Cindy Kiro, a public health academic, has been appointed as New Zealand’s 22nd Governor General, becoming the first Māori woman to take on the role.
Kiro, the first person in her family to achieve a university qualification, will act as the official representative of Queen Elizabeth II in New Zealand, carrying out constitutional and ceremonial duties on behalf of the Queen, who is the country’s official head of state.
Kiro, who is of Ngāpuhi, Ngāti Hine, Ngāti Kahu and British descent, is the thirdMāori person and the fourth woman to hold the role.
“I really hope it is seen as a positive thing, you can reach the very top, and remember not only Māori and a woman, but pōhara, very poor, from a humble background,” she told NZ Herald ahead of her swearing in ceremony in the capital Wellington on Thursday Oct. 28.
“It truly is incredible standing here with this opportunity, and I hope young Māori girls, no matter where they come from in life, and all girls, take some inspiration from that,” she added.
“I’m proudly Māori, and I’m proudly British, and I’m proud actually to be both. I’ve spent a lifetime occupying both spaces,” she told Radio New Zealand. “I feel comfortable in both worlds, and I think that’s what I want for the country, I want people to feel confident to live in a bicultural world.”
Kiro received a PhD in social policy from Massey University and served as New Zealand’s Children Commissioner from 2003 to 2008.
During this time, she established a task force for action on family violence and helped to successfully advocate to repeal a section of the Crimes Act that provided a legal justification for using force against children.
She has taught at various universities, including serving as the Head of the School of Public Health at Massey University and the Pro-Vice Chancellor (Māori) at the University of Auckland.
Most recently, she had been serving as the chief executive of the Royal Society Te Apārangi, an independent advisory body providing funding and policy advice in the sciences and humanities.
“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,” prime minister Jacinda Ardern said at Kiro’s swearing-in ceremony.
“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,” she added.
After her re-election last year, Ardern appointed the country’s most diverse parliament ever, including the country’s firstMāori woman foreign minister.