Dame Cindy Kiro becomes New Zealand’s first female Māori governor-general

The first Māori woman to be named governor-general of New Zealand, Dame Cindy Kiro, has been sworn in at an intimate ceremony in parliament, where she said she hopes to use the role to reach out to marginalised communities.

Dame Cindy, who is of Ngāpuhi, Ngāti Hine, Ngāti Kahu and British descent, became the country’s 22nd governor-general – Queen Elizabeth’s representative in New Zealand.

The governor-general’s role is to carry out constitutional and ceremonial duties on behalf of the British monarch, who remains the country’s official head of state.

The swearing in at parliament in Wellington on Thursday morning was a pared back event, with the usual pomp and ceremony scrapped due to level 2 restrictions, as the country battles to stamp out an outbreak of Covid-19.

After her swearing in, Dame Cindy said she wanted to use her role to reach out to marginalised people in society and acknowledged people were living in a time of immense uncertainty and anxiety due to the pandemic.

“Communities develop resilience when people feel connected, have a sense of belonging, and have a place to stand,” Dame Cindy said, according to Reuters.

“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.

Dame Cindy was born in Whangārei in 1958 and is the eldest of six children.

The first in her family to achieve a university qualification, she has been the chief executive of the independent advisory body Royal Society-Te Apārangi, a children’s commissioner and pro-vice-chancellor Māori at the University of Auckland. She holds a PhD in social policy and an MBA (Exec) in business administration from the University of Auckland and Massey University.

Dame Cindy succeeds Dame Patsy Reddy, whose five-year term ended last month.

She is the third Māori governor-general after Sir Paul Reeves and Sir Jerry Mateparae, and the fourth woman to hold the title.

The prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, described Dame Cindy as compassionate, knowledgable and focused.

“I know as the first Māori woman 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.

“You have been, and I know will continue to be, an advocate for the people. This will hold you steady in your role to be of service to New Zealand.”

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