Rau rangatira mā, e kui mā, e koro mā, e huihui nei, tēnei aku mihi māhana ki a koutou. Kia ora tātou katoa.
I’d like to begin by acknowledging: Professor Mark Compton, Lord Prior and Chair of the Grand Council, and Dr Elizabeth Ellis; Dr Steven Evans, Sub Prior, and Ms Maree Williams; The Right Reverend Tim Stevens, Prelate; Thomas Budd, the new International Chancellor, and Mrs Gillian Budd; John Whitehead, Chancellor of The Priory of St John in New Zealand, and Ms Eileen Barrett-Whitehead; Major Brendan Wood, Deputy-Chancellor, and Dr Gerald Johnstone; and The Most Reverend Sir David Moxon, Priory Dean.
I’d also like to welcome all our guests from around the world who have travelled to Aotearoa New Zealand to be here for this very important event in the St John International calendar. Tēnā koutou katoa.
It’s my great pleasure to join you, in beautiful Queenstown, for this evening’s Grand Council Dinner.
I’m now nearly two years into my term as Governor-General, and during that time, it has been an immense honour to serve as Prior of Hato Hone St John: one of the most highly respected and principled organisations in New Zealand – an organisation that operates with the health and wellbeing needs of all New Zealanders at its heart.
My husband, Dr Richard Davies – who has worked for many years as a GP for vulnerable communities in Auckland – has also taken immense pride in his role as the Patron of Community Health Services for St John.
While I appreciate this may not be the case for some of our overseas guests, in New Zealand, we don’t have many organisations that can claim nearly a thousand years of history – let alone one that operates with such a clear sense and view of the future.
St John truly embodies the whakataukī, or Māori proverb: ‘Kia whakatōmuri te haere whakamua. I walk backwards into the future with my eyes fixed on my past.’
The values that were there at the outset of the Order of the Hospital of St John in 11th-century Jerusalem – of respect, humility, and care – are values that endure, and nowhere more so than in your network of truly remarkable volunteers and staff around the world.
It feels fitting that the theme for this year’s Grand Council has been ‘approaches to local healthcare issues within a global organisation.’ I understand you’ve also taken the opportunity over these past days to consider issues such as climate change and shifting geopolitical dynamics – and I hope they’ve been fruitful discussions.
I know that part of what makes St John such a successful and highly-regarded organisation is your adaptability and sensitivity to the needs of local environments, while maintaining such a strong core ethos – an ethos summed up so beautifully in your motto: ‘Pro Fide, Pro Utilitate Hominum. For the Faith, and in the Service of Humanity.’
A perfect example is St John’s Mother and Baby Programme, which has been highly effective in increasing support for pregnant women and new mothers with infants, as well as building stronger relationship between communities and local health providers across Sub-Saharan Africa.
This programme demonstrates St John’s clear understanding that the most successful health outcomes can be achieved when you understand, respect, and empower local communities.
I wish to take this opportunity to commend St John International for your selfless and powerful work around the world – and your ongoing pursuit of excellence in care for all.
To our overseas guests – I hope you have an enjoyable rest of your stay in Aotearoa New Zealand, and are able to make the most of all that this beautiful region has to offer. And to all gathered here this evening – a very safe journey home.
Kia ora huihui tātou katoa.