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E kui mā, e koro mā, e huihui nei, tēnei aku mihi māhana ki a koutou. Nau mai, haere mai ra ki te Whare Kawana o Te Whanganui-a-Tara. Na reira, kia ora tātou katoa. Ladies and gentlemen, warm greetings to you all and welcome to Government House.
It is a great pleasure for Janine and me to welcome you all to Government House Wellington for this patronages reception. The purpose of the reception is two-fold. Firstly, we are marking National Volunteer Week. And secondly, in doing that we want to celebrate you, your organisation and the work you do.
I want to keep this part of the reception reasonably brief, so we can take the opportunity to mix and mingle. The headline for my comments is “our admiration for your contribution”. The organisations that you represent, collectively, hold Vice-regal patronage. Whether your association with “the House” is a longstanding continuous one like Football New Zealand since 1895 or most recent like the Shakespeare Globe Centre since May, your organisation has a compelling reason to be here.
When I was appointed Governor-General in August 2011 we reviewed all the community groups and organisations that held Vice-regal patronage. We wanted to ensure that we shared some interest with the organisation, that we could connect, and that our association would be mutually beneficial, that we could add some value, before we committed to them.
We also wanted to ensure to that they were organisations that fit with our aims and aspirations for our five years in Government House representing Her Majesty the Queen of New Zealand and all New Zealanders. No organisation was granted Vice-regal patronage simply because of historical precedent.
In engaging with you, we like to know about significant developments in the organisations where we’re patron and, subject to the many commitments on our time and the resources of Government House, we’re interested in supporting initiatives you’re undertaking. The level of engagement is a mutually agreed arrangement – whether that is as names on a letterhead, hosting an event or more full involvement.
The 165 patronages that Janine and I support have foundations of inclusive and principled service, both the organisations themselves and the people in them. This week we are celebrating your individual and collective service. This week is National Volunteering Week and Volunteering New Zealand, to which some of the organisations here are affiliated, has chosen as its theme the concluding line from the well-known Māori proverb: “He aha te mea nui o te ao - What is the most important thing in the world?” to which the answer is “He tangata, he tangata, he tangata - it is people, it is people, it is people!”
That proverb resonates strongly for me. I used it in the speech I made when I was sworn in as Governor-General and again in my first New Year message. To me it underscores the importance of placing the needs of people at the centre of an organisation and how it operates and what it does. Organisations are never an end in themselves – just a means to allow people to achieve collective goals.
The phrase also recognises that the life force of volunteering is people. It is people who gift their time, skills, ideas and energy to help others. It is people who make a difference and make our communities and our country a better place in which to live. It is people who run the organisations that provide a means by which that life force can be collectively directed for the common or a specific good.
That service takes many forms. It can vary from governance, administration and fundraising through to the provision of hands-on services in a many different settings. Regardless of the form it takes, it is invaluable in supporting the work of the usually small dedicated paid staff many organisations employ, to help them achieve their goals.
As volunteers, you may sometimes wonder whether your service is making a difference, especially in addressing the significant social, health and economic needs in our communities. There is always more we can do, however, my message to you is that everything you do makes a difference, regardless of whether the impact is immediately obvious. These words of the late American politician, Robert Kennedy reflect this ripple effect:
“Few will have the greatness to bend history itself, but each of us can work to change a small portion of events. It is from numberless diverse acts of courage and belief that human history is shaped. Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centres of energy and daring those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.”
Please do enjoy the hospitality and ambience of the House as we celebrate each of you individually, and your organisation and the work you do collectively. As your Patrons, Janine and I want to thank you for your contribution, for your service and “for the numberless diverse acts of courage” that have made our country, good and great.
Kia ora huihui tātou katoa.