New Zealand's first indigenous governor-general Dame Cindy Kiro takes office

Published : October 21, 2021 13:25 IST

Dame Cindy Kiro previously served as New Zealand's children's commissioner and has held leadership roles at several universities. Photo: Mark Mitchell/New Zealand Herald via AP/picture alliance

New Zealand's first female Maori governor-general pledged to strengthen communities to meet modern-day challenges.

Dame Cindy Kiro was sworn in as New Zealand's governor-general in parliament in Wellington on October 21, becoming the first indigenous Maori woman to serve in the largely ceremonial role. The governor-general carries out a number of constitutional duties in the former British colony, including officially signing bills into law and presiding over many public ceremonies. They act as a representative of the British monarch — who remains New Zealand's official head of state.

After taking her oath of office in English and Te Reo Maori, Kiro spoke of her mixed Maori and British heritage and vowed to reach out to migrants and marginalized citizens. "Communities develop resilience when people feel connected, have a sense of belonging, and have a place to stand," she said in a speech at the swearing-in 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," Kiro said.

A champion of the indigenous language

In her speech, she also vowed to be a champion of the Te Reo Maori language. "In my lifetime, I've also seen a remarkable shift in attitudes towards Te Reo Maori," she said. "It's a joy to see so many New Zealanders eager to learn the language, as it is by far the best portal to an understanding of Te Ao Maori — and I will continue to try and champion it," Kiro said.

Te Reo Maori became an official language of New Zealand in 1987, alongside English. The Maoris are the country's largest ethnic minority, representing 16.5 per cent of the population. They remain both economically and socially disadvantaged.

What did the PM say?

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern welcomed the new governor-general in her speech. "I know as the first Maori 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," she said. "Hopefully when others follow your footsteps they won't be quite as surprised as you were when I offered you the role," Ardern said, news website Stuff reported.

What more do we know about Cindy Kiro?

Kiro previously served as chief executive of the Royal Society, a nonprofit group that advocates for research. She has also been the New Zealand's Children's Commissioner and has held leadership roles at several universities. She holds a Ph.D. in social policy and an MBA from the University of Auckland and Massey University and was the first in her family to achieve a university qualification.

Kiro succeeds Patsy Reddy, who had also been given the honorific "Dame" for her services to the community.

adi/sri (Reuters, AP)