Uncompromising, unassuming and life-changing – however you choose to describe Kristine Bartlett and her achievements, make sure to add New Zealander of the Year to that list.
Five years, three court cases, two appeals and one landmark pay settlement later, the rest home carer of 24 years received the award from Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on Thursday night.
It is a prestigious and national nod to the Lower Hutt resident’s significant contribution, which saw 55,000 low-paid, mainly female, care and support workers earn a pay rise.
She also received the Kiwibank kaitaka huaki cloak, Pouhine, from 2014 New Zealander of the Year Dr Lance O’Sullivan on behalf of last year’s winner, Taika Waititi.
The 2018 class of nominees included mental health advocate Mike King and microbiologist Dr Siouxsie Wiles.
Chief judge Cameron Bennett said Bartlett was a thoroughly worthy recipient of this year’s supreme award.
“At enormous personal sacrifice, [she] spearheaded the equal pay movement for caregivers in the aged-care sector. In doing so she has changed the lives of thousands of New Zealand’s lowest paid workers,” he said.
“Kristine embodies the values of fairness, decency and equity that New Zealanders have long held dear. She didn’t seek out admiration or special recognition for what she helped achieve. She saw a need and had the courage of conviction to take action.”
Despite her insistence that it was not her, rather the E Tū union, which strived for change, Bartlett now joins a distinguished list of Kiwis who have won the award, including Dame Anne Salmond (2013) and Sir Richard Taylor (2012).