5 Jun 2023

King's Birthday Honours: Public servant, doctor and rugby coach among list of new dames and knights

11:44 am on 5 June 2023
Composite image with Jo Brosnahan, Teuila Percival, Helene Quilter, Stephen Kos, Selwyn Parata and Wayne Smith.

Dame Jo Brosnahan, Dame Teuila Percival, Dame Helene Quilter, Sir Stephen Kós, Sir Selwyn Parata and Sir Wayne Smith. Photo: RNZ

Some of New Zealand's freshly named dames and knights say receiving the honour was incredibly humbling and overwhelming.

Six New Zealanders have been appointed knights and dames: Dame Jo Brosnahan, Dame Teuila Percival and Dame Helene Quilter, Sir Stephen Kós KC, Sir Selwyn Parata and Sir Wayne Smith.

Meanwhile, former prime minister Jacinda Ardern has been made a Dame Grand Companion of The New Zealand Order of Merit.

Sir Stephen told RNZ he was "very much honoured" by the award and it was nice that it recognised the work he had done in legal education.

President of the Court of Appeal, Stephen Kos talks about the aid debating gives to careers in the 'Temples of the Voice' (Parliament & the courts).

Sir Stephen Kós. Photo: ©VNP / Phil Smith

He helped create a programme to ensure junior counsel can present submissions alongside lead counsel, meaning young lawyers could continue to develop their skills.

"That's been a very important part of my life and [it's] very important to me that education brings opportunities to other people and it's certainly what I've been doing for much longer than my 12 years as a judge."

Sir Stephen said the life of a judge was one of constant education and examination.

He said he arrived on the bench with a "pretty good grasp" of private law but had to continue learning on the job.

"I'm really very grateful to the lawyers and the judges who taught me those skills so I think this honour is a way of expressing my appreciation for the work they have done to assist me.

"Judging is reflective. If you're good at it, it's because you have good counsel in front of you, you have good colleagues to deliberate with."

Dame Jo said she was "entirely overwhelmed" by the award - but it took three weeks for her to see the letter about it.

She said it had gone to her spam folder and it was not until she received a follow-up letter that she found it.

"It was a real surprise," she said.

Dame Jo said her award was largely for the work she did for Leadership New Zealand - having founded it 20 years ago.

Leadership New Zealand founder Jo Brosnahan.

Dame Jo Brosnahan. Photo: Supplied

Leadership was her passion, she said, and believed it was important to focus on the diversity of people who had the potential to make a real difference in New Zealand.

"For New Zealand to be able to succeed and create a place that our children and grandchildren want to grow up in then we need collaborative leadership with people who can actually work together in a way that understands and empathises with each other's perspectives.

"It's the only way forward, it's the only way to deal with the wicked problems that we have."

Dame Helene told RNZ she felt "incredibly humbled" to receive the honour.

Deputy State Services Commissioner Helene Quilter and Solicitor-General Mike Heron QC.

Dame Helene Quilter. Photo: RNZ / Samuel Rillstone

"It was totally unexpected and overwhelming and I read the letter and I was in a bit of a daze. I felt shocked and I thought it must be a mistake so I got my husband to check the letter and confirm my understanding was right.

"So I am of course, delighted to accept it, and also on behalf of the thousands of public servants around the country, who give service to the public every day, we don't expect this type of recognition so it's a real privilege to receive it."

Dame Helene said she was being recognised for 45 years in the public service. She was previously the Deputy Public Service Commissioner of Te Kawa Mataaho Public Service Commission.

She was also a big supporter and participator in New Zealand's arts sector and currently served as a board member for the New Zealand School of Dance.

"It is such an overwhelming experience because it's the last thing in the world you think is going to happen and it's a real shock. When I read the letter it was a real shock.

"I also want to acknowledge and congratulate other honours recipients who will have each achieved so much for the benefit of New Zealand."

Sir Selwyn was humbled and elated by his knighthood for services to Māori.

Te Matatini Society chairperson Selwyn Parata.

Sir Selwyn Parata. Photo: RNZ

He said it was recognition of his elders who shared the values of selflessness, duty and care with him.

"I'm thinking about all those people who have had a part in my upbringing and in nurturing me over the last 40 years in my work with Ngāti Porou across the motu on kaupapa Māori."

Former Black Ferns coach Sir Wayne has been knighted in the wake of the Black Ferns' Rugby World Cup success last year.

Fans celebrate the Black Ferns at an event at Parliament

Sir Wayne Smith. Photo: RNZ / Angus Dreaver

When he got the letter, it lingered on his mind whether to accept it or not, but then he remembered the sacrifices his family made.

"Trish [his wife] and I have been together for 43 years, she reckons I've only been here for 20 of them," he jokes.

"Coaching isn't an easy game, you're never really on top of everything and you go through some difficult times and it's your family that suffer the most - through media, through criticism, through poor results - they have to put up with it. You, as a coach, sort of get over it quickly and get on to the next game."

He was thinking of his mother and sister too, as they saw him grow up playing the game since the age of 6.

"My mum is 92 ... she supported me my whole life.

"It makes them proud and I think it's great for mum to see that I get this award.

"I see it as a huge honour but also I feel a lot of gratitude, because rugby is a team game, you can't achieve anything yourself, so you're so reliant on other people, on players, your coaches, your staff, the support you get from your family."

Over his career, Sir Wayne has been involved in 174 All Blacks Tests, of which he won 143, and more than 200 games.

He has become the only coach to win three Rugby World Cups - as assistant coach in 2011 and 2015 with the All Blacks, and in 2022 as head coach with the Black Ferns.

Dame Teuila received her honour for services to health and the Pacific community.

Dr Teuila Percival.

Dame Teuila Percival. Photo: Supplied/Pasifika Medical Association

She was a paediatrician and researcher who has been an advocate for Pacific children's health for the past 30 years.

Dame Teuila was a founding member and deputy chairperson of South Seas Healthcare. She was also a founding member of the Pacific Medical Association.

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