Dame Alcyion Cynthia “Cindy” Kiro was welcomed on Saturday as New Zealand’s first Māori female Governor-General, replacing Dame Patsy Reddy in the top job.
She, her husband Dr Richard Davis and their dogs, moved into Wellington's Government House following her swearing-in ceremony.
Wherever she goes, she also takes her heritage and whakapapa with her. She described her father, a former truck driver, as a “very honest, straightforward and clever man” while her mother was “a bit of a social butterfly … a lot of fun”.
“I think this is a lovely combination and I like to think that I got something off both of them,” she said.
Dame Cindy has always been ambitious, saying she “knew from an early age what I didn’t want in my life”. “I didn’t want a job working in a factory, and I’m not trying to dis factory workers but all of my family had been manual labourers or dairy workers,” she explained. She was the first in her family to obtain higher education, attending Massey University in Palmerston North.
While life outside West Auckland was different, sometimes confronting, she “refused from an early age to be defined or confined by the limits of my own family’s experiences”.
"I don’t want to focus on unfairness. I think if we get into a victim mentality, it’s not healthy. You know, we’re better than that."
Dame Cindy has always fought for our most vulnerable communities, serving not only as Children's Commissioner during the national smacking debate, but also as a public health academic and pro-vice chancellor Māori at the University of Auckland.
“I see myself as somebody who’s capable of being pretty much whatever I need to be, but not be foolish about the obstacles that might confront me. I had to find my way through, but you know, my mokos, they’ve got the benefits of those things now.
“One person can make that much difference in the lives of all of those family connections and that’s inspiring because we convince the mother, the father, the grandmother, the grandfather to be aspirational and to achieve, and that can impact the rest of the family in positive ways.”
Next year’s Waitangi Day celebrations will be the first time ever Ngāpuhi will be welcoming one of their own as the representative of the Queen.
Dame Cindy said while the Treaty has not always been upheld, we “have to be honest about what’s happened in the past and face up to it because otherwise how do we move forward?"
“We’ve got a good basis, we have to keep moving forward, and we don’t deny the past - we don't deny the past. We own up to the past, respect it, put it in its proper place, and move forward.”