Out of the seven deserving Northlanders who were recognised by the Queen in her recent birthday honours list, three were locals, each one awarded for either their dedication and high achievements in their chosen field, or commitment to their local community.
BY JULIA WADE
“I see it as recognition of not only my contribution to ECE but the contribution of the extraordinary, visionary and generally tenacious women I’ve had the privilege to work alongside,” she says. “The first five years of a child’s life are crucial in shaping their future and it’s so important we get that right. I feel very privileged working in this sector."
Beginning her ECE career as a kindergarten teacher in the 1970s, Clare spent a lot of her first ten years working on policy, trying to merge the division between child care and education within the ECE industry. Success was achieved in the 1980s followed by the countries first ECE curriculum ten years later.
Well-known for her collaborative leadership style, Clare’s strong advocacy for quality ECE has been prevalent over the last four decades, including championing and campaigning for communities broad access to good ECE, developing a qualified and progressive teaching workforce, forming a partnership with government to gain support for the growth of community-based services and involved with the development of the first early learning strategic plan in 2000.
Her leadership also helped to unify and provide a clear direction for New Zealand’s kindergarten sector. For five years Clare was chairperson for the Education Council’s Early Childhood Advisory group, chief executive of New Zealand Kindergartens from 2008 to 2019, and currently sits on the Teaching Council of Aotearoa New Zealand and Te Rito Maioha Early Childhood New Zealand board.
“I’ve spent most of my career working to raise the status of ECE – to improve funding, to lift the qualifications of staff across all services and to ensure regulations are in place to protect
the safety and wellbeing of young children,” Clare says, who also finds time to work as Mangawhai Artists' secretary.
With approximately 200,000 Kiwi children attending an ECE service every day, the majority independent of their families and whanau, Clare says ‘we have a responsibility to make sure their experience is exceptional’ and says she has many ambitions for ECE.
“I’m still involved in early childhood education and suspect I will be for a long time yet,” she says. “We’ve made huge progress and I’m proud of what we have collectively achieved – but there’s still more to do.”
“The first five years of a child’s life are crucial in shaping their future…”
CLARE WELLS (QSO): Feels privileged to be working in the ECE sector. PHOTO/SUPPLIED
I’m part of a team says Don McKay
“I first thought ‘why me’, as surely there were more deserving people,” the 72-year-old says. “I also felt that I’m part of an ongoing team which has had a lot of people and many have passed on, I’m just happy to carry the can, and the honour should have been bestowed on those good people who are not here anymore.”
However he admits his community work has been ‘quite a long journey’ beginning with a joint effort between the fire brigade and the Lions, which Don was a member of, to buy the towns post office building after the service was closed down in the early 80s, and was refurbished into a medical centre and rest-home units. From this collaboration, the Maungaturoto Community Charitable Trust (MCCT) was formed which Don chaired for 30 years. With a focus on providing aged care support, the Trust established a 14-bed rest home, 28 low-priced housing units, plus low-cost rooms for doctors and health professionals. When both of the towns trading banks closed, the MCCT also organised and managed a community-led money exchange.
Don has served as a member of a Northland Beef Advisory Group and for a short period, chair for the New Zealand Beef Council, and been a keen supporter of a local recreation farm, containing a small golf course, rugby field and rehearsal studio for theatrical productions.
Through his membership with the Lions he has organised and volunteered for many working bees, community events and fundraisers.
“I just happened to be pushed out to the front and took it all on I guess, I’ve taken a back seat now and the younger generation are stepping up which is good to see.”
Although no longer MCCT chair, Don remains a hardworking board member and key driver on the Trusts current ambitious project, developing a 14-bed dementia facility in Maungaturoto ‘which is well underway’.
However the venture has not been without some frustration for the modest leader, saying the Trust being turned down twice from the Provincial Growth Fund as ‘very disappointing’.
“We’ve been running a range of community events to fund the unit, but now need some help from the government’s coffers. The dementia unit is a community business and we were going to employ more people,” he says. “Sadly to get funds to build facilities for old people, especially for those with dementia living in the country, is really difficult.”
However working closely with people who suffer from the illness also inspires a positive attitude in Don.
“If you have your health and your mind, you’ve got everything,” he says. “Every day is a bonus and we have to make the best of it.”
“If you have your health and your mind, you’ve got everything.”
DONALD MCKAY (MNZM): Happy to see the younger generation stepping up. PHOTO/SUPPLIED
Publisher ‘absolutely bowled over’
Hearing of the nomination, David says he was ‘absolutely bowled over’ with the honour which he had to keep secret for quite a while before the Queen’s Birthday list became public.
“It was a big thing to keep quiet about, and my wife Nicky and I didn’t tell our children until the night before it was made public,” the father of three says. “A few days before, we invited some friends for drinks for Queen’s Birthday to celebrate but of course couldn’t tell them the real reason.”
David has since received over a hundred congratulatory emails from people, “including my first employer in the publishing industry who sent me a very nice letter; it’s amazing, it’s been a very special time.”
With a career in the publishing industry spanning more than four decades which has taken him all over the world to international book fairs and publishing houses, David has been described as a leader and “ground-breaking publisher” for Kiwi authors and Maori literature.
For nearly 20 years he worked for and became director of multinational publishing companies before creating his own independent company, David Ling Publishing Ltd, in 1992, and children’s picture imprint Duck Creek Press in 2010.
“With the looming digital industry, I felt that picture books would not be as affected as adult fiction so I moved back into that area, where I had been active when working for multinationals,” he says. “With young children, the shared physical book reading experience with a parent or someone older is very valuable in many ways, and would still be important, as on-screen reading at that level is a very poor substitute.”
Published works include a range of non-fiction topics including a book on the history of NZ tax, military and political history and biography as well as works from many acclaimed authors including Witi Ihimaera, Janet Frame and Michael King, and he has also written children’s books himself, with several featuring his own children and grandchildren.
Following 13 years on the council of the Publishers Association of New Zealand (PANZ) David was awarded Honorary Life Membership in 2011, however despite his success, his illustrious career actually began by chance – ‘I just fell in to it’ he says.
“The day I handed in my masters thesis I saw a job advertised in publishing. I had been tutoring but thought ‘it’s about time I should do some real work’,” he says. “Thinking this might be interesting, I applied, and to my surprise got the job. However I didn’t dare ask if anyone else had applied!”
The most frustrating part of his work he says is working within the small market for Kiwi authors.
“New Zealand has a completely open market, anything in the English language can just fly in here,” he says. “You look at the shelves of many book shops, there’s a huge space given to mass market, popular books from overseas and there’s a little space for New Zealand authors down the end.”
To help the plight of Kiwi writers, while a PANZ councillor, David served on management committees for several NZ book awards including Montana Book Awards, NZ Post Book Awards and NZ Post Children’s Book Awards, as well as developing book design and educational publishing awards to help raise the public profile of kiwi books and authors, an advocacy he continues till this day.
“I’ve been so fortunate to be working for 45 years with so many hugely talented and skilful authors, artists, illustrators and photographers,” he says. “They’ve all been so delightful to work with… it’s just been brilliant.”
“With young children, the shared physical book reading experience… is very valuable.”
DAVID LING (ONZM): Grateful for a career that actually began by chance. PHOTO/JULIA WADE