Rau rangatira mā, e Kui ma e koro ma e huihui nei,
tēnei aku mihi nui ki a koutou. Kia ora tātou katoa.
Nau mai hoki mai ki Te Whare Kawana.
Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, warm greetings to you all. Welcome to Government House.
David and I are delighted to host the Caring Families Aotearoa, Excellence in Foster Care Awards for 2021. I’m so pleased that we have been able to reschedule this event from earlier in the year, when COVID got in our way.
My term of office as GG ends in September, and when I look back at the past five years that I’ve been in this role, one of the most rewarding aspects has been having the opportunity to acknowledge and celebrate the amazing New Zealanders who are working everyday to improve the lives of others. There are many of you in the room today.
Last year we met Shayne Walker from Dunedin, who was made an Officer of the NZ Order of Merit for fostering children and social work.
At Shayne’s investiture ceremony, there were some more well known New Zealanders being recognised - indeed there was one recipient who had lie rallies millions of Instagram followers.
But when Shayne’s citation was read out, chronicling a life devoted to the care and well-being of families and children – including the fact that he and his wife had fostered almost 200 tamariki – there was an audible reaction in the room.
Such was the admiration for the manaakitanga that Shayne and his wife had given to so many of our most vulnerable children.
Aotearoa is indeed fortunate to have people like the Walkers – and the people being recognised today – who are prepared to take on that challenging work.
In an ideal world, childhood is carefree, a time of great opportunity and the development of potential, without the stresses and realities that adulthood brings.
As you are all too well aware, thousands of our young people do not have that experience.
Instead, they live turbulent lives, suffering abuse, neglect or trauma.
Thank you for opening your hearts and homes to children that need your love and care.
Of course, it’s more than simply putting a roof over their heads. It’s also about providing a safe and nurturing environment. In some instances, that entails providing intensive specialist care.
I’m sure that the recipients of today’s awards did not set out on their journey as carers with accolades in mind.
You saw a need and, most importantly, you were prepared to take action and do something about it.
That support, guidance and manaakitanga has given your young charges a better chance to have the future they deserve.
The whakatauki “Aroha mai, aroha atu: Love given is love returned” reminds us that the aroha that you have extended will enable them, in their turn, to extend aroha to others.
Your manaakitanga is helping to create stronger people and communities.
I offer my congratulations and thanks, on behalf of all New Zealanders, to those of you receiving Excellence in Foster Care Awards today.
We know that you spend so much of your time focusing on others.
Today, the focus is on you, so please allow us to extend Government House manaakitanga to you.
Kia ora, kia kaha, kia manawanui, huihui tātou katoa.