Last week, our founder, Audette Exel, had the great honour of being awarded a ‘World Class New Zealand’ award for her work with Adara. The World Class New Zealand awards are presented by Kea New Zealand and recognise New Zealand’s tallest poppies for their achievements, no matter where they live in the world.
Audette was very touched by the award, and delivered this moving tribute to New Zealand upon receiving it.
What an extraordinary end, to an extraordinary week.
I haven’t lived in NZ for more than 30 years, and this week I have been able, thanks to Kea, to walk in the footsteps of my past. And as I have been doing that, it has really struck me that there is something in this country that is deeply, deeply beautiful.
It is not just the land, the mountains, the rivers and the sea. It’s not just the wonderful people, with all their vibrancy and diversity. It’s more than that. It’s a past, a story through time that makes us all who we are today. That makes me who I am today. That makes New Zealand truly beautiful.
It’s a past that for me includes being born of amazing parents, who raised me with deep Kiwi values …values like integrity, gratitude, and compassion. Parents who taught me that excellence must always be matched with humility. Who taught me that real success was about giving, not receiving, and above all else, to respect every single person on the planet.
It’s a past that includes many visionary leaders who ensured that, as an ordinary Kiwi kid, with little or no cost I could get access to a fantastic heath and education system, and even be paid a small sum by the government to allow me go to university.
It’s a past that includes the men and women who had the vision to cement in law the rules and structures that ensured that this was a fair and free society. A country where as a woman I had a vote, a voice and a chance to build a joyous life. A chance that literally billions of our neighbours do not have.
And it’s a past that goes even further back than that, to the dignified men and women of this land who for thousands of years created communities centred around family, around sharing, and who protected the land, the sea and all the bounty of nature. And who fought fiercely for what they knew was right…their right to remain a free people.
That past has shaped my every step. It shapes my future.
I could not be more grateful to be born here, to be raised here, to be taught to be a decent human being here, and now to be honoured here.
Nga Mihi Mai Oha Kia Aotearoa.
New Zealand, I thank you from the bottom of my heart.