Government brings back Sir and Dame titles

In 2000, the Labour government decided to stop using the titles Sir and Dame for the people who receive our top honours. Instead these people were called Principal Companion or Distinguished Companion, which does not sound nearly so good. Now the National government will bring back these titles, starting with the Queen’s Birthday Honours list. See June 2nd 2008 for a look at our honours system.

The list of names begins with the words, “The Queen has been pleased … to make the following appointments”. People who receive these honours in the UK go to Buckingham Palace where the Queen gives out the medals. For a Sir or Dame, the Queen taps them on both shoulders with a sword, while they kneel in front of her. In New Zealand, the Governor-General has taken the place of the Queen.

When the Labour government changed the system, they said it was time NZ had its own honours system, not one that comes from England. Both Canada and Australia have their own honours system now. However, many people will be pleased to have the titles of Sir and Dame back again. They are titles we easily understand. Some famous people whom we admire were given these titles, such as Sir Edmund Hillary who was the first to climb Mt Everest, and the opera singer Dame Kiri Te Kanawa.

In the last nine years, 85 people received a Principal Companion or Distinguished Companion honour. They can now be called Sir or Dame if they wish.

If New Zealand ever decides to leave the Commonwealth and become a republic, we will have to go back to our own honours system again.

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