E kui mā, e koro mā, nau mai, haere mai rā ki Te Whare Kawana ki Tamaki Makaurau. Kia ora tātou katoa. Ladies and gentlemen, greetings and welcome to Government House Auckland.
I specifically acknowledge: Shelley Waters and Zandra Vaccarino, President and National Executive Officer of the New Zealand Down Syndrome Association respectively; Disability Rights Commissioner, Paul Gibson and my predecessor as Governor-General, Dame Silvia Cartwright - tēnā koutou katoa.
It is a great pleasure for Janine and me to welcome you all to Government House today.
The last time we hosted the New Zealand Down Syndrome awards was at Government House in Wellington in 2013. Two years on and I’m very pleased to have another opportunity to join with you in celebrating the contribution and achievements of some exceptional New Zealanders.
This week is Volunteer Awareness Week. It’s a week when we can focus our attention on the many volunteers who work in our communities.
More than one million New Zealanders donate some 270 million unpaid hours to the community each year. That equates to almost seven 40 –hour working weeks for each volunteer!
Those of you associated with the New Zealand Down Syndrome Association know very well what volunteering is all about. The New Zealand Down Syndrome Association has been a volunteer organisation for the 34 years of its existence. Organisations like yours would find it extremely difficult to achieve their goals and aims without the help of volunteers. The Association is heavily reliant on the parents, caregivers and other supporters of people with Down Syndrome for its funding.
The theme for this year’s Volunteer Week is “There is a place for you to volunteer”. Christel van Baal, today’s National Volunteer Award recipient has definitely found that place. Christel has given sterling service to the Down Syndrome community by introducing the Buddy Walk event to New Zealand. The event, which promotes the acceptance and inclusion of people with Down Syndrome, celebrated its 10th anniversary this year.
Christel’s determination to introduce the Buddy Walk to New Zealand, and her ongoing commitment to organising the events, is a great example of the value volunteers offer in our communities. Christel’s work has also provided an opportunity for others to find their place to volunteer. Christel – it’s great to see your work and dedication acknowledged here today.
Today we also celebrate the New Zealand Down Syndrome Association Achievement Awards. One of the things I’ve enjoyed most during my time as Governor-General has been the opportunity to meet outstanding young people from all around New Zealand. We have many talented, active and determined young people making their mark in New Zealand and around the world.
Maria, Ben and Andrew are three of that generation. Maria, you are the learner and the employee. Ben, you are the sportsman and tri-athlete. Andrew, you are the artist and flatmate. Their professional, sporting and creative achievements tell us a lot about overcoming challenges and succeeding on one’s own terms.
Andrew, Ben and Maria; your achievements and the way you live your lives provides role models for other young Down Syndrome people. You also show the rest of the world that Down Syndrome is only one part of your identity.
I look forward to hearing more about our recipients as they receive their awards.
Their success is not theirs alone. I would like to acknowledge the people who have helped and supported Maria, Ben and Andrew. You have helped them achieve their best and that is a very special thing.
I would like to finish with a quote from writer Bernard Edmonds which I feel sums up the attitude of all the award winners today “To dream anything that you want to dream - that’s the beauty of the human mind. To do anything that you want to do - that is the strength of the human will. To trust yourself to test your limits - that is the courage to succeed.”
Congratulations to all our award winners.
Kia ora huihui tātou katoa.
You will hand over to MC Shelley Waters