Kia ora koutou. Nga mihi māhana ki a koutou. Nau mai haere mai, ra ki te Whare Kawana o Te Whanganui-a-Tara.
Welcome to Government House Wellington. I begin by specifically acknowledging:
Marina Seager, Board Member of Caring Families Aotearoa
Mike Munnelly, Chief Executive of Barnados
Kate Bundle, Chief Executive of Grandparents Raising Grandchildren
Don Irwin, Operations Manager of Open Homes Foundation
I also acknowledge the recipients of the Excellence in Foster Care Awards.
Tēnā koutou katoa.
The protection of vulnerable children is tremendously important to me, and has been a major focus of my career. During my time as Children’s Commissioner, I became all too familiar with the consequences for children who did not have a nurturing environment, and I saw the impact throughout their lives and on successive generations.
I also appreciate the influence of a positive role model on children’s lives. Their formative years are crucial, and those years should be filled with love, safety and happiness.
Ideally, we would wish that everyone could look back on their childhood with a sense of nostalgia for carefree days.
We know this is not the reality for some children. They instead experience neglect, abuse and trauma at the hands of those who should care for them most.
Just as a community bears the cost of child abuse and neglect, it also benefits when children have been given the best-possible start in life.
We can be truly grateful Aotearoa has outstanding people like today’s recipients of the Excellence in Foster Care Award, people who open their hearts and homes so these children can have the safety and support they need – and deserve.
To our recipients – you are here today because of your selflessness, manaakitanga, and your dedication to helping the most vulnerable young people in our society. Today is your day. We celebrate your contributions, and thank you for this vital role you have undertaken.
You have gone above and beyond the requirements of parenting. You have undergone training to ensure you can help children with special needs. You’ve maintained support networks and helped others also on this journey. Some of you have also ensured tamariki still keep a connection to their whakapapa.
Some of you have come out of retirement for a second round of raising children. As a grandmother myself, I can appreciate how significant this step would have been for you.
The decision to foster a child is not made for reward or recognition. It is made because you see the need, and you chose to do something about it.
Today, we celebrate what you have done. Raising children and restoring positivity and goodness to their lives. It takes a special kind of person to do this.
Please accept your award with pride, knowing you have truly earned the gratitude of your communities and made a difference to young people who needed it most. You are true heros in my eyes and those of other New Zealanders.
Kia ora huihui tātou katoa.