.

Gallipoli and the battles of the First World War had a particular impact on the Blind Foundation.  The influx of men blinded or partially blinded from being gassed or through explosive damage led to a change in thinking.  The men, who had recuperated from their injuries at England’s St Dunstan’s Hostel for Blinded Sailors and Soldiers had been trained to live independently.  Their return had a flow on effect for your organisation with the push beginning for greater self-sufficiency for blind and partially-sighted people.  This is something that still informs your work today, alongside ensuring that blind and partially-sighted people have the same opportunities and choices as sighted-people.

John Tighe,  the first Principal at the Jubilee Institute of the Blind would no doubt marvel at how far the world has come from the raised Moon Script which was amongst the methods he used with his first New Zealand pupils .

Talk of past and present always brings with it the desire to look towards the future and I have no doubt we will hear more about this as the evening progresses.  Casting my mind back to my Christchurch visit, I am aware that new technologies are being made available to blind and partially sighted people all the time.  I read about a man who saw “the most beautiful woman in the room”, his wife, through a bionic eye  Less dramatic, but equally impressive, adaptive communications  offer huge benefits in terms of work or study or even just keeping people in touch with their community. 

Of course the Foundation is nothing without people - its people.  I want to acknowledge, thank and congratulate you all for 125 successful years.  Tonight is recognition of a job well done for you and all those who came before you.  It’s a chance to look back at the beginnings of the organisation as the Jubilee Institute for the Blind and how it has evolved to be a contemporary organisation poised for the future.  It’s also an opportunity to reflect on how the attitudes towards and acceptance of the needs and aspirations of those who are blind or partially sighted have changed for the better.

So, congratulations on 125 years of supporting and empowering members of our blind and partially-sighted community.  I wish you all the very best for the future.

Kia ora huihui tātou katoa

Last updated: 
Thursday, 5 March 2015

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