When history comes to life, it leaves an enduring mark on your soul. And that is precisely what happened when I had the privilege of delivering a speech at the opening of the New Zealand Liberation Museum – Te Arawhata in Le Quesnoy.
When I arrived, I felt as though I was home again. The town’s picturesque charm and heartfelt welcome from its residents created a loving atmosphere of unity and appreciation, making the museum’s opening a truly poetic experience.
I first laid eyes on the museum building in late 2022 when I was on my OE. Back then the interior was bare. This time round the museum’s walls have become vivid and deeply meaningful – to honour the memory of those who made the ultimate sacrifice. Lately I have become captivated by the power of history and the importance of remembrance, and I was profoundly moved by the impact the museum had on me.
The significance of this museum cannot be overstated. It serves as a poignant tribute to the heroes of our past, immortalising their sacrifices for the many future generations that I know will walk its halls. The stories, photographs and atmosphere of the museum has a unique power to connect us to our past and remind us of the importance of honouring those who came before us, like my great-great uncle Gladstone Wilson. They are the true reason we were all gathered for the official opening.
That day was a culmination of hard work, dedication, and a shared commitment to preserving the memory of those who have served. So I extend my gratitude to every individual, from the awesome team at Wētā Workshop, historians, donors, and of course the volunteers who are the fundamental cogs that make a project like this successful.
Every handshake, hug, tear shed, and stories told from all the individuals present has been cemented in my heart. However, the completion of this remarkable structure is not the end, but the beginning of a new and essential chapter in the museum’s mission. It is now our collective responsibility to ensure that this museum endures and thrives for generations to come. We must be the custodians of the legacy it represents, guardians of the stories it tells, and the keepers of remembrance.
Let us remember, let us honour, and let us work together in this new chapter to keep history alive.
He tangata, he tangata, he tangata. It is the people, it is the people, it is the people.