Gregory Fortuin at the Royal Police Academy

Wellington, Thursday, February 2, 2017

An inspiring and interesting speech our friend Gregory Fortuin (Salvation Army National Director and Former Families Commissioner and Former Race Relations Conciliator) at the Police Recruit Wing 302 (Wellington) Address on Thursday, February 2, 2017. Mr Fortuin aways packs his speeches with facts, humour and forthrightness.

His Address:

Deputy Commissioner Viv Rickard of Te Arawa, Ngati Whare and Ngati Porou descent; Acting General Manager Phil Weeks, Police Management, Guests of Honour but more importantly Members of Wing 302, your families and friends.

Rare Honour

It seems like yesterday when I was welcomed by Hamish in his best Ngati Pakeha Reo as your patron. What a ride it has been. What an honour. What a privilege. I fully agree with the Super Diversity forum that rate the New Zealand Police as amongst the best community engagers in the world – especially for those of us who come from countries where the police were resented for their inhumane practises.

I still vividly remember the day the security police and the swat team came for my friend for simply making a speech and me as a hot-headed activist storming into his house and staring them and their AK47s down. I am grateful that their squad leader showed more restraint than me on that Saturday morning over 30 years ago.

Equal Rights

Whilst the 1776 USA Declaration of Independence penned by slave-owner Thomas Jefferson states “that all men are created equal and are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness sounds good in theory, none of our journeys are equal. Your journeys to the Royal New Zealand Police College as members of Wing 302 have all been different and authentic.

You have journeyed from Kawakawa in the north to Dunedin in the South including 1st in the Wing Julie Sparrow who calls herself “A one-eyed Cantabrian” (I thought all Cantabrians are one-eyed) in spite of being born in Auckland. (As a proud son of Porirua, I don’t know which is worse).

You have also come from the far corners of the world (although New Zealand is far from everything). The air controller cum pastor who came by boat from Switzerland or the chef from Brazil who was detained by customs for 4 hours because of his bag full of chef knives spring to mind. But nothing epitomises the realisation of Hopes and Dreams more than the story of 4th in Wing Alexander. The story of a Hungarian Jewish grandmother who escaped the Holocaust with fraudulent papers and the slums of Budapest because New Zealand opened its homes and its hearts to refugees – and the story of a grandmother’s daughter who in turn opened her heart to baby boy left in an Romanian orphanage by a teenage mum. Constable Alexander, you proudly stand here today in my home town of Porirua because in this great country of Aotearoa anything is possible. Here in P’town we are all equal.

The Survivors

Congratulations to you all – the 100 percenters – the 40 out of 40 Wing 302. You left no one behind. You survived the gruelling training (physically, academically and emotionally)

You survived a 7.8 Earthquake; and you survived me – the African Hurricane

I am sure it wasn’t easy (in spite of the white lies some of you told the commissioner on Tuesday)

I am sure there were lots of sweat and tears and even some blood (I know of at least 1 person who lost a toenail). I am also sure you have made many great friendships (some closer than others) – treasure and nurture them; they are special. You will never again spend 18 weeks as a recruit at RNPC.

And so today you leave here armed with that unalienable right to equal opportunity in the pursuit of fulfilling your dreams. Thanks to OC Kylee and Sarges Chris and Andrew and the wonderful team at the college, you are fit for purposes. You also leave here armed with those 6 values of Professionalism, Respect, Integrity, Commitment to the Treaty and Maori as the first nation people, Empathy and valuing Diversity. Your challenge is not just to know those values but to BE those values, live those values no matter the circumstances and be ambassadors for those values. You have the skills and the character to be just that.

What I admire most about your generation Y and the handful of Gen X’s here is that you are so inclusive and so non-judgemental – unlike some of us oldies with our more entrenched opinions and biases. Don’t get any swollen heads though as there are also some traits of your generation I don’t admire but now is not the time.

Preserving identity

And in your pursuit of opportunity and realising your dreams I urge you to be authentically yourselves. Do not try to be anyone else. And if in your journey of professionalism, respect, empathy and integrity you come across a barrier called discrimination or harassment. Don’t for one minute put up with it. Don’t whinge about the trivial stuff but make sure you stand up to the bullies and don’t tolerate the abuse the young females had to endure from disgraced Military predator corporal Kennett. It should never have been up to a 17 year old lass to blow the whistle. I say to the whole of the police force today as much as I admire you, that respect is not unconditional or blind. If you ignore abuse or if you turn a blind eye and call it “custom” – then you are endorsing, you are acquiescing – you are just as guilty. To Wing 302 I say, if you have followed the command structures and they still turn a blind eye – don’t hesitate to call me, I will always be your patron.

Promote safety

Be aware of the privilege of your position and the power of your uniform and marked vehicles. Have you noticed how ordinary people slow down when they see you on the motorway? Some people will always be fearful of you – make them feel safe and protected. May you have courage way beyond the system! Exercise your powers and discretion wisely and without fear or bias. You have the opportunity to change and influence lives in respect of people you know and thousands you have not yet met. The people of the communities where you are being posted to are awaiting your arrival because you will influence their futures for the better.

And when you think you have arrived and you stand on the pinnacle of success as the Commissioner of Police or whatever other influential position you might attain don’t you ever forget your small beginnings. God help me the day I ever forget that my widowed mum pushed two single beds together and she and three little boys slept on it. I want to you to look around today and see all the people who supported you and helped you along the journey. Don’t you ever forget your journeys from the orphanages of Romania or the train tracks that run through your town in Kawakawa or the markets of Otara or the freezing chill of Dunedin!

The Gregory Fortuin Wing 302 you have been called for such a time as this – Go and fulfil your purpose. God Bless Wing 302!

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Photo Caption:

File Photo of Gregory Fortuin (Centre) with (from left) Jamie Milne of New Zealand Football, Sergeant Ratapu, Sergeant Cam, Carmen Fortuin, Inspector Rakesh Naidoo and Elke Schaefer at the Royal New Zealand Police College on October 3, 2016.

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