Queen’s Birthday Honours

Listen to the item on Queen’s Birthday last year. This will give you an idea about these honours. See June 2nd 2008.

Today is Queen’s Birthday and the Queen has honoured a number of people for their service to their community. For the first time in 9 years, we have a Sir and two Dames – Sir John Walker, Dame Jennifer Gibbs and Dame Iritana Tawhiwhirangi.

The Labour government got rid of these titles in 2000, saying that we needed our own Kiwi awards, but the National government brought them back again earlier this year. See March 8th 2009.

John Walker is famous as an Olympic athlete who won the 1500m race in 1976 in Montreal, Canada. He was a great athlete, winning many races. Later in life he developed Parkinsons disease, a disease which can make walking difficult, but he is still very active in life. He is on the Manukau City Council and is involved in a programme to help more children take part in sport.

Jennifer Gibbs’ honour is for services to the arts. She bought a building next to the Auckland Art Gallery which is now used for contemporary art, that is modern art. She has given money for a prize every second year for contemporary art. She gave money to help the Auckland orchestra, opera and the Writers and Readers Festival. She was on the University Council for 24 years and is still very involved with the university.

Iritana Tawhiwhirangi received her honour for services to Maori education. She was one of the people who started the kohango reo – the Maori pre-school where children are taught the language Te Reo – and Maori culture. The first kohango reo began in 1982 and by 1994 there were more than 800 kohango reo throughout New Zealand with about 14,000 children. They have provided a model around the world for keeping native languages from dying out.

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