Children’s advocate Dame Cindy Kiro has said she hopes to inspire Maori girls after becoming the first Indigenous woman appointed to the role of governor-general in New Zealand.
The country’s prime minister Jacinda Ardern announced she has chosen Dame Cindy for the largely ceremonial role as the Queen’s representative, and that the monarch has approved.
Under New Zealand’s constitutional system, the Queen remains the nation’s head of state, although she does not wield any real day-to-day power.
Dame Cindy’s five-year term begins in October, when she will replace Patsy Reddy.
Both women have been been made a Dame for their services to the community.
Dame Cindy, 63, said her mixed Maori and British heritage helped give her a good understanding of New Zealand’s history and the Treaty of Waitangi, the founding document signed by the Maoris and the British.
She is currently chief executive of the Royal Society, a non-profit group which advocates for research. Dame Cindy was previously the nation’s Children’s Commissioner and has held leadership roles at several universities.
Ms Ardern said: “Over many decades, Dame Cindy has demonstrated her passion for the wellbeing of children and young people, as well as education and learning.”
Dame Cindy said she grew up in humble circumstances and her career had been driven by a sense of the importance of service.
Asked if it was appropriate in modern times for the Queen to remain New Zealand’s head of state, she did not answer directly.
“Well, clearly I accept the Queen as the head of state of the Commonwealth and I’m here to support her,” Dame Cindy said, adding: “This is the constitution we have, and I look forward to basically using it to serve the country.”
Ms Ardern said she believed New Zealand would one day become a republic, but she did not get a sense that people urgently wanted change, and so the issue has not been a priority for her government.