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.
I specifically acknowledge: Hon Anne Tolley and Hon Jo Goodhew; Sir David Carruthers, Patron of Fostering Kids New Zealand; Viv Rickard, Deputy Chief Executive of Child Youth and Family; Linda Surtees, Chief Executive of Fostering Kids New Zealand; and Ursula Elisara [the guest speaker and a 2015 Excellence in Foster Care Award recipient]: tēnā koutou katoa.
It is a great pleasure for Janine and me to welcome you all to Government House today, and to host this awards ceremony.
We look forward to opportunities where we can recognise ordinary New Zealanders doing extraordinary things. And we are doing that today.
Today’s foster care awardees have been identified as deserving special recognition.
There are many children who for various reasons cannot live with their birth families. This is particularly sad when the reason they cannot live with their birth parents is because of avoidable circumstances. New Zealand has some disturbing statistics around child abuse and neglect. The reality is that we need people of the calibre of the seventeen people receiving Excellence in Foster Care Awards today.
When I read through the bios, I noted the hundreds of children that they have cared for: in Dawn Murray and Verna Carr’s case – for over 45 years, and 40 years respectively. That’s an extraordinary record of service.
I was, as always, astounded by the generosity, compassion and aroha foster carers show to our most vulnerable citizens – our babies and children.
New Zealanders have recently been identified as being the second most charitable country in the world. However, donating to charity doesn’t begin to compare with the 24/7 commitment of foster carers who open up their homes and devote their time and energy to the young people in their care.
It’s more than feeding and clothing children, and putting a roof over their head. It’s also about excellence of care - attending workshops, liaising with government agencies, encouraging children with their studies, their sports, or to become involved in community activities. It’s about taking them on holidays, and giving them positive life experiences. It’s about letting them experience being in a caring family environment.
When foster parents talk about their role, it seems that they don’t dwell on the challenging aspects. Instead, they use words like joy and blessings; they epitomise the whakatauki, or proverb “Aroha mai, aroha atu: Love given is love returned”.
One of humanity’s great carers - Mother Teresa, said that “the greatest poverty is being unwanted, unloved and uncared for”. Today’s Award recipients deserve our accolades and our thanks for being there for young people, and for making a difference to their lives.
Congratulations to you all. Today is your special day. Enjoy your time out from your busy lives and I wish you all the very best with the hugely important work that you do on our collective behalf.
Kia ora huihui tātou katoa