Previous winners

2023 Semi-Finalists

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Graham Roy Falla

A Ryman Healthcare Senior New Zealander of the Year Te Mātāpuputu o te Tau Semi-Finalist in 2021, Graham Roy Falla has once again been recognised for his outstanding contribution to the restoration and preservation of Aotearoa New Zealand’s natural environment. After moving to South Auckland in the mid-1960s, Falla joined the Auckland Forest and Bird Branch, the South Auckland Section (later Branch), which he chaired for several years, and has gone on to be its longest-serving committee member. He shares his knowledge generously, and even at age ninety is still active in several environmental groups, seed-collecting, planting, weeding, writing submissions to local authorities, working with school groups and inspiring children to become interested in native flora. Graham’s expertise and botanical knowledge has been a driving force behind revegetation in many Auckland areas including Totara Park, Olive Davis Reserve, the Maketu Pā Historic Reserve and Mangemangeroa Reserve. Another lifelong interest has been performing with other musicians as a cellist, and currently Graham takes part in concerts with the St Matthew’s Chamber Orchestra and the Devonport Chamber Orchestra.

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Dr Haare Williams MNZM

Dr Haare Williams MNZM (Te Aitanga-a-Mahaki, Rongowhakaata, Tūhoe,) has at times been a teacher, pioneer Māori broadcaster, poet, writer, artist and an activist. Through it all, there’s been a consistent uniting thread: to help bridge the distance between Te Ao Māori and Te Ao Pākehā – the Māori and Pakeha worlds. Born in Gisborne, Haare grew up in remote New Zealand on the shores of the Ohiwa Harbour near Ōpōtiki in the traditional Māori way. He did not speak English until his schooling started at seven. In 2022, as New Zealand celebrated some major milestones for Te Ao Māori (such as 35 years of reo Māori as an official language, and our first official Matariki public holiday) news outlets across Aotearoa turned to Williams for comment. Throughout his life he has championed New Zealand as a bicultural nation, ultimately making a significant contribution to improving social and cultural outcomes for Māori and bringing people together in the process.

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Hansa Naran

Hansa Naran is well-known for her extensive community work. The treasurer for the New Zealand Indian Central Association, the National Council of Women Manukau and Federation of Business & professional Women Franklin she uses her background in financial management to support the causes she’s most passionate about. Made a Justice of the Peace in 2014, Hansa is a go-to person for many in the community she lives in. She is a strong advocate for women’s rights and especially pay equity and paid parental leave. In recent years she has helped to coordinate funding initiatives raising nearly half a million dollars for COVID-19 support in India. Since 2017 she’s been a volunteer for Victim Support, providing clients with assistance to find safety, healing and justice after traumatic experiences; her ability to speak the Gujarati and Hindi languages has been a huge asset for Indian families needing support. She has received numerous awards, including: a Kiwi Bank New Zealand Hero of the Year medal, Indian Newslink Community Award, ANZ Diwali Migrant Support Award & NZICA Community Services Award.

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Joy Cowley

Joy Cowley is one of New Zealand’s most prolific and celebrated writers. She has penned over 600 titles, capturing the hearts and minds of children and adults all over the world. In the mid-1960s, when one of her sons had difficulty learning to read, Joy wrote stories for him and children with similar difficulties. Her work instantly resonated, and as her career grew, Joy received numerous awards and accolades, including the Commemoration Medal in 1990, the OBE in 1992 for her services to children’s literature, the Margaret Mahy Award Lecture in 1993 and an honorary doctorate from Massey University in 1993. Throughout her life Cowley has travelled extensively, attending conferences, visiting schools, and running writing workshops for young people. She firmly believes that children need to see themselves and their own culture in the things they read. Now in her eighties, Cowley still enjoys connecting with children through hundreds of letters each month, many of which she replies to.

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Dr Kantilal Patel QSM

"Caring, sharing, devotion and worship." This has been the mantra of Dr Kantilal Naranji Patel for the last 45 years – working as a community leader, general practitioner and philanthropist from Ōtara, South Auckland. He founded East Tamaki Healthcare (ETHC) in the 1970s to improve access to healthcare in South Auckland. Now known as Tāmaki Health, the business has grown from a single small clinic in the heart of Ōtara to a network of more than 45 clinics in Auckland and New Zealand, providing essential wrap-around services to over 300,000 New Zealanders. Alongside this work, Dr Patel's philanthropic pursuits have included leading the development of a large scale Community Complex and Temple in Papatoetoe. Dr Patel's vision in this is to provide pastoral care and cultural integration to assist in accommodation, education, employment and social and spiritual support. His work now extends beyond his role of Distinguished Fellow of the Royal NZ College of GP's to influencing community wellbeing to the thousands of patrons benefitting from his charitable pursuits.

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Dame Malvina Major ONZ GNZM DBE

Dame Malvina Major ONZ GNZM DBE is a New Zealand operatic soprano and international opera star who has been an extraordinary force for good in the field of music and performing arts. In 1991, she founded The Dame Malvina Major Foundation with a vision to “share the dream” with talented young artists. The Foundation has supported hundreds of young New Zealanders achieve their potential in the performing arts by providing a range of grants, prizes and scholarships. In 2022, she achieved a lifelong goal with the launch of Te Pae Kōkako – The Aotearoa New Zealand Opera Studio, an opera studio focused on career readiness for talented young New Zealand singers at the University of Waikato. It is the first programme of its kind in New Zealand to combine academic rigour with immersive industry training, and Major was instrumental to its inception.

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Marie Jujnovich

Marie Jujnovich has been supporting children and whānau impacted by childhood heart conditions for the past 30 years as a Volunteer Family Support Taituarā. She started volunteering in June 1991 at Green Lane Hospital, spending four days per week on the wards. Following the transfer of the paediatric cardiac team to Starship Children’s Hospital in 2003, Marie continued to support Heart Kids NZ members on ward 23b. Up until lockdown 2021, Marie was still on the ward two days per week from 6.30am to 2.00pm – at age 85 years. When lockdown prevented her from supporting in person, Jujnovich embraced technology and posted weekly messages of support and encouragement which received hundreds of positive responses. Affectionately known as ‘Nana Marie’, Jujnovich has been a beacon of light for thousands of New Zealanders at some of their most difficult times.

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Mark Dunajtschik

Born in Yugoslavia but of German ethnicity, Mark Dunajtschik spent three years in a Yugoslav concentration camp during WWII before escaping with his mother and becoming a refugee in Germany. He eventually arrived in New Zealand, where decades later he is considered one of our nation’s most significant philanthropists – pouring his time, energy and resources into a diverse range of causes. In 2022 – along with his life and business partner, Dorothy Spotswood – Dunajtschik has once again channelled his success back into the community, with a recent commitment to donating $40 million-$50 million towards a new acute mental health unit at Hutt Hospital (following a $50m donation to build a new children's hospital in 2017). Among his many endeavours, his financial support enabled Wellington helicopter pilot, the late Peter Button, to set up an air rescue service, now called the Life Flight Trust, which has been credited with saving 22,000 lives.

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Matthew Te Pou MNZM MBE BEM

Matthew Te Pou MNZM MBE BEM has lived much of his life in service to others. He spent 23 years of his career in the New Zealand Army, including active service in Vietnam, followed by 11 years as the coach of the New Zealand Māori Rugby team. He is widely credited with taking Māori Rugby from amateur sport to a professional game, and his roles include communications officer for the New Zealand Rugby Union, the All Blacks and the New Zealand Maori team and former editor of Rugby News. He continues to support the Māori Battalion, supporting the establishment of the museum at Waitangi, and advocating for recognition of Māori Battalion survivors. Later in life, he was a negotiator on behalf of eight iwi in the CNI Forestry deal and is now the Chairman of the CNI Holdings responsible for the 176,000 hectares. Currently, he is Chairman of the Tūhoe Fisheries Charitable Trust and mentor to the Executive 28 Māori Battalion Board. During Covid, Te Pou was on the ground organising and distributing food to the Tūhoe people, and he continues to distribute food to 12 marae every month.

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Professor Sir Pou Temara

Professor Sir Pou Temara (Ngāi Tūhoe) is an internationally renowned professor of Māori language, knowledge and culture. Raised by his grandparents in a Tūhoe environment where te reo was the first language, Temara went on to become a Māori academic, a professor of te reo and tikanga at Waikato University, and both a student and a tutor at Victoria University of Wellington as well as Te Whare Wānanga o Awanuiārangi. He is considered one of the most significant cultural authorities on whaikōrero whakapapa and karakia, and was one of three founding directors of Te Panekiretanga o Te Reo Māori, the Institute of Excellence in the Māori Language under the umbrella of Te Wānanga o Aotearoa. He empowers youth and supports women initiatives. He is widely credited with playing a crucial role to the survival of te reo Māori, and is regarded as a leader, mentor and inspiration to people across Aotearoa.

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Category Criteria

To be eligible for this award, the nominee must be aged over 70 years and continue to make a positive contribution in Aotearoa, following their career in any service, sector or field. The nominee must be a role model to the wider community, particularly over the past 12-months.

Nominators should consider talking about the following areas in their nomination:

  • THE NOMINEE: Describe the person you are nominating and what they’ve done later in life to inspire you to nominate them as 2023 Ryman Healthcare Senior New Zealander of the Year Te Mātāpuputu o te Tau.
  • PURPOSE: Who benefits from the work, contribution, or influence of this person - and how?
  • LEADERSHIP & SERVICE: How does this person set a positive example of being a senior member of the community - showing potential for making change at any age.
  • COMMITMENT: Describe the commitment of time, risks, and challenges overcome to create an impact to this point (this may still be ongoing). What have they done that has gone above and beyond following their career, achievements, or service to create change and give back?
  • PROVEN IMPACT: How has this person clearly demonstrated a positive impact in their area of influence? How has this been measured?
  • LONG-TERM IMPACT: If known, how does the nominee plan to continue, grow, and/or adapt their work, contribution, or influence going forward? How would winning this award impact this person and the work that they are doing?

Conditions of Entry

“We’re absolutely delighted to support the Senior New Zealander of the Year award. We know there are thousands of older Kiwis who never retire, and continue to make a massive contribution to their communities and New Zealand as a whole. We think this award is an excellent way of recognising how much they give back.”
Richard Umbers
Group CEO, Ryman Healthcare