New Zealand’s first indigenous Maori woman to be Governor-general, Dame Cindy Kiro, was formally sworn into the largely ceremonial role in parliament in Wellington on Thursday, pledging to reach out to migrants and other marginalised citizens.
Speaking to a small audience at the swearing-in ceremony, Dame Cindy announced that she was proud of her dual Maori and British heritage. The Governor-general has constitutional and ceremonial duties in the former British colony on behalf of the British monarch, who remains to be the country’s official head of state.
“Communities develop resilience when people feel connected, have a sense of belonging, and have a place to stand,” Ms. Dame Cindy mentioned in a speech at the ceremony.
“I will connect to new migrants and former refugees, and celebrate the many diverse cultures and religions gifted to our nation by those who have chosen to make New Zealand their home,” she said.
Many Maori who account for about 17% of New Zealand’s population, continue to be disadvantaged socially and economically.
Maori are over-represented in statistics for criminal justice and health issues, and the majority of children who end up in state care are from the Maori community. Thousands of Maori took to the streets in 2019 demanding social justice and land rights.
Dame Cindy had a career in academics and had leadership roles at various New Zealand universities. She also holds a PhD in Social Policy and an MBA (Exec) in Business Administration from the University of Auckland and Massey University. She was the first in her family to achieve a university qualification.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern welcomed Dame Cindy’s appointment happily in a speech at the swearing-in ceremony.
“I know as the first Maori women to hold this role you are mindful that your opportunity here also provides inspiration that reaches far and wide for many from all walks of life,” said Ardern.
The PM had appointed the country’s most diverse parliament after she secured a second term as Prime Minister last year, including a large number of women among legislators.