Rau rangatira mā, e kui mā, e koro mā, e huihui nei, tēnei aku mihi māhana ki a koutou. Nau mai, haere mai rā ki Te Whare Kawana o Te Whanganui-a-Tara. Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, warm greetings to you all, and welcome to Government House Wellington.
Tēnā koutou katoa.
It is a great pleasure for Janine and me to welcome you all to Government House for this reception.
There are familiar faces from organisations we have hosted here this year, and individuals whose community service was recognised in the New Year and Queen’s Birthday Honours in 2014.
Some of you may be wondering why you, or the organisation you represent, has been invited here this evening. Let me explain.
This reception is an opportunity to reflect and celebrate the 2014 themes that we have supported in Government House - families and peace – and to celebrate your work in sustaining them.
Families have been a focus of our work this year because families are the fundamental unit of any society. Experts confirm that society’s wellbeing rests on a base of strong family connections and friendships.
There is a whakatauki that emphasises the core value of these connections which goes: “He hono tangata e kore e motu; ka pa he taura waka e motu” – human bonds cannot be cut whereas those of a canoe-rope can. Our whakapapa and our relationships with others join us together to make us who we are.
The people here tonight help to make those connections strong, vibrant and supportive – by exploring our past and revealing how we came to be today; by providing moral and spiritual guidance; by assisting our vulnerable or sick children; by providing support during times of emergency; by protecting our communities; by helping to maintain cultural links and a sense of identity; or by promoting excellence in our young people and giving them invaluable guidance, life skills and training.
Tonight is an opportunity to acknowledge those strong networks of support and the invaluable work that you do in our communities.
On many occasions this year, when we have hosted service organisations or heard citations at investitures, there have been so many stories that have inspired and moved us. We have heard how individuals’ lives have been turned around by skilled and caring intervention; and about dedicated people who are prepared to devote extraordinary energy into assisting, training and mentoring others.
We have attended commemorations which have reminded us of the sacrifices made by our families in the past. We have been reminded of the role New Zealand servicemen and servicewomen and our police women and men continue to play in the maintenance of peace and order in the world.
This year marks 100 years since the beginning of the First World War. It was a conflict on a scale the world had never before experienced. The shock waves of the First World War impact on us still, whether we are talking about international geopolitics or the lived experiences of families all over the planet.
War destroys communities and civil society. Peace represents hope for families everywhere.
New Zealanders can be justly proud of our role as an international citizen and our efforts to keep-the-peace on every continent. And now that we have a seat on the United Nation’s Security Council we will have an opportunity to participate in decisions that will result in efforts to de-escalate tensions, support fragile states, assist in the rebuild of others and protect the vulnerable.
International peace remains something of an elusive ideal. Equally, closer to home, we are all too sadly aware that our families and communities can also be a source of discord, neglect and violence.
Hence, we need to acknowledge the vital importance of work to ensure that our most vulnerable families and children do not slip between the cracks. We need to ensure they are given the chance to dream, hope, and succeed, and to contribute in their communities.
The qualities exhibited by you, our guests tonight, that of compassion, service to others and commitment to the greater good are what hold our communities together. They make our communities better places for us all.
In this the 20th anniversary of the Year of the Family, we can reflect on how our notions of ‘family’ have changed over time, and will continue to do so. However, our aspirations about what family life can provide for us will surely remain constant; no matter whether we are in a found family of friends, a combined family, living with extended family or in a nuclear family situation.
I want to finish with an observation from President Barack Obama which reflects something of our journey this year – and I quote, “I'm inspired by the people I meet in my travels – hearing their stories, seeing the hardships they overcome, their fundamental optimism and decency. I'm inspired by the love people have for their children. And I'm inspired by my own children… They make me want to work to make the world a little bit better.”
Thank you for your work to make the world a little bit better. Thank you for coming to celebrate work that supports our families and our communities. Thank you also for sustaining the aspiration of peace in our families, in our communities and in our global home. Please enjoy the company of your fellow guests and the hospitality of Government House.
Kia ora huihui tātou katoa