E nga mana, e nga reo, e nga iwi o te motu e huihui nei,
tēnei aku mihi māhana ki a koutou.
Kia ora tātou katoa.
Nau mai haere mai ra, ki te Whare Kawana.
Warm greetings to you all - welcome to Government House.
Some of you may be wondering about the focus of tonight’s dinner, so please indulge me while I briefly outline how this gathering aligns with my goals as Governor-General.
Every Governor-General has an opportunity to celebrate, promote and support aspects of New Zealand society that are key to our nation’s prosperity and wellbeing.
My focus has been on creativity, innovation, diversity and leadership
Creativity as expressed through the arts and our culture;
Innovation, particularly in connection to the environmental sustainability, for reasons that become more compelling every day;
Diversity, because Aotearoa New Zealand prospers when everyone, no matter what their background, gender, sexual orientation, age, or ethnicity is able to reach their potential, and feel a sense of connection to their community;
And finally leadership, because we have the capabilities and opportunities to lead the world in the way we tackle the issues facing us all.
Tonight’s dinner guests provide a snapshot of 21st Century New Zealand in all its complexity and diversity. Many of you are, in your own ways, change-makers and leaders.
Just three months on from the shocking tragedies of March 15 in Christchurch, many of us have been engaged in soul-searching, and examining our own biases, unconscious and conscious.
We know there is work to be done to combat prejudice and exclusion. Those of us in a position of privilege, who have not lived with a sense of being “the other”, must examine our own assumptions and behaviours.
We know how important it is to focus on our better selves, and do whatever is necessary to move towards a truly inclusive society.
Such a society is based on aroha, mutual respect and courtesy. That takes care to ensure there is equal access to opportunities and decision-making.
It’s a society that doesn’t discriminate and accepts that people have multiple ways of defining who they are and their place in the world. It is a society that doesn’t fear difference, but embraces and values all the people who call New Zealand home.
Please indulge me for a minute as I ask you think how you would finish this sentence about your own identity:
The sentence beginning with the words: “I am a…”
I wonder which way of identifying yourself came first into your mind?
Gender, sexual orientation, nationality, family role, religious or political affiliation, iwi, cultural identity, country of birth, occupation, or loyalties to a particular city, town or region or even sports club?
And if you were asked to complete that sentence in the context of a visit to a marae, or at a job interview, or in a survey, how might your answer be different?
With such complex and multiple identities, any notion of a single cultural or national identity becomes improbable. And that’s as it should be.
At the same time, listening and understanding what is important to other people helps us to step out of the particular cultural bubble we live in.
That’s the thinking behind tonight’s dinner. Telling fellow guests who we are is the start of a conversation, and invites us into each other’s worlds. Perhaps over dinner you might like to share your own responses with the other guests at your table.
We will have three speakers this evening who will share their own perspectives on diversity. They are
Paul Hunt, our Human Rights Commissioner;
Elisha Watson, founder of Nisa Clothing which employs former refugee women; and
Mika Haka, artist and founder of Mika Haka Foundation.
Three very different backgrounds and three very different perspectives, but all in their own way, celebrating diversity in New Zealand and promoting ways to make our country more inclusive.
As you share this meal, and talk with your fellow guests, I encourage you to think about how we can be allies of diversity. What are the practical things that we can do to enable others to flourish? And most importantly tonight, what can I as Governor-General do to help you in that good work?
Because if there are ideas that begin around the tables tonight, I would like to do what I can to support them to grow. My staff will be in touch with each of you after tonight, to keep the conversation going.
Kia ora huihui tātou katoa and please enjoy the hospitality of the House.