Watershed year for women in 2018 Queen's Birthday Honours

Jamie Morton of the NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Monday, 4 June 2018, 7:06AM
Jools and Lynda Topp have been recognised for services to entertainment. (Photo / NZH Focus)
Jools and Lynda Topp have been recognised for services to entertainment. (Photo / NZH Focus)

Former Prime Minister Bill English, crooner John Rowles, folk-comedy duo the Topp twins, sex workers' rights activist Catherine Healy and Pacific issues champion Winnie Laban are among New Zealand's newest knights and dames.

Also to be appointed to the titles in today's Queen's Birthday Honours are chemist and women's advocate Emeritus Professor Charmian O'Connor and celebrated waka builder Hekenukumai "Hec" Busby.

This year's list of 192 recipients stands out because, for the first time, more women than men are recognised.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern paid particular tribute to the "iconic and incorrigible" Jools and Lynda Topp, whose 30 years of performing has included TV shows, documentaries, five best-selling children's audio books and raising awareness for breast cancer.

"They not only have a wonderful ability to entertain people from all walks of life, but have also been life-long advocates of fairness, equality and diversity."

Speaking to the Herald, Lynda Topp joked it was a case of "the rebels getting their medals".

"It's not just for Jools and me, it's for all the people who have supported us over the years."

Like Sir John Key before him, a knighthood for English was widely expected and follows a tradition of former prime ministers receiving the top honours.

Those who weren't made knights or dames, or didn't want the title, were Helen Clark, Jim Bolger, Mike Moore and David Lange - but all four were appointed to the Order of New Zealand, which ranks higher.

English, who left Parliament in March after a 28-year career in politics, told the Herald he was "a bit surprised" by the honour.

"But, nonetheless, the honour is a bit bigger than politics and particularly important for those around me like Mary, my family, the people down south that I represented, those I worked with closely in politics."

English would go by Sir William on formal occasions, and Mary English would take the title of Lady.

Ardern congratulated English along with the rest of the recipients, many of whom were "quiet achievers" who had given decades of service without seeking accolades.

"I would include Catherine Healy, who becomes a Dame Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit and who has spent decades working behind the scenes to support some of our most vulnerable workers, in that category."

Healy, who co-founded the New Zealand Prostitutes Collective in 1986 and played a major part in sex work's decriminalisation in 2003, burst into tears the moment she was told of the honour.

"It was completely unexpected. It doesn't happen to me, this stuff. A grand dame."

Minister for Pacific Peoples Aupito William Sio singled out Laban as a "trailblazer" who has been New Zealand's first Pacific Island woman MP and first woman Minister of Pacific Island Affairs, among other accomplishments.

"Her battle with breast cancer also saw her bring our Pacific community together to discuss health issues in an open, frank and safe environment."

O'Connor, whose legacy lies in the Kate Edger Educational Charitable Trust, now supporting more than 100 female students a year, reflected on her six decades of championing women's careers.

"But we have still got a long way to go."

Ardern also acknowledged Busby, an esteemed kaumatua and founder of a school for traditional celestial navigation, and Lower Hutt aged-care worker Kristine Bartlett, made a Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit just months after being named New Zealander of the Year.

"Kristine paved the way for equal pay, working tirelessly in her unassuming way to make life better for women in the aged care and support sector."

Rowles has been made a knight companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit in the Queen's Birthday Honours.

Alongside Rowles, best known for his 1970 classic Cheryl Moana Marie, other media and entertainment figures on the list included Roger Shepherd, who founded cultural institution Flying Nun Records; "godfather of comedy" Scott Blanks; sports commentator Grant Nisbett; former RNZ chairman Richard Griffin; celebrity cook Annabel Langbein; and singer Jackie Clarke, who called the honour "a gilt-edged thumbs up".

To Smash Palace and Sleeping Dogs director Roger Donaldson, being made an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit was "recognition of the contribution, over the last 40 years, that filmmaking has made to New Zealand's discovery of its strong cultural identity".

Recipients from the sports world included Black Ferns captain Fiaoo Faamuausili, netball great Tracey Fear, Paralympics New Zealand boss Fiona Allan, equestrian Andrew Nicholson, triathlete Andrew Hewitt, and firefighter and former Black Fern captain Rochelle Martin.

The New Zealand Bravery Decoration was awarded to McDonald's Petone store manager Mike Riley and to "Police Officer S" for their heroic deeds in an armed stand-off at the restaurant in 2015.

Former Fish & Game New Zealand boss Bryce Johnson was made a Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit for his 30 years of service to the environment, which Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage called an "incredible contribution".


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