CHANNELLING KATHERINE'S SPIRIT
The Governor-General, His Excellency Sir Jerry Mateparae, is the Patron of the Katherine Mansfield Birthplace Society (KMBS). Because of this connection, the Board of KMBS was asked to nominate a person for the the Governor-General's Anzac of the Year Award.
The award recognises those who have demonstrated the qualities associated with the Anzac spirit: comradeship, compassion, courage and commitment. These qualities are symbolised in the image of Private Henderson, whose efforts to save wounded soldiers at Gallipoli have come to typify "the ordinary man stepping up to do extraordinary things in the service of others." The award seeks to find a modern-day counterpart.
As a Board representing a female writer who died in 1923, we had to think of a nominee who somehow fused both the Anzac spirit and that of Mansfield. The unanimous decision was to nominate Louise Nicholas.
Image: Cover of Louise Nicholas: My Story, published in 2014. Courtesy of Penguin Books New Zealand.
The Board's letter stated:
"Louise Nicholas was gang raped by senior police officers when she was a young woman. Prosecution for these crimes did not occur until years after the events took place.
Following the trials, she has worked with the New Zealand Law Commission on a report on the victims of sexual crimes; with a team of legal researchers at Victoria University on the same topic, with the New Zealand Police, educating its officers about sexual crime; and with Rape Crisis.
Her comradeship is evident in this work to improve the treatment of victims of sexual crime; her compassion is illustrated by her working with the NZ Police to increase officers’ understanding of the impact of sexual crime; her courage is heroic for being visible in a small country as a victim of a sexual crime perpetrated by senior, powerful community figures; and, finally, her commitment is clear by her continuing work as an advocate for better understanding of sexual crime.
If the Anzac spirit is typified by the ordinary person stepping up to do extraordinary things in the service of others, there could not be a better illustration than Louise Nicholas.
The framing of the nomination is (perhaps because of its historic and military pedigree) male-oriented. It would be salutary if, in 2015, a female version of comradeship, compassion, courage and commitment was honoured by this award.
On reflection, perhaps we can see a link between Louise Nicholas and Mansfield.
Many of Mansfield's stories deal with the imbalance of power between men and women and the vulnerablity of women."
The award is announced on April 23. Fingers crossed.
Update: Louise Nicholas was presented with the 2015 Anzac of the Year Award at a function at Government House on 23 April 2015. Read the announcement from Government House.
Image: Louise Nicholas receives the 2015 Anzac of the Year award from Govenor-General Sir Jerry Mataparae. Courtesy of Government House.