E nga mana, e nga reo, e nga iwi o te motu e huihui nei, tēnei aku mihi nui ki a koutou. Kia ora tātou katoa. Warm greetings to you all, and welcome to Government House Wellington.
I specifically acknowledge: Gráinne Moss, Chief Executive of Oranga Tamariki and Linda Surtees, Chief Executive of Caring Families Aotearoa.
Tēnā koutou katoa.
I particularly welcome the recipients of the Excellence in Foster Care Awards.
We will soon hear summaries of the outstanding commitment you have shown to the wellbeing of children in your care.
You take on this work knowing that there may be considerable challenges, but also knowing that the return of a lost smile to a young face is its own reward.
We all know that a child’s early years are instrumental in shaping what kind of adult they will be. Will they be compassionate? Will they be a strong leader? Will they strive to be the very best version of themselves?
That’s why our goal must be to do our best to give our tamariki the best start in their formative years, and set them up for later success.
For some New Zealanders, because of reasons beyond their control, their early years are blighted by neglect, abuse and trauma.
They are not provided with the stable, supportive family environment that every child deserves.
At a time in their lives where their biggest worry should where to play after school, they face daunting challenges.
In New Zealand, this is the reality for the 6000 children currently in state care, and a further 18,000 being looked after by other family members.
Today, we are recognising good people who decided to offer children from adverse environments a safe place to call home – and mostly, on a voluntary basis.
You clearly have special skills, patience and unwavering love for your young charges.
You help bring a sense of security and clarity to them when they need it most. You believe in them and set them back on a path where they have a better chance of fulfilling their potential.
The impact of your intervention and guidance is summed up in the whakatauki “Ko te piko o te Māhuri, tērā te tipu o te rākau”. The way in which you nurture the sapling, determines how it will grow.
You have taken on that challenge, and our communities and the children that you have helped owe you an enormous debt of gratitude.
Thank you for opening your homes and offering children a haven where they can grow and thrive.
Congratulations to all the recipients of awards today, and I wish you all the very best with your future work.
Kia ora huihui tātou katoa.