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Celebrating 60 years of Manawatakitahi


Exceptional Service Awards 2023

Over the course of our 60th anniversary, we have been inspired by the whakatauki Manawatakitahi – Hearts beating as one – and on Saturday 18 November this came to life, as we celebrated the collective heartbeat of the Award in Aotearoa during a wonderful evening at Government House.

The event was hosted by Her Excellency, The Rt Hon Dame Cindy Kiro GNZM, QSO, Governor-General of New Zealand, and attended by The Duke of Edinburgh, Global Patron of The Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award. 

During the celebration, six very special members of the Award whānau were honoured, as we announced the inaugural Exceptional Service Awards. Each recipient was presented with their Award and a pounamu from HRH The Duke of Edinburgh.

Robyn Bruce | Otamatea High School  

Robyn is an Award Leader at Otamatea High School in Maungaturoto, where she has overseen the Award programme for many years. Robyn goes above and beyond to help participants by organising many fundraisers to support them whilst running most of the Adventurous Journeys. Robyn is described as “a very reliable leader, who uses her judgement wisely and makes decisions that make participants feel safe and included to build their confidence and skills”. Robyn was nominated for the Exceptional Service Award because she has “dedicated herself to her school and community” and is an “amazing role model who contributes much of her time and teaches participants important skills”.

Vicki Crawford | Blue Mountains College  

Vicki has run the Award at Blue Mountains College in Tapanui since 2005. In this time, she has helped over 100 participants achieve their Gold Award as well as many Bronze and Silver participants. She was the Hub Leader for the lower South Island and visited many schools in the region to support them with their Award programme. “Vicki’s dedication to empowering the next generation and drive to see her Award participants succeed, is attributed to her passion and leadership qualities. Her commitment has resulted in participants entering society as confident, responsible, and kind citizens of the future.” 

Leonie King | Wellington East Girls’ College  

Leonie is an Award Leader from Wellington East Girls’ College where she transformed the Award programme into one in which hundreds of young people now participate. In 2019, Leonie took on the task of setting up the Award in the school’s Te Aka supported learning class, many of whom had never been away from home. This year, five of these students were presented with their Gold Award at Government House in Wellington. Leonie is described as advocating “every step of the way to make sure the students at Wellington East Girls’ College with disabilities get the same opportunities to do the Award as anyone else. Leonie ensures that every participant feels welcome and has their achievements validated, which is life changing for the teachers, parents and the girls”.

Gerry Purcell | Outdoor Training New Zealand 

Gerry runs the Award at Outdoor Training New Zealand in the Bay of Plenty. He supports young people in the region who cannot do the Award through their school, as well as assisting several schools in the region with their Award programme. Gerry is highly regarded in his local community, “nothing is ever a problem for him. He will always do everything he can to help the participants achieve their goals. The time he gives to the Award is amazing.” Gerry was nominated for the Exceptional Service Award for “dedicating around 150 days a year to Adventurous Journeys and courses. The volume of his work is utterly exceptional.” “Gerry stands out because he had a positive impact on my adolescent and I have no doubt I am not the only person who owes Gerry thanks.”

Hamish Bell | St Andrew’s College  

Hamish runs the Award at St Andrew’s College in Christchurch. He supports all the year 10 students to take part in the Award each year, with many of these progressing to Silver and Gold. Hamish has supported over 100 of his students to achieve their Gold Award. St Andrew’s College has often hosted the Gold Award ceremony in Christchurch and Hamish has spent many hours assisting with the ceremony. He demonstrates “a great deal of leadership and passion for the Award. His enthusiasm and positivity toward it have inspired and enabled staff, students, and parents to be fully engaged and to share in the students’ successes at each level.”

Chris Allan | Joshua Foundation

Chris Allan runs the Award at the Joshua Foundation in Christchurch, supporting many participants throughout Ōtautahi who would not otherwise have had the opportunity to participate. Described as a “meticulous, dedicated, and diligent Award Leader who constantly goes the extra mile to support young people to achieve their Awards”, Chris has supported over 100 participants to complete their Award in a range of different organisations including schools, home school groups and in Christchurch Men’s Prison. Te Aratai College have noticed a real difference in their students, who have assumed leadership roles in the school, in their churches, sports clubs and community groups. Chris is a “champion and deserves recognition for his commitment and contribution to rangatahi and the wider community.”

The Duke of Edinburgh’s Hillary Award in Aotearoa New Zealand extends its heartfelt congratulations to these outstanding volunteers for their invaluable contributions. Their unwavering commitment to the growth and development of young people is a testament to the enduring spirit of Manawatakitahi – hearts beating as one. 

Photographer – Rohan Krishnan, Kaleido Studios