The saying “start as you meant to continue” most certainly applies to the year 2023: where at the moment the clock ticked over into the new year, it was revealed two members have been recognised for their excellence in the King’s New Years Honours List 2023.
Congratulations to Professor Farah Palmer ONZM, who has been honoured as a Dame Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit and Professor Helen Danesh-Meyer, who has become awarded as a Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit.
We’re proud to see Professor Farah and Professor Helen represent arenas where women’s perspectives and participation are key to advancing equity: Professor Helen for services to ophthalmology and Dame Farah for services to sport, particularly rugby.
Dame Farah Palmer’s (Ngāti Maniapoto, Waikato) services to sport span from an inspiring and illustrious career: not only was she a three-time Rugby World Cup winning Black Fernz captain, her dedication has extended into a variety of governance roles. Notably, as the first woman on the New Zealand Rugby Board in 2016, elected Deputy Chairperson in 2021, chairing the New Zealand Māori Rugby Board and as President of the New Zealand Rugby Museum.
Considering the strides, victories, and visibilities made in women’s rugby through the year just been, this accolade is nothing short of timely.
“If you focus on just trying to get the participation up, that’s not enough. You need people around the decision-making tables and in influential roles,” Dame Farah Palmer shares with RNZ, “And of course you’re not going to even consider it an option unless you see it and be heard. That kind of message is strong for me.”
A dedication to intersectionality surrounding Māori and gender identities in sport and organisational contexts is also part of Dame Farah Palmer’s kete: as of last year she is currently the Pou Ākonga Executive Director – Māori Student Success at Massey University, was a founding Trustee for Manukura, Te Ao Māori-led education programme and was a member of Te Manahua New Zealand Universities Women in Leadership Programme Committee, among many incredible roles.
“If you focus on just trying to get the participation up, that’s not enough. You need people around the decision-making tables and in influential roles” — Dame Farah Palmer
Professor Helen Danesh-Meyer CNZM is a trailblazer in the medical sector: as the first female Professor of Ophthalmology and the second female Professor in any surgical speciality in New Zealand. As part of her dedication to her cause, Professor Helen promotes public health and science, informs government policy and has founded major organisations to advocate for the rights of patients — notably, as the chair and co-founder of Glaucoma New Zealand.
“It is a tremendous honour to be recognised in this way. It’s a recognition of the wider team involved in our patient empowerment and professional education efforts, shining a light on the need for joined up approaches involving patients, healthcare professionals, higher education and government sectors to tackle important chronic conditions of ageing such as glaucoma,” shares Professor Helen.
Momentum doesn’t stop there: “I am looking forward to seeing the issues of inequity in medicine, but particularly, surgical specialities addressed in constructive ways. We need widespread awareness, discussion and bold plans in place,” Professor Helen shares with Global Women on her hopes for the year and beyond.
Emboldening the next generation of medical leaders is part of this: “There are so many young talented women in medicine that the future is definitely bright! I encourage women to find what excites them and what is meaningful for them and place their energies there. Also, it is important for young women not to burn-out — we don’t have to do everything at the same time- it is a matter of pacing ourselves. Finally, my hope is that we find ways to tackle imposter syndrome — as women I find (and studies have shown) we are more likely to doubt ourselves.
As for her hopes for the Women of Aotearoa? “To find strength from within as well as from each other.”
“There are so many young talented women in medicine that the future is definitely bright! I encourage women to find what excites them and what is meaningful for them and place their energies there” — Professor Helen Danesh-Meyer CNZM
With two incredible wahine being recognised for work so important for Aotearoa, we’re positive that this paves the way for a strong year — and we can’t wait to see what it holds in store.