Back to top anchor

At her Swearing-in Ceremony

Issue date: 
Wednesday, 4 April 2001
The Hon Dame Silvia Cartwright, PCNZM, DBE, QSO

Prime Minister, Chief Justice, Mr Speaker, Members of the Executive Council, Members of Parliament, The Dean and Members of the Diplomatic Corps, The Mayor of Wellington, Chief of the Defence Force and Chiefs of Staff, Ladies and gentlemen, pupils from Wellington schools, tena koutou katoa.

Kei te mihi atu ahau, ki te mana whenua nei, Te Atiawa, Ngatitoa, tena koutou.

Kei te mihi hoki ahau, ki nga iwi, hapu katoa, o te motu o Aotearoa.

Ki a koutou, e kawa ana, i nga tikanga, i nga taonga, o nga matua tipuna.

Me mihi hoki, ki a tatou e hui nei.

Otira, ki nga tangata katoa, e tipu ana, e noho ana, ki tenei whenua atahua, o Aotearoa.

No reira, tena koutou, tena koutou, tena koutou katoa.

As I stand here, I am acutely conscious of those who have preceded me. I want in particular to pay tribute to Sir Michael and Lady Hardie Boys whose term has just ended. Their time in office has spanned the last part of the century and they have moved the functions of the office of Governor-General into the new century with skill, dignity, and graceful diplomacy. Sir Michael's speeches on the constitutional role of the Governor-General in the modern political environment are an invaluable interpretation of the role.

I also remember with affection Sir David Beattie, who bore with my efforts in Court as a young litigation lawyer; Sir Paul Reeves, whose work in this region and internationally has been so much acclaimed; and my friend Dame Catherine Tizard, whose warmth, humour and close ties with the Pacific have been a source of inspiration for me. I am humbly aware that I follow in the steps of these talented and eminent New Zealanders.

Like many of my predecessors who have been born and educated in New Zealand, I come from simple beginnings. Sadly my father died a few years ago and my mother is too frail to be present today. My mother comes from sturdy Scottish lines and my father, so far as we know his history, was born to an Australian mother. These are typical ancestral patterns for Pakeha New Zealanders, ones which will be enhanced greatly as Maori and Pakeha increasingly blend their heritages to form a unique people.

My parents, having been denied it for themselves, revered education for their five daughters as well as for their one precious son. They also pursued a life of peace, tolerance and reconciliation in their lives and work. As a family we are all committed, as is my husband Peter, to non-violence and to the observance of all human rights.

Technical, medical and scientific advances, and a greatly improved standard of living and quality of life were last century's greatest achievements. But etched more deeply into our collective memory, often reinforced by stories of the great Depression, are the terrible world and regional Wars, internal conflicts, severe economic hardship, mass migrations of women and men, the millions of refugees and the genocide perpetrated by one nation or race against another.

It is almost with a sigh of relief that we turn the page on a new Century. There is always a certain shimmer of optimism at such a time, and perhaps in this Century, we can fulfil the dream of the worlds' nations, who over 50 years ago pledged in the United Nations principal mandate, to save "succeeding generations from the scourge of war".

As we New Zealanders look back, we can take pride in the fact that a new generation of young servicemen and women are now helping prevent and stop conflict, assisted by governmental agencies and civil society. We have much to be proud of our part in the international quest for peace.

Pride in achievements here at home must be more muted. We may lead the world in family violence legislation and policy but at least on the face of it, we are also at the forefront in the perpetration of child abuse, family violence and serious sexual assaults. While there are many reasons for these shameful statistics, how can we hold our heads up internationally as peace negotiators and peacekeepers unless we promote and practice peace in our own communities?

Waihotia te pakanga
Me te patu tangata
Me te tukino tamariki.

Me haere whakamua ke tatou,
I te rangimarie, me te hono tangata.

Abandon acts of war,
violence among people,
and the ill treatment of children.

Let us instead move forward
uniting people in peace and understanding.

New Zealand is a small but important member of the United Nations and of the Commonwealth. It has often had an impact in excess of its geo-political significance, and therefore has a responsibility to continue to use its influence for the good of all. New Zealand supported the establishment of an international decade for a culture of peace and non-violence for the children of the world, which begins this year. In his message, the Secretary-General of the United Nations said: "For there to be peace among nations, there must also be peace within them, among groups and individuals". And the Charter of UNESCO says: "Since wars begin in the minds of men it is in the minds of men (and I would add, women) that the defences of peace must be constructed."

Peace in the 21st Century extends beyond the absence of war. To the Secretary-General of the United Nations it "is a phenomenon that encompasses economic development and social justice it means democracy, diversity and dignity; respect for human rights and the rule of law."

For me, first and foremost, it means also the elimination of violence and intimidation, peace between women and men, adults and children, and includes protection of our environment.

Peace was elusive in the last century. We have been privileged here in New Zealand to escape the terrible conflicts of Africa, the Middle East, Europe and Asia and the tyranny of dictatorship. But undeniably we are part of the world. Even if there has been no war waged on our soil in the last hundred years, where there is devastation or peril we feel the impact and the suffering.

We should continue to grasp any opportunity, particularly in our own region to preserve the peace and protect those who are at risk. In the past we have been bellicose when our leaders have demanded it, but even in the face of almost intolerable provocation there have been those who have offered the rakau tapu. Those in our community who practice peace and dignity in the face of aggression and who try by persuasion and advocacy to protect and promote the vulnerable should be honoured.

With the nations of the world we should commit to helping construct a new vision of peace, one based on "universal values of respect for life, liberty, justice, solidarity, tolerance, human rights and equality between men and women.

For my part, and with humility, I salute the words and the courage of the prophet and leader Te Whiti who at Parihaka is recorded as saying, "I stand for peace". With his friend and co-leader Tohu, I echo and respond "I too stand for peace".

No reira, tena koutou, tena koutou, tena tatou katoa.

Last updated: 
Friday, 9 January 2009

Help us improve the Governor-General website

Your feedback is very important in helping us improve the Governor-General website.

1 + 0 =
Solve this simple math problem and enter the result. E.g. for 1+3, enter 4.