Rau rangatira mā, e nga tamariki o Te Kura o Hine Waiora, e huihui nei,
tēnei aku mihi māhana ki a koutou, kia ora tātou katoa.
Distinguished guests and students of Christchurch Girls High School gathered here today, warm greetings to you all.
Thank you for inviting me here today to celebrate this major milestone in the rebuild of your School.
I am delighted to be here to officially open your new arts block and to celebrate the role that the arts play in our lives, our communities, and our nation.
As Governor General, I have prioritised promotion of our arts and culture because I believe they they are fundamentally important for our wellbeing.
They connect us together; they showcase who we are and what is important to us; they bring us joy and insight, and they make us think.
Picasso said that all children are artists and the trick is to keep those talents when we become adults.
While we may all have a creative spark within us, it seems that only some of us can really kindle that spark, and nurture it with hard work and determination to fully master the mysterious alchemy of the creative process.
I like to think that a dedicated arts education gives those talents a chance to flourish.
In addition, there is compelling evidence that an arts education fosters creativity more generally and encourages the innovative approaches that we need to prosper in our rapidly changing world.
Your magnificent performing arts centre will provide a wonderful venue and springboard for the students who are educated here.
As just the third woman to be our Governor-General, I feel a particular responsibility to encourage young women to strive for their potential. And so I want to take this opportunity to speak about three significant anniversaries we are commemorating this year, and what they mean for New Zealand women.
First, 125 years ago, in 1893, New Zealand women achieved the right to vote in parliamentary elections. We were the first country in the world to grant universal suffrage.
At that point, this school had already been in existence for 16 years, and some of its teachers were among the more than 25,000 people who signed the Women’s Suffrage petition.
Among those teaching staff were some extraordinary, trailblazing women, whose boldness opened the doors for others.
They included Kate Edger, the first woman university graduate in New Zealand, and your second Principal, Helen Connon, the first woman in the British Empire to get an honours degree.
We owe it to the memory of those women to be active citizens, have our say in elections and to step up and seize new challenges and opportunities when they arise.
The second anniversary I will mention is the centenary of the First World War. We are now in the fourth year of the centennial commemorations, and I have been privileged to represent New Zealand at commemorations in Belgium and Gallipoli.
We don’t often acknowledge the role of the remarkable New Zealand women who defied societal conventions and sailed to Europe to work as ambulance drivers, mechanics, munitions factory workers; to open hospitals and clubs for New Zealand troops; and to work as nurses and doctors, sometimes very close to the battlefield.
So this school is to be commended for marking its first 50 years, in 1927, by erecting a memorial to twelve women doctors and nurses – all old girls of the school – who helped care for the sick and wounded overseas during the First World War.
Their stories continue to inspire us to this day.
The final anniversary I want to mention is related to the arts.
Twenty-five years ago, New Zealand film director Jane Campion broke through gender barriers at the world’s most prestigious film festival, Cannes, when she won the top prize – the Palme D’Or -for her film “The Piano”.
It is shocking that twenty-five years later, she is still the only woman director to have achieved this accolade.
As former Prime Minister Helen Clark said this year on International Women’s Day, when it comes to gender equity, there is still work to be done.
My message to you today is to be bold, believe in yourselves, challenge gender bias wherever you encounter it, and follow the example of the amazing women who have blazed a trail for you.
Jane Campion recently likened the #metoo movement to the Berlin Wall coming down, or the end of Apartheid in South Africa.
The Women’s Marches around the world are another example of this momentum for change.
It is up to all of us to ensure that this momentum is not lost.
I wish the staff and students at Christchurch Girls all the very best, as you take on that challenge.
Kia ora, kia kaha, kia manawanui, huihui tātou katoa
I now declare the Performing Arts Centre officially open.