E nga mana, e nga reo, e nga iwi o te motu e huihui nei, tēnei aku mihi nui ki a koutou. Kia ora tātou katoa.
I specifically acknowledge: John Luxton, Samaritans Aotearoa Board Chair; and Allan Frost and Christina Sit Yee, Samaritans Wellington Board Co-Chairs.
Throughout my term as Governor-General, I am taking opportunities to acknowledge and support people who care for the physical and mental wellbeing of our citizens.
This focus reflects my professional and academic background in health, and my belief that we all bear a responsibility to uphold the mana of others.
We are fortunate to be living at a time when there are fewer taboos in discussion about issues such as mental health, gender, and sexual orientation. However, I think you will agree we need to make further progress.
We look forward to the time when people will be able to freely discuss such issues, without fear of adverse societal repercussions.
It is hardly surprising we are seeing increasing incidences of anxiety and depression, with global pandemics, the climate crisis, the breakdown of social cohesion and economic stresses all taking a toll on our wellbeing.
As more people feel emboldened to speak up about their mental health, so too are we becoming more aware of the prevalence of these issues in our communities.
Our last census revealed over a quarter of New Zealanders reported poor mental wellbeing/
I imagine Samaritans is the first port of call for many of those people who are experiencing distress. I am not surprised there is high demand for the opportunity to speak to an empathetic listener.
By just being there, at the end of the phone line, Samaritans offer comfort and relief from isolation. We find strength through such human connections.
The whakataukī says: ‘Ki te Kotahi te kakaho, ka whati, ki te kapuia, e kore e whati. If a reed stands alone, it can be broken. If it is in a group, it cannot be broken.’
I appreciate there must be some challenging moments for Samaritan volunteers. At the same time, you will all have great memories of callers who have been deeply appreciative of your compassion and engagement.
Thank you for taking the time to hone your listening skills – and for your patience, focus, and understanding. Thank you for choosing to devote precious time and energy to your fellow citizens, often on top of demanding day jobs and family responsibilities.
So much good that happens in our communities depends on the generosity and goodwill of people such as yourselves – people who are not seeking accolades and for whom the work is the reward.
I must also acknowledge the people who are working behind the scenes, whether it be to raise the necessary funding, or recruit and train volunteers.
And, of course, we must not forget the vital support and encouragement provided by the partners of volunteers.
I am delighted our final event at Government House this year should be with people who dedicate themselves to helping others navigate their way through life’s more challenging moments.
I am well aware we are approaching a time in the year when your services may be very much in demand. The summer holidays can be distressing for individuals who find themselves alone and dislocated – or unable to meet the expectations of happy family reunions.
By listening to people who are desperate to be heard, you will help them get through this difficult time.
Tonight, I hope you can take time for yourselves, relax, and enjoy the hospitality of the House – and I wish you all the very best for your work in the months ahead.
Kia ora, kia kaha, kia manawanui, huihui tātou katoa.