Kia ora koutou
After just a month in my new role, I am delighted that one of my first community engagements should be here, with the Council of Jewish Women, to join with you in honouring 2021’s Women of Worth.
During my term as Governor-General, I am committed to doing what I can to promote the wellbeing of New Zealanders and a more inclusive Aotearoa New Zealand.
We are fortunate to have one of the most diverse populations in the world, and I will celebrate the extraordinary contributions that different communities have made and continue to make to New Zealanders’ social, cultural, and economic wellbeing.
I am delighted to support the Council of Jewish Women in the work that you do to lift up people both within and beyond your community. I also applaud your promoting of understanding and tolerance in Aotearoa.
In the past, New Zealand pursued assimilationist policies, including the shameful exclusion of many would-be New Zealanders because of their ethnicity and religious beliefs.
This Holocaust Centre is a painful reminder of the catastrophic consequences of such bigotry for Jewish refugees who were desperate to escape Nazi oppression in the years leading up to the Second World War.
I like to think that our collective vision in the 21st century is for a nation that is increasingly comfortable with difference, where everyone has the opportunity to contribute to the best of their ability.
As someone with a Māori mother and English father, I understand what it means to have multiple allegiances and identities. My mokopuna are blessed to have a Chilean mother and are therefore tri-lingual.
It is vital to honour and hold fast to such complex heritages because they make us who we are – better placed to operate in an interconnected world, and better able to appreciate what each of us have to offer.
Jewish New Zealanders have every reason to be extraordinarily proud of the contributions made by your community throughout the history of our nation.
As someone who spent much of her career in academia, education and health, I was delighted to learn that New Zealand’s first female lawyer, Ethel Benjamin, and first female doctor, Emily Seideberg, were members of the Jewish community.
I was the first member of my family to go to University, so I have personal experience of the doors that education opens, and the possibilities then afforded to succeeding generations.
So I applaud the strong commitment to education shared by several of tonight’s award winners.
When I read through the biographies of the six special women being acknowledged this evening, I was struck by a common thread in the narrative – and that is your dedicated service to the wellbeing of others.
The social justice that underpins your faith is certainly manifested in the aroha and manaakitanga expressed through so many aspects of your lives.
Know that your community is deeply grateful for what you do for them.
No doubt your work is its own reward, and you have not sought acclaim.
However, in accepting this recognition, you affirm the value of service, dedication, and compassion, and inspire other women to follow in your footsteps.