E kui mā, e koro mā, kia ora koutou katoa. Nau mai, haere mai ki Te Whare Kāwana ki Te Whanganui-a-Tara. Ladies and gentlemen, greetings to you all, and welcome to Government House Wellington.
It is a great pleasure for Janine and me to welcome you all to Government House today for this Duntroon Society luncheon. It has been something we’ve been meaning to do for the past four years. I thank Ken Gordon for his assistance in getting us all here.
The life-episode of initial officer training, whether that was in Australia, the UK, New Zealand or elsewhere, is one that engenders a special camaraderie. Despite the variation of timing, our experiences as staff cadets or officer cadets were in many ways similar. It’s where we came to learn the special responsibilities of being an officer and a gentleman, a soldier and a leader, of being - as our commissioning parchment requires - diligent, committed and resolute.
These Duntroon Society luncheons provide an occasion to reminisce - halcyon days, good mates and kinship - and to keep in touch. They also provide an opportunity to share that kinship with those who have a special place in our lives.
As is the nature of this group, we recognise names and the faces, and how and where we first met. My first commanding officer, after graduation from Portsea, is here today. I remember the first thing he said to me at my march-in interview – “Are you related to Bill Mateparae” he asked; “Yes sir, he’s my uncle” was my response; and then his comment that “If you are half as good as him, you will be alright!” Major General Ken (Scotty) Gordon kept an eye out for me then, as he did when I was announced into this role when he handed me a book of Lord Cobham’s speeches.
There are others here who helped me, as they have others, as commanders, mentors and friends. In my case, some of you have given me feedback on my work and social performance – on MD 68s. Your impressions of me have been preserved for posterity. I can say that because when I made a special trip out to the Army Archives at Trentham recently, I was presented with a bound copy of all my records! Thank you!
And now, it doesn’t matter whether we were once subordinates, seniors or cohorts; it’s the camaraderie of service and service-life, which the Duntroon Society helps to preserve, that counts. It’s that comradeship, the sense of family – whanaungatanga – that has been important and has, I think, had an enduring influence on the ethos, values and professional standing of our Army.
I like to think that our trans-Tasman standing and links are also particularly evident at the moment, when the Governors-General in both New Zealand and Australia are ex-Army men - Sir Peter a graduate of Duntroon, and me a mere graduate of Portsea.
Once we leave the army, it is on occasions like this that we can celebrate the friendships of a lifetime and we can recall the contribution of those who have passed on.
Today, as we celebrate our comradeship, we also recall the commitment required of being a leader in our New Zealand Army – of it being an extraordinary opportunity, its prevalent nature, and its simple responsibility to those who have also served or now serve at Her Majesty’s pleasure –those senior to us, those junior to us, those who preceded us and those who would follow us.
Sirs, ladies and gentlemen, later during our luncheon I will propose a toast to Her Majesty. For now, I wish to propose an initial toast to absent friends – please stand and join me in a toast - the people who we remember as colleagues, friends, mates and partners – absent friends.
Kia ora huihui tātou katoa and please enjoy our hospitality and the company of friends.