Rau rangatira mā, e kui mā, e koro 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: Shelley Waters and Zandra Vaccarino, President and National Executive Officer of the New Zealand Down Syndrome Association respectively and Dame Silvia Cartwright, former Governor-General of New Zealand - tēnā kotou katoa
This is the first time I’ve had the pleasure of hosting the New Zealand Down Syndrome Association National Achievement Awards. As patron of your organisation, I’m very pleased to welcome you all to Government House today.
Award ceremonies are opportunities to recognise success and acknowledge all the hard work and determination displayed by the award recipients. Congratulating people on a job well done is one of my favourite parts of this role. I am forever being impressed by the achievements of my fellow New Zealanders.
Today’s award recipients are no exception. Lily, Josh and Caroline have taken every opportunity to use their talents and abilities. They have set and achieved goals, followed their dreams and made valuable contributions to their communities.
We like to think of New Zealand as an inclusive society, where everyone gets a fair go. However we know that doesn’t always hold true for everyone. Lily, Josh and Caroline – your advocacy for people with Down Syndrome, your participation in the community and the full, rich lives you lead offer a positive message about possibilities and expectations. You are role models for others, and on behalf of all New Zealanders, I’d like to thank you for the part you are playing in helping change attitudes about people with Down Syndrome.
The New Zealand Down Syndrome Association has come a long way since its relatively humble beginnings as a coffee group. One thing has remained a constant in its 37 years of existence and that is the vital role played by volunteers.
Next week is National Volunteer Week so it’s timely that today’s ceremony recognises two of the Association’s stalwarts. For over a decade, Linda te Kaat and Tania Grose have organised The Unfogettaball in Christchurch. It was an instant success and there are now waiting lists for tickets for the annual event, with people travelling from all around the country to attend.
The theme for National Volunteer Week is ‘Volunteers – the Heart of the Community’ and year after year Linda and Tania show how big their hearts are.
Today’s ceremony is also special in that a life membership is being awarded to former Disability Rights Commissioner Paul Gibson, who championed and supported the work of the New Zealand Down Syndrome Association during his time in the role. We will hear more about everyone’s achievements when the awards are presented shortly.
Today’s recipients have made their own personal contributions to breaking down the barriers in the community for people with Down Syndrome and others with disabilities.
There’s a quote that has been attributed to many people, including Pope Francis, but no matter who said it first, it rings true, “A community that excludes even one member is no community at all.” Everyone in our society has value and everyone has a right to participate fully in the communities where they live. Today’s recipients remind us of the benefits that accrue to everyone when this happens.
Congratulations to all this afternoon’s recipients and thank you to family and friends for being here and showing your support.
Kia ora huihui tātou katoa