human rights

2020 Awards Shortlist

After the excitement of Circa’s play reading of  Shirley and Bill to a full house on Sunday, I’m happy to add that Shirley Smith: An Examined Life is on the shortlist for the New Zealand Book Awards:

‘Sarah Gaitanos champions the life of Shirley Smith, whose achievements working for human rights and social causes are often overshadowed by the notoriety of her husband, Bill Sutch. Drawn from voluminous archives and the recollections of family and colleagues, a clear picture is presented of a frank, principled woman who swam against the current of her time. Written with clarity, insightful interpretation of sources and a steady tone, a remarkable story is expertly revealed.’

Launching ‘Shirley Smith: An Examined Life’

Shirley Smith was launched by the Hon. Grant Robertson at Unity Books, Wellington, on Monday 10 June. It was an honour to have Grant launch the book. He gave a great speech, pointing up the significance of Shirley Smith and her relevance in our lives today. My thanks to others who spoke and all who made the launch such a success, especially VUP and Unity Books who hosted the event. No wonder your readers love you!

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They Are Us

After a lapse I intended to start writing posts again here, but I never imagined it would be prompted by the recent devastating event that has shaken New Zealanders everywhere. I wish to offer a heart-felt tribute to the victims of the terrorist attack on Muslims in Christchurch last week. As I write this, the first funerals are taking place. I join with those who feel for the families and community in their grief.

It’s hard to find the right words. We are fortunate that Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has shown us the way, not only with her words and actions but by the empathy she so obviously feels for the Muslim community. Throughout the country and the world, people have embraced her message: They are us. 

Expressions of love and inclusion take many forms: people turn up for vigils in unprecedented numbers, they lay flowers outside mosques, light candles, give money, write messages on murals, in tribute books, share on social media, contact friends and family far and wide and show kindness and love to those near and dear.

Through haka and karakia, Māori offer a powerful and healing expression of feeling. Music speaks to the heart, not only in the gatherings in support of the Muslim community but also on social media also. Dave Dobbyn’s song Welcome Home has been taken up by various groups, including the Orpheus Choir of Wellington. We recorded a video last night to share:  https://youtu.be/k6LZe-AaSWw On Friday we take part in a free performance of The Armed Man: A Mass for Peace by Karl Jenkins, composed in 1999 for the victims of the Kosovo conflict. It includes a Muslim call to prayer alongside Christian, Hindu and other texts, with a karakia replacing the Last Post.

The message resounds. They are us.