Indigenous Woman Named New Zealand Governor-General For First Time Ever
New Zealand’s government continues to make history as the role of governor-general has been given to an indigenous woman for the first time.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced this week that children’s advocate Dame Cindy Kiro had been selected as Queen Elizabeth II’s representative, and that the Queen approved of the decision.
The role is largely ceremonial as the Queen does not typically wield any real day-to-day power in the country, but Kiro has expressed hopes her appointment will inspire Māori girls when she takes over the role from Patsy Reddy in October.
Kiro believes her mixed Māori and British heritage has helped better her understanding of New Zealand history and the Treaty of Waitangi, the founding document signed by the British and Māori.
Speaking about her appointment as governor-general on Monday, Kiro said she grew up in humble circumstances and that her career has been driven by a sense of the importance of service. Throughout her life she has worked as the nation’s Children’s Commissioner, as well as holding leadership roles at several universities, Associated Press reports.
Kiro reflected on the ‘incredible’ journey she has made since her ‘very poor’ upbringing, saying:
I really hope it is seen as a positive thing, you can reach the very top, and remember not only Māori and a woman, but pōhara, very poor, from a humble background.
It truly is incredible standing here with this opportunity, and I hope young Māori girls, no matter where they come from in life, and all girls, take some inspiration from that.
Like Reddy, 63-year-old Kiro, who currently serves as chief executive of the nonprofit group Royal Society, has been been given the honorific ‘Dame’ in recognition of her services to the community.
Ardern recognised Kiro for having ‘demonstrated her passion for the wellbeing of children and young people, as well as education and learning’ over decades.
The prime minister said she was ‘delighted’ that Kiro had accepted the role, noting, ‘She has a highly distinguished and lengthy career in academic and leadership positions and has made significant contributions across a number of fields and organisations.’
Though Kiro did not directly give her thoughts on whether she believed it was appropriate for the queen to still be considered New Zealand’s head of state, she made clear that she ‘accepts’ the situation and that she is ‘here to support’ the queen.
She said, ‘This is the constitution we have, and I look forward to basically using it to serve the country.’
Kiro will remain governor-general for five years after taking over from Reddy. Her appointment comes after Ardern appointed New Zealand’s first indigenous female foreign minister last year.
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