Tēnā koutou ngā Wahine Māori Toko i Te Ora.
Mihi mai whakatau mai.
He mahi nui, he mahi rangatira
nga mahi huhua a Te Ropu Wahine Maori.
E tu ake ana, ki runga i te ngākau iti,
kia haere mai ahau,
ki te whakatuwhera, i tēnei hui nui a ngā wahine Māori toko i te ora.
Thank you for inviting me today. It is a real honour to be here and have this opportunity to speak at your conference and to acknowledge the leadership that you have shown over the last 66 years in areas as diverse as housing, business, health, sport, and education in Aotearoa New Zealand.
I am keen to pursue such opportunities to connect with Māori women, to raise awareness of their contribution and achievements – whether it be in business or government, in leadership roles in their communities, or as entrepreneurs and teachers in wananga.
As Governor-General I have the responsibility and privilege of honouring the special relationship between the Crown and Māori – and the partnership established with Governor Hobson at Waitangi.
I am just the third woman to be in this role, so I particularly welcome opportunities like this to develop that relationship with Māori women who are leaders in their communities.
This morning I want to acknowledge in particular the strong women who worked as Chief negotiators for their iwi during my time as a Crown Negotiator for Treaty Settlements in Tauranga Moana and the Bay of Plenty. They were Rahera Ohia of Ngāti Pūkenga, Te Rangikaheke Bidois of Ngāti Rangiwewehi, Pia Callaghan of Tapuika and Donna Hall of Ngāti Rangiteaorere.
Each of those negotiations benefited from their clarity of purpose. I am grateful for their strength, their quiet wisdom and their friendship.
I am also grateful for the guidance and support I receive in my current role from one of your members, Dr Hiria Hape, who acts as Government House’s kuia.
During my term in office, I am focussing on areas where I believe I have something to offer and where there is an opportunity to make a difference.
One of the areas I have chosen to champion is diversity. We need all New Zealanders to reach their potential, regardless of their gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, age or religious convictions.
Like most women, I have had to overcome bias during my career, and am very interested in doing what I can to encourage the empowerment of women.
Before I took up this role, I was pleased to be asked to be on a government committee that addressed the gender pay gap. There is still some way to go before men and women in this country are earning the same wages.
Having grown up in the 1970s, when we thought that girls could do anything, I could not have imagined that we would still be fighting that battle in 2017.
I was pleased to see that this conference is focussing on New Zealand’s constitutional arrangements, because I am keen to see more New Zealanders understand their history and how our government works.
Apart from anything else, I believe that if people have that understanding, they will be encouraged to become involved in the democratic process.
So it seems timely to acknowledge that there were at least 13 Māori women who signed Te Tiriti in 1840, and that although women were unable to vote in the Māori Parliament, Te Kotahitanga, they were able to speak. And we should also remember the many Māori women who signed the Women’s Suffrage petition in the 1890s.
Today we should also celebrate the courage of Iriaka Ratana, the first Māori woman MP, who had to withstand negative comments about a mother of seven taking on the responsibility of parliamentary office – and Hon Whetu Tirikatene-Sullivan, the first Māori woman Cabinet Minister, and the first New Zealand politician to give birth while in office.
They shared a passion for Māori development, a passion that has been shared by many of the subsequent Māori women MPs.
This same commitment is evident in the kaupapa of the Māori Women’s Welfare League, and has been highlighted by a succession of strong leaders, including Dame Whina Cooper and Dame Mira Szaszy.
Your members have demonstrated manaakitanga to other women and whanau, and have had a positive impact on the social, cultural and economic development of Aotearoa New Zealand.
They have raised awareness of issues, they have lobbied for change, they have been there to help in times of difficulty, or on hand to mentor younger people. They have encouraged business ventures, they have helped improve health outcomes, and they have brought a whanau perspective to government policy.
Since becoming Governor-General, I have had many invitations to speak to various women’s forums.
It has been exciting to see the strength and resolve of women’s organisations, and see women encouraging and supporting others.
This gives us optimism for the future. We know that when women are well supported, and able to develop their potential, then their whanau will also flourish.
So thank you again for the wonderful work you do to make our communities safer, healthier and stronger. I look forward to opportunities to work with you in the future.
I hope that you have a great conference, enjoy catching up with friends, recharge your batteries, and return home with new ideas and enthusiasm.
No reira hei kōrero whakamutunga māku
Maunga Taranaki e tū kaha nei
E whakarongo ana ki ēnei wāhine
Kua whakakotahi mai nei
Ka mihi, ka mihi, ka mihi.
Kia ora tātou katoa.