During the COVID-19 pandemic it is easy to forget other important events which have shaped our nation. The past month saw the first anniversary of the March 15 shootings of innocent worshippers at Mosques in Christchurch.

Did we truly learn the lessons of the Christchurch massacre? Are we continuing to respect and celebrate not only the Muslim faith and culture and indeed anyone who may have a different view or lifestyle to ours? I deliberately avoid the use of the word “tolerate” which has a negative association of passive, indifference and which does not actively build understanding and awareness.

With a hopeful end to the lockdown restrictions we will start to put bits of our lives back together but like post-March 15, will we be the same or have our priorities and values changed? 

On ANZAC Day we pay respect to those who served in our armed forces and in particular those who were killed and paid the ultimate sacrifice for their country. We pause to reflect on how hard it must have been for entire communities who had to go without certain luxuries or even necessities when the economy was directed towards the war effort. I still have my mother’s ration card and the evacuation order which meant she had to leave her parents to leave London during the “blitz” in world war two. I compare our recent experiences of lockdown with the lives of those during both world wars who experienced 5 or 6 years of horror and sacrifice. Interestingly as a result of rationing and being provided a limited but healthy diet, the general health of UK citizens improved!

We are emerging from Lockdown Level 4 to Level 3 and we are able to do so because as a nation we have followed the advice and guidance of our leaders with very few exceptions. I am proud to be a citizen of New Zealand/Aotearoa as I witnessed and felt part of a community which made sacrifices and reached out to each other. This experience must be one which we remember as we remember other crises this nation and the world has faced. We have been successful so far, because we have trust in our leaders who have been clear and definite in their policies as we fought an invisible enemy. Importantly, our leaders have also been prepared to listen to experts and have placed the wellbeing of the community as its number one priority.

In the absence of traditional ANZAC Parades I urge everyone to spend some time tomorrow reflecting on the lessons we have learnt, to pay our respects because it is important we do not forget. Join the many who will be at the end of their driveways at 6 a.m. to honour our veterans and ex-servicemen and women. They helped to grow this nation.

Kia mana ake – Growing greatness!