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VSA 25th Anniversary Dinner

Issue date: 
Saturday, 25 July 1987
The Hon and the Rt Rev Sir Paul Reeves, GCMG, GCVO, QSO

I picked up a copy of City Magazine, and there was a double-page advertisement for George Nathan, Real Estate Agents. Spread across the top were the words, NATHAN, MARKETING THE CAPITAL'S BEST. And spread across the middle of the double page, a picture of Government House, Wellington. Cheeky [*******], I thought.

Against that background I read an article in Wednesday morning's Dominion. Million dollar apartments in the Wellington area are in hot demand. Fletchers are building 12 in Oriental Parade, Oriental Bay Real Estate specialist of Nathan Real Estate named VIRGIL ROBBERS (!) reckons he knows another 19 apartments, planned for Oriental Bay, all price over $1m.

He said, "I think it's fair to point out that a million dollars doesn't buy a helluva lot anymore." I commend Mr Robbers on his sense of fairness. But I am struggling after that. The issue is not that some people are able to acquire a disproportionate amount of money, but there is ample encouragement for them to place their faith in and bet their lives on money, prestige possessions and the like. Important things are grasped not given. For graciousness, substitute greed common assumptions now.

But this is the 25th anniversary of Volunteer Service Abroad. 25 years of an imaginative scheme for New Zealanders to co-operate with peoples of developing countries by living among them on 2 year assignments.

I commend the principle of the volunteer or amateur. You are in a particular place for whatever reason because that is where you choose to be. Any rewards lie in fulfilment not remuneration. You receive as well as give. As someone put it, it is not a sacrifice but a privilege.

You are aware of your own limitations and boundaries. You are not an instant expert. You are committed to the demands of a local situation, not to any particular ideology, world-view or political loyalty. You are there to learn. These are my thoughts on the nature of a volunteer.

I enjoyed Neville Peat's book, "The VSA Way". I especially appreciated the comment in the preface, "Volunteering is about taking risks, about plunging into the unknown." Leaping before you look.

The book shows that the UNKNOWN includes what a volunteer does not know about himself or herself, but then discovers. So the book is about lots of revelations and flashes of intuition, e.g. Daphne Durning, Tonga 1971.

"It's coming to a different country and culture and finding you have to think before you do things."

The statement of VSA's principles includes a sentence "VSA's role extends to increasing awareness within NZ of issues of social and economic justice and human rights in the developing world."

My question to you is how have cross-cultural contacts through VSA affected people's perceptions now they have rejoined the NZ situation?

Is there any sense in which people now feel a need to think before they do things in a way they did not do before?

Māori Radio Station Te upoko o te ika, broadcasting in Wellington on a limited licence was situated on the third floor of an empty building soon to be demolished opposite the Town Hall. It began transmission each day, as Maoris would expect, with prayers. I went in to take my turn . stepping over rubbish and through the general mess. "Welcome to the Third World" said Piripi Walker - station announcer, technician and manager. And so it was.

1987 is proving a tumultuous year for Maoridom . Through the Māori Loans Affair, Maoris were saying GIVE US AN ECONOMIC BASE!

In the recent litigation over the S. O. E. Act, Maoris were asking, WHO OWNS WHAT?

There is no shortage of people willing to tell Maoris what they should or should not do.

Makes me think of a quote from the Duke of Wellington after his first Cabinet meeting as Prime Minister of Britain. "An extraordinary affair. I gave them their orders and they wanted to stay and discuss them." The spirit of the Duke is alive and well in race relations in NZ.

But before we start running other people's lives for them Is there some basic sensitivity which would concentrate not on whether people should do this or that but on how we talk to each other . how we negotiate . how we get a process right with the confidence that the answers will then flow?

Get this bicultural machinery in place here and then move into the multicultural issues.

I would be sorry if you ended up knowing more about cultures of developing countries than about the other cultures of Aotearoa.

The challenge and test is for you to take experience you have gained through VSA and implant it into this country.

You have the skills and also the confidence born of 25 years solid history of VSA.

I thank you for all you have done and I encourage you for what still lies ahead.

Last updated: 
Saturday, 25 July 1987

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