Taitamāhine mā, tena koutou.
Nau Mai ki te Whare Kawana.
Haria mai o wawata
Haria mai o moemoea
Poipoia ki te wairua kaha.
Kia Ora Tatau katoa.
Greetings to you young women
Welcome to Government House
Bring your wishes and your dreams
Nurture them with a strong spirit.
All of You. Greetings to us all.
It’s always a pleasure to host our rangatahi at Government House and it’s a special pleasure today to host you all - Taitamāhine toa. I am a great admirer of On Being Bold because it’s organised by an outstanding group of women leaders – all wahine toa – who are individually and collectively the best role models you could have, and because it’s all about empowering women to understand and achieve their potential.
In an ideal world, that wouldn’t be necessary, but the reality is that we still have work to do for women to achieve parity in many parts of our society, including in particular in the workplace.
I attended the Bold Steps conference last year and was energised and inspired by the incredible buzz and energy in the room.
I couldn’t be more delighted to see Year 13 students receiving the same messages about being bold and seizing opportunities.
At this point in your lives, when you are contemplating what your next Bold Steps in life might be, I hope that today has turbo-charged your expectations.
Today, you will have heard stories about how different women arrived in the roles that they now occupy.
You may have noticed that careers are not perfectly mapped out or straightforward – sometimes things don’t work out the way we expect, and we go off on various tangents along the way.
So we always have to be alert for new, interesting and challenging opportunities, and that means we have to be curious about what is out there for us.
It’s about thinking “I wonder what it is like to do that”, “how can I learn the skills to be able to do this”, “what opportunities would open up for me if I did those things?”
Curiosity leads us to explore possibilities, to test ourselves and to learn. It stops us from standing still.
If I think about my own career path, curiosity led me to switch from university teaching, to a legal career, to the world of business, to governance roles with different private and public sector companies, to be a Chief Crown Negotiator for Treaty Settlements, to undertaking reviews of various Government agencies, and to my current role as Governor-General.
When I think of it, at each stage when I moved into a different role, I had no previous experience and very little knowledge of what the new role entailed. In each case, my curiosity overcame my doubts about whether I had the skills and experience to make those career changes. Each time I had to conquer the imposter voice that was telling me I shouldn’t risk getting in to something I didn’t know; that I should play it safe and stick to what I was already doing.
I went to Hamilton Girls High school. When I left school at 17, I couldn’t think past what subjects I was going to take at university, and never in a million years did I imagine that one day I might become Governor-General.
Put up your hand if you know why we have a Governor-General and what their role is. And don’t worry, I won’t ask you to tell us.
To put it in a nutshell – our Head of State is Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth. Her position as New Zealand’s head of state was established in 1840 in our founding document, the Treaty of Waitangi.
As I’m sure you all know, she is also the Queen of the United Kingdom. In fact, she is Queen of 15 other commonwealth countries as well, including NZ. As she cannot be present in all of those countries at once, she appoints a Governor General to represent her in each one, apart from the UK, where she lives.
So I am her representative in NZ, and I undertake the roles that Queen Elizabeth would undertake if she lived in New Zealand.
I appoint the Prime Minister and the new government after an election, I sign into law all legislation passed by Parliament, I welcome new diplomatic representatives and foreign Heads of State when they visit New Zealand, and I represent New Zealand overseas – at events such as the recent D-Day commemorations in Europe, where I met other leaders representing their countries, including President Trump, the Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau, the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel and President Macron of France.
Twice a year, around 170 New Zealanders are recognised for their achievements or service to our country in the New Year Honours and the Queen’s Birthday Honours. They come here to Government House in Auckland, or Government House in Wellington to receive their Honours from me in investiture ceremonies, as the Queen’s representative.
And as Governor-General, I host many events like this, or attend events elsewhere around the country. It’s a privilege to be able to acknowledge and celebrate New Zealanders who are doing great things in their communities and for our country.
I also have an opportunity to promote things that I think are important to the future wellbeing of New Zealand. Top of mind for many of us at present is environmental sustainability – and by that, I mean how we can live in ways that are healthy and sustainable for our planet.
We all know that our wildlife is suffering, and a shocking number of plant, bird, insect, fish and mammal species have become extinct or are at imminent risk of extinction. And of course climate change – global heating – is a rapidly increasing threat to all forms of life.
The good news is that we can turn things around if we all get involved, if we all think about what we can do, individually and together, to clean up our environment and work to restore habitats, avoid using plastic, and use less of the world’s precious resources.
So I encourage you all to become involved wherever you can, in your homes, your schools, your communities, or organisations that are working for the wellbeing of the natural world – because the future wellbeing of all of us depends on what we do now.
Be inspired by the generosity of spirit you have experienced today. You too can choose to be bold and do good for yourselves, your communities and the wider world.
I do hope that if go to Wellington, you will come and visit Government House there. We have free public tours so you can learn a little more about your heritage and our system of government.
Kia ora, kia kaha, kia manawanui, huihui tātou katoa.