Roy Bowden

He kotuku rerenga tahi – A white heron flies only once

Roy, it is a great privilege to honour you with this very special award, Te Tohu o Te Pihi. We’d like to begin by reflecting on why and for whom Te Tohu o Te Pihi is a special award.

More than 20 years ago, Haare Williams took up the invitation to tautoko a largely Pākehā professional organisation toward becoming more embracing of Te Ao Māori.

Te Tohu o Te Pihi, which means the mark or sign of new growth, is an award that honours Haare’s steadfast investment in relationship with NZAP and those who have joined him in upholding the principles of engagement enshrined in Te Tiriti o Waitangi. His visionary efforts toward the creation of a more bicultural professional organisation were engaged and nurtured by a group of enlightened Pākehā of whom you, Roy, are an outstanding example. Your courageous, just and loving efforts in the service of a bicultural Aotearoa and a more bicultural NZAP are why we are gathered here in honour of you.

As many of us know, Roy comes from a loving and close-knit family who have always been oriented to their wider community and community service. Roy’s entry into the Ministry seemed a natural expression of this orientation. As a result of what he was encountering in his parish work, Roy became interested in counselling – working with individuals, couples and families. Gradually, his counselling career expanded to supervising, training and teaching and eventually led him toward the work of psychotherapy.

Once Roy joined NZAP as a psychotherapist, his skills and abilities earned the respect of his peers and in 1998 he became the President of NZAP – a leadership role where he was again able to express his strong ethic of community service and whakawhanaungatanga.

It seemed Roy was at his zenith and had found his true calling.

But while Roy successfully fulfilled his Presidential role, he revealed himself as biculturally ahead of many of his peers on Council and the wider membership of NZAP. Because of this political choice, it was not long before Roy found himself dwelling closer to the margins of NZAP.

It was fortunate that he was then invited onto the Council of the World Congress for Psychotherapy, based partly on articles he’d published internationally expressing the very views that had marginalised him in NZAP. Roy continues working with WCP and represents Aotearoa New Zealand with integrity and grace in the international arena of our work. More recently, Roy was the keynote speaker at a PACFA conference in Melbourne and at the end of his presentation, he was given a standing ovation from an appreciative audience of nearly a thousand delegates.

Roy’s deep connection to the land and respect for Māori beliefs in relationship to Aotearoa was mutually engaged with John Bevan Ford, the highly acclaimed Māori artist who was a dear, dear, friend. The enduring nature of that relationship may have galvanised Roy’s resolve to stay his own bicultural course, so that by the time Waka Oranga was coming into being, Roy was already beloved to many of us on that waka.

It was wonderful to have Roy stand beside Haare at Waka Oranga’s Inaugural Hui-a-tau in October 2010 – that a Pākehā man was invited to speak at a Māori hui on a marae, in this context, was controversial, but that that man was Roy, is not at all surprising.

The stature of Roy Bowden belies the fact that he is indeed a man of great stature, of great mana and entirely deserving of this Te Tohu o te Pihi award.

We all celebrate you, Roy, for your aroha for this land and for the hope that you call forth in all of us, for your wonderful family and beautiful whānau and your sweet soul mate Carol. We are blessed to have been with you, to have experienced you in full flight.

Ngā mihi arohanui ki a koe mō tōu whānau me whānau whānui