Long-serving Labour politician Dame Annette King will receive a Distinguished Alumni Award from the University of Waikato next month (August 24).
Dame Annette graduated from the University of Waikato in 1982 with a Bachelor of Arts majoring in political science and history.
The former dental nurse was elected to parliament in 1984, winning the Labour seat for Horowhenua. She quickly climbed the Party ranks, from chair of the social welfare select committee in her first term, to under-secretary for the ministers of employment, social welfare, tourism and youth affairs in her second. In a cabinet reshuffle in 1989 she was promoted to Minister of Employment and Youth Affairs and, in the following year, Minister of Immigration. Dame Annette also held a number of other portfolios during her 30-year career, including racing, food safety, state services, police, transport and justice, and was associate Minister of Defence and Associate Minister of Trade.
During the 1980s she was involved in the establishment of the Ministry for Women’s Affairs and became a strong advocate for gender equality, women’s representation and pay equity.
But it was in areas of health and social justice that Dame Annette had most significant impact. As Minister of Health she was responsible for a number of initiatives that made healthcare more accessible, especially for young children and women. She saw the implementation of district health boards and primary health organisations. On behalf of the government she signed the UN Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, which has guided tobacco policy in New Zealand. She made mental health a priority and set up health workforce planning for New Zealand. She was the recipient of a Bravo award by the New Zealand Skeptics as part of an attempt to provide standards and accountability via the Therapeutic Products and Medicines Bill.
Dame Annette was a deputy leader of the New Zealand Labour Party, and served two terms as Deputy Leader of the Opposition before retiring from politics in September last year.
The University’s Deputy Vice-Chancellor Academic Professor Robyn Longhurst says honouring Dame Annette’s achievements is both timely and fitting. “Her values align closely with the University of Waikato’s motto – Ko te Tangata [For the People]. She’s always been on the side of ‘the people’ giving her all to the pursuit of social justice, enacting positive social change.”
Four more University of Waikato alumni will receive distinguished alumni awards next month. They are one of the world’s best-known archaeologists Professor Tom Higham, international businessman Jan Zijdeveld, influential psychologist Dr Sarah Calvert and Queens Counsel and company director Miriam Dean CNZM. Dr Shane Legg, founder of DeepMind Technologies, received a distinguished alumni award from the University of Waikato earlier this year.
Dame Annette King will share stories and insights from her life in politics in an “audience” from 11.30 - 12.30 on Friday 24 August at the Hamilton campus. Please register your interest in attending.