Can I acknowledge Members of Parliament Hon. Ruth Dyson, MP and Eugenie Sage, MP, Canterbury WEA President David Ivory, UC Registrar Jeff Field and author Ian Dougherty.
Thank you for inviting me to launch 'The People's University'.
I served as a Trade Union representative on the board of the Canterbury WEA back in the 1980s, and I have been a speaker, a debater and an attendee at many meetings and events over the past 30 year, so that's why I particularly wanted to be here today.
It is really great to be part of the centenary festivities.
I have enjoyed a sneak preview of The People's University. And although I have only begun to skim the chapters, it is a fascinating account of an organisation, which has enriched the lives of thousands of men and women.
The title of the book – the People's University - speaks to the kaupapa of an organisation dedicated to providing education to working men and women. This is how "the workers" were educated.
If anyone wants to know the history of the great orators that were our Trade Union leaders and early politicians, then much of that will be found in the Workers Educational Association. I remember going to the final FOL Conference in 1986 and being impressed at the leaders from the past – Jock Barnes and his generation – these were men who could stand on the stage and literally compel the audience to listen.
The book reminds us that the WEA constantly evolved to meet changing needs. Its successes include the Adult Reading Assistance Scheme.
I should acknowledge Michael Marquet, whose story is in this book. The last time I saw him was at the launch of one his books.
He started adult life with the reading age of a child. His story is one of the many such inspirational stories. The WEA can truly be proud of its history of innovation.
I'd like to close with a passage from John Sullivan's foreword on behalf of the Canterbury WEA Centennial History Project Committee.
"The CWEA, an expression of democracy in action, has been kept alive by thousands of individuals whose commitment to participatory, democratic, egalitarian principles has led at times to prickly encounters and intense debate. We salute all those strong-minded individuals who may or may not be mentioned in the text, but who are ever present behind the scenes of this published account as the overarching support system that has kept the Canterbury WEA alive for the past 100 years and will continue to do so in the future."
Congratulations, not just for the book and the efforts of its author Ian Dougherty, but for the spirit that inspired the stories it tells.
No reira tena koutou, tena koutou, tena koutou katoa.