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Rau rangatira mā, e huihui nei, tēnei aku mihi māhana ki a koutou. Kia ora tātou katoa. Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, warm greetings to you all.
I specifically acknowledge: Your Worship Len Brown, Mayor of Auckland and President of Home and Family Counselling; and Alan Brookbanks and Mary Gray, Chairman and Executive Director respectively of Home and Family Counselling – tēnā koutou katoa.
It is a great pleasure for Janine and me to welcome you all to Government House for this reception to mark the 120th anniversary of Home and Family Counselling. I have been asked to say a few words about Home and Family Counselling’s history – which I will do shortly. Before I do that I thought I’d mention why we chose to continue our patronage of Home and Family Counselling.
When I was appointed Governor-General in August 2011 we reviewed all the community groups and organisations that held vice-regal patronage. We wanted to ensure that we shared some interest with the organisation and that we could add some value before we committed to them.
Also, generally patronage organisations are nationally focused. However, in the case of patronages in Wellington and Auckland, where we have the two Government Houses, we thought we should make exceptions because after all we are residents!
Now, not being a “true-blue(s)” Aucklander, I’ll admit I didn’t know a lot about Home and Family Counselling prior to becoming Patron. However, it didn’t take long to recognise that your mission of promoting the well-being of people, improving relationships and enhancing family life resonated with us.
As to canvasing a little of your history, rest assured I don’t intend to provide a 120-year blow-by-blow lecture. At this time of celebration that’s the last thing you (and I) want! What I did want to was focus on was the period when the organisation was established because tonight we celebrate an organisation and we celebrate the people in this organisation, that have been influenced by the work of its founder Henry Wilding. I would like to specifically acknowledge Wilding’s great-grandson Michael Perry, a Home and Family Counselling board member, who is here tonight. I understand he is one of a number of Wilding’s descendants who have been involved over the years.
When Home and Family Counselling was established in April 1893, as the Society for the Protection of Women and Children, I am sure it is more than a co-incidence it was established just six months before Parliament voted to grant our women the right to vote in national elections. In the furious debates going on at the time about the issue of women’s suffrage, Wilding was distressed to see the violence and instability of city life in Auckland. After attending a meeting on child neglect and abuse he was spurred to action. And it was that in April 1893 he chaired another meeting that established the Society to rescue down and out women and children from Auckland’s streets.
A committed Methodist and social reformer, Wilding dedicated his life to the Society and other charities in which he was involved. He chaired the Society’s executive committee from its inception until his death in 1916. Both the New Zealand Herald and Auckland Star in their obituaries lauded him as “a very charitable man” who “spent a great deal of his time in public and philanthropic work.” What they don’t note is that he spent so much time on his charitable work that his own finances suffered, and he was at one point forced to file for bankruptcy.
The Society collaborated on support for women and children, with effective lobbying for legal reform. Many of those who were involved in the women’s temperance movement and women’s suffrage movement in Auckland joined the Society.
The Society gained its first vice-regal patron, Governor Lord Ranfurly in 1897, and laws enacted to protect children from sexual abuse, and to establish a separate court system for juvenile offenders, were a direct result of the Society’s effective agitation for social change.
Historian, Emeritus Professor Raewyn Dalziel, in her biography of Wilding, neatly summarises his philosophy. She wrote in The Dictionary of New Zealand Biography: “He was adamant that the family, when it functioned properly, provided the best protection for women and children. When the family failed, however, he was quite prepared to intervene.”
The organisation’s work over the years has changed as it has adapted to meet changing social needs. By my count it is on its fifth legal name! Providing individual, couple and family counselling is a far cry from its campaigning roots for social change that took husbands to court for abandoning their wives and children. What has not changed, however, is the focus established at its beginning of nurturing and supporting families, and the service that everyone involved – whether a paid staff member or volunteer – makes to the community. The commitment that the staff, supporters and volunteers of Home and Family Counselling make to ensure it continues to provide services to the community is commendable.
To me, at the heart of what this wonderful organisation and its people does is captured nicely in the often quoted Māori proverb “He aha te mea nui o te ao - What is the most important thing in the world? The answer is: he tangata, he tangata, he tangata - it is people, it is people, it is people!”
For Home and Family Counselling the proverb highlights both the essential and valuable work people do in governance, administration and fundraising. It also highlights the work of its hardworking professional counsellors, and the organisation’s focus on people - families and our most precious taonga, our children.
I am delighted to be Patron of Home and Family Counselling, and to continue to support its mission of improving the well-being of New Zealanders as it celebrates its 120th anniversary. In acknowledging its 120th anniversary, I especially congratulate you “true blue” Aucklanders for your continued commitment and support in enabling Home and Family Counselling to reach this amazing milestone and beyond. Finally, I wish you all the best for your future endeavours.
Kia ora huihui tātou katoa.