Prime Minister, Ministers, Members of Parliament, Councillors and all our guests who have joined us today.
Can I make special mention of Dame Ann Hercus, who was New Zealand’s first Minister of Women’s Affairs, who persuaded our PM to be here today. Thank you. I remember Dame Ann saying at the launch of the Ministry of Women’s Affairs now the Ministry for Women: "We are the only government department working for our own demise."
Unfortunately demolishing the structure of inequality has not happened yet and nearly 35 years on we still need our Ministry.
It seems fitting that we celebrate 125 years of Women’s Suffrage in the Isaac Theatre Royal. This theatre has over 100 years of history of its own. This is its third incarnation. Like the three petitions it took for the Women’s Suffrage campaign to be successful, this place stands testament to the spirit of tenacity and determination.
Can I on that note acknowledge the large number of young people from the 22 local schools represented here today.
I remember coming to the Theatre Royal for the first time. The Mayor came out on the stage to welcome all the school children. I can’t remember anything he said, and I don’t expect any of you to remember anything I say either, except for one thing.
Be proud of your city. Your city is part of who you are. And it’s history is part of who you are too.
Today we are beginning the celebration of 125 years of women’s suffrage, the first country in the world to do so, and it all started here in Christchurch. Today we ask you to feel inspired by the tenacity and determination of the suffragists – and never let go.
It took 25 years for women to get the right to stand for Parliament and another 15 years after that for the first woman to be elected to Parliament – and that was here in Christchurch too – Elizabeth McCombs representing the set of Lyttleton.
I should make the point that Kate Sheppard campaigned on behalf of women on many issues; contraception, the right to divorce, the importance of physical exercise, and even doing away with corsets. I mention the corsets because they represent being constrained – and women cannot and must not be constrained if they are to achieve equality.
Sadly there are women in NZ and throughout our world who continue to have their rights, and therefore none of us can afford to be complacent.
Kate Sheppard knew she couldn’t be complacent. Three years after the first vote, Kate helped establish the National Council of Women (NCW) with the first meeting here in Christchurch. In three years time we will celebrate 125 years of that organisation which continues to be a powerful voice for women.
So what better way to start our city’s celebration of what we have contributed as a city to our nation’s story, than to have our Prime Minister address us today.
The Rt Hon Jacinda Adern is the third woman to become New Zealand’s Prime Minister.
She has quickly established herself as an outstanding leader and a role model for generations of leaders to come.
I am really looking forward to hearing her speak to today, and I know you are too.
Please join me in welcoming Jacinda.