Tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā tatou katoa
Good afternoon and a warm welcome to you all…
To our Honoured Guests; our speakers; our sponsor partners who have supported the awards – thank you for joining us today.
Welcome to our Awards Committee and the Selection Panellists – selecting the awardees from so many wonderful applications is such a difficult job! Thank you for your time and for your involvement with the Trust.
And of course – welcome to you, our awardees. We are here to honour you. You have achieved so much; with your families, whanau and friends who have helped over the years and are now celebrating your success. Over the last year or so, we have had different challenges, with lockdowns, studying from home… many congratulations to you all for persevering with your dreams.

The Kate Edger Educational Charitable Trust – we provide funds – promoting, advancing and encouraging education.
What better way to fulfil our purpose than to support our students of today, to assist you into the future, to help you, your families and your communities.
On the front of your programme is a quote from W.E.B Dubois, pioneering African American sociologist and civil rights activist – “Education must not simply teach work, it must teach life”.

We firmly believe in the wider Power of Education. Although gaining a job is an important outcome, an education provides much more as well. You will have your horizons broadened and be exposed to new ideas and new ways of thinking that may change your life forever; many of you will meet new people and make life-long friends. Your education may change the life path that you were on, or it may confirm the path you have always wanted to follow. In the world today, it is more important than ever that we are equipped with the knowledge we need to make well-informed, well-reasoned decisions about the things that are important in our lives. Your education, no matter what you are studying, will help you to do this.

Some of you may not have been able to study without the financial support; some of you may be the first in your family to attend university. For all of you receiving an award today, the course of study that you have chosen will be of huge benefit to you personally in the future. But the benefits go beyond you and extend to your families, your communities and to society as a whole. The Trust is immensely proud that we can play a small part in helping you to change the world in whatever way, big or small, that you choose.

The trust is named after Kate Edger – in 1877, Kate became the first woman in New Zealand to gain a university degree and the first woman in the British Empire to earn a BA (in Maths and Latin). Kate’s original graduation hood is here with us today – on the mannequin! Kate also believed in the Power of Education and in the importance of women’s education in creating a better society. She was also a great supporter of and role model for the Suffrage Movement and she strongly advocated for women to use the vote to bring about change and improvement in the world. To Kate, education was about improving one’s character and preparing to serve the community, as it was about educating the mind. She believed it was the responsibility of those who had received an education to go on to use their skills and knowledge to make a difference in the world.

When Kate graduated, in the Choral Hall in Symonds Street, just a few minutes walk from here, the crowds gathered. And in honour of her achievement, the Bishop of Auckland presented her with a white camellia, said to symbolise unpretending excellence. The white rose you have been given today is also to symbolise this – unfortunately it is the wrong season for camellias! We are here to acknowledge your achievements, your unpretending excellence. Congratulations on your award.

I would also like to acknowledge Bessie Te Wenerau Grace, affiliated with Ngāti Tūwharetoa who was the first Māori woman to graduate from university, in 1926. This was 49 years after Kate Edger had paved the way. Interesting that Kate Edger was the first principal at Nelson College for Girls, which was the school that Bessie attended a few years later.

We would like to thank all of our loyal supporters, including our generous donors and partner sponsors, many of whom have representatives here today- Vinka Marinovich estate; the Titirangi and Block House Bay Women’s Institute; Bed Bath & Beyond, Timeless Images Photography, the NZ Contemporary Art Trust, Scarecrow Florist, Watercare and Westferry Property Services. Despite the challenging times with Covid19 where we had months of no income (a large part of our income comes from hiring and selling of regalia for graduation, school prizegiving and legal ceremonies), we were still able to fund over 90 awards in the last 12 months, worth nearly $500,000.
The opportunities and choices that young women have available to them today, are a direct result of the efforts of several generations of women who have gone before you – the Kate Edger Educational Charitable Trust is a living example of this whakapapa. We hope that you will go out into the world with the benefits of the education you have gained, so that future generations can reap the rewards of the impact that you will make.

Before I finish, there is someone I am pleased to introduce as today marks an auspicious occasion.

After a long association with the Trust, Emeritus Professor Dame Charmian O’Connor has announced her retirement. She was the driving force behind the setting up of The KEECT in 2005, she served as the Chair of the Trust then as a Trustee and Chair of the KEECT Awards Committee until the present day. Charmian’s incredible foresight, her hard work and wisdom has now resulted in over 1,200 awardees and the Trust is now known as one of the major educational funders in the Auckland Region.

Like Kate Edger, Dame Charmian had many firsts in her illustrious career, including:

1973 – first woman in New Zealand to be conferred to the degree of a Doctor of Science.

1986 – first female professor of chemistry at University of Auckland (a lecturer in chemistry since 1958)

She authored and co-authored more than 300 scientific papers in refereed journals and held many administrative roles including serving as the inaugural assistant vice-chancellor and deputy vice-chancellor in 1994. When she retired from the University of Auckland in 2004, O’Connor was conferred the title of Professor Emeritus, a very fitting acknowledgement of all that she had contributed during her academic career.

In the 1989 Queen’s Birthday Honours, Charmian was appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire, for services to chemistry, education and the community. Later in the 2018 Queen’s Birthday Honours, she was awarded a Dame Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit, for services to chemistry and education.

While she will be taking a step back from active involvement, her amazing intellect will not be entirely lost to us as Charmian will continue to serve on some Award Selection Panels and she will always be a precious taonga for The KEECT.

Charmian, we wanted to acknowledge the huge contribution that you have made to The KEECT and we want assure you that we will work to protect and extend the legacy that you have created. Thank you for your time, passion and skills and we wish you a long and happy retirement. Please accept a small token of appreciation – a bouquet of flowers.

To all our awardees, once again congratulations. We look forward to hearing from you all in the future about your wonderful achievements and the difference which education has made in your lives.