Kia ora koutou - nga mihi māhana ki a koutou. Kia ora tātou katoa. Warm greetings to you all.
I specifically acknowledge: Tony Gibbs and Mike Williams, President and Chief Executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform respectively; Paul Tomlinson, Lower North Island Regional Commissioner of Police; George Massingham, Manager Hawkes Bay Regional Prison; and my whanaunga, Kaumatua Jerry Hapuku - tēnā koutou katoa.
Thank you for inviting me to this very special graduation day for the students who’ve completed this course.
I would like to start by congratulating the students on your achievement. Twelve (12) weeks ago you made a commitment to learning and today you are seeing the results of the hard work you have put in. By doing this literacy course, you also made a commitment to yourselves, your families and your teachers. I’m sure now that you’ve stuck with it and finished, you’ve learned a lot about yourselves and what you’re capable of.
It’s not easy to admit that you cannot read or have big problems with reading. And yet, nearly one million New Zealanders struggle with reading. What makes you guys special is that you made the decision to change and that takes courage. Not being able to read is a padlock on opportunity. In the past, you might not have had the time, inclination or opportunity to learn to read. By taking the decision to do this course, and finish it, you’ve got a hold of the key to open that padlock. You will be able to access a whole lot of new things. That’s a really smart move.
Now I know it’s the graduate’s day but I would like to mention Tony Gibbs and Mike Williams from the Howard Penal Reform League for their part in ensuring the students have the opportunity to improve their literacy. I would also like to congratulate George Massingham and his team and the Department of Corrections for their commitment to this reading programme and the benefits it can have.
Today though, is all about the students and what they have achieved. Everybody has a tool-kit of skills and reading has now been added to yours. I hope this tool helps you build a better future for yourself both here and outside in the community.
I’m about to hand each of you a certificate. Regardless of whether or not you’ve received a certificate before in your life, this one will be special – so read it.
In the past you may have had to guess what it says – now you don’t. In the past you may have had to pretend that you’d read it – now you don’t. In the past you may have felt angry at yourself because you didn’t know what it said – now you don’t because you can read. So today and in the future you can read your certificate and feel proud. And know that everyone in this room and your whanau feels proud of you also.
Kia ora huihui tātou katoa