Standing on the shoulders Courageous


These brave women have put their bodies, reputations, careers, and sometimes even their lives, on the line.

Gil Hanly

For more than 40 years courageous Gil Hanly has documented social change and protest in Aotearoa. Often she was one of a few, or sometimes, the only photographer covering a protest or an event. This has led people to ask “If a protest happened and Gil Hanly wasn’t there to photograph it, did that protest happen?”. (Kim Knight, NZ Herald, 15/9/18)

Hanly’s advice to young photographers to “photograph what you are involved with”, is what she has always done herself. She worked with feminist magazine Broadsheet, photographing women and feminist activity from 1972. Involved with the anti-nuclear and peace movements from the 1970s, she also documented significant events including annual Koroneihana and Waitangi Day commemorations, Land Rights protests, the 1981 Springbok Tour, the reclamation of Bastion Point and the bombing of the Rainbow Warrior

She was also there when the Queen St riot broke out in 1984 and photographed the public outrage after schoolgirl Teresa Cormack was murdered in 1987. Always involved with plants and gardens, Hanly is also a well-known garden photographer.

In this excerpt from a RNZ interview Gil Hanly talks about her career.

Find out more about Gil Hanly:

Read this article: Gil Hanly: The protest photographer who made women seen. 

See Gil Hanly's work in the Te Papa Collections and the Auckland Art Gallery

Collection reference 274381
Year 2015
Credits Interviewer: Noelle McCarthy, Saturday Morning, RNZ National

Papaarangi Reid, Te Rarawa

For more than 30 years, Professor Papaarangi Reid has courageously called out inequality and disparity for Māori in Aotearoa. A specialist in public health medicine with a research focus on analysing disparity between indigenous and non-indigenous populations, Professor Reid is known for her work holding the Crown to account for Māori health inequities. She is fearless at naming racism and the ongoing, damaging effects of colonisation for Māori in health and other social indicators of wellbeing.

Reid is also a recognised leader in developing the Māori health and research workforce and she advocates for the right of Māori to be part of the solution to improving their own health outcomes. From the time when she was the only Māori in her medical school class, she has been aware of the need to redress the imbalance. 

In 2017, she took up the position of Tumuaki and Head of Department of Māori Health at the Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences, University of Auckland. Reid previously held the Directorship of Te Rōpū Hauora Rangahau a Eru Pōmare at the Wellington School of Medicine. In these roles she has inspired emerging Māori health leaders and workers. Recognised internationally for her work, Professor Papaarangi Reid is a Commissioner on the World Health Organisation Commission for maternal, infant and child health.

In this excerpt from a Te Karere bulletin Reid responds to Te Oranga o Ngā Tamariki Māori research findings that the lives of 70 Māori children could be saved each year if healthcare was affordable for all New Zealanders.

Find out more about Papaarangi Reid:

Watch the inaugural lecture by Professor Papaarangi Reid: Politics, Power and Personality – prioritising Māori health, 8 August 2018.

Check out her profile on the 100 Māori Leaders website. 

Collection reference TZP16964
Year 2012
Credits Reporter: Raiha Johns

Caterina De Nave

Caterina De Nave began her career in television in the 1970s as a script editor for Play School. By 1988 this courageous woman had broken the glass ceiling to become Head of Entertainment at TVNZ – the first woman, ever, to be named head of a department there. In 2000, she was named Head of Drama and Comedy at TV3.

A bold and creative producer and a champion of New Zealand stories, De Nave believed that local productions are essential – not only because they provide a learning tool for the trade, but they also let us reflect on ourselves, "instead of gazing ad nauseum at other countries’ cultures". As a producer and a television executive Caterina De Nave developed or produced some of our most iconic local television, including Erebus: the Aftermath, Shortland Street, bro’Town, Outrageous Fortune, Montana Sunday Theatre and Work of Art.

Caterina De Nave moved to Australia in 2009 and, sadly, she died of leukemia in 2014.

In this excerpt from an interview on RNZ's Morning Report, Caterina De Nave talks about Shortland Street, in advance of its premiere.

Find out more about Caterina De Nave – read her biography at NZ On Screen and a tribute to her from the New Zealand Film Commission

Collection reference 9146
Year 1992
Credits Interviewer: Geoff Robinson, Morning Report, RNZ National

Eve van Grafhorst

For many New Zealanders, little Eve van Grafhorst was the face of the frightening new AIDS epidemic in the 1980s.

Born prematurely in Australia in 1982, she received multiple blood transfusions and became
HIV-positive after being given contaminated blood. Hysteria about the new disease led to Eve being forced out of pre-school in 1985 and her family eventually had to flee their home in small-town New South Wales and settle in Hastings in New Zealand in 1986.

Eve's case became a major media story as she was welcomed into a new life in New Zealand. Her first day at school in Hastings is reported on in this radio news item from 1986.

Eve became an AIDS poster child and helped shift public attitudes towards the disease and
HIV-positive people. She met with many celebrities and travelled around New Zealand and overseas spreading awareness about AIDS.

Sadly, anti-retroviral drugs, which now make a normal life possible for millions of HIV-positive people, were not yet available, and Eve died from an AIDS-related illness in 1993 at the age of 11, mourned by millions of New Zealanders.

Find out more about Eve van Grafhorst:

Watch documentaries about Eve's life on NZ On Screen: All About Eve and Eve – Gloria's Story.

See Eve's panel on the New Zealand AIDS Quilt.

Collection reference 56565
Year 1986
Credits Newsreader: Maggie Barry, Reporter: Rory Newsom, Morning Report, RNZ National

Elsie Locke

Elsie Locke was a writer, activist, one-time communist and a campaigner for women’s rights. Her activism made a major contribution to New Zealand’s social, cultural and political life over many decades, while her children's books and historical novels are still read today.

Born into a working-class family, she did well at school winning a scholarship to attend Auckland University. This was during the 1930s, and the suffering of the poor and unemployed during the Great Depression helped form her social consciousness and saw her join the Communist Party.

In this excerpt from a 1976 radio interview, she talks about the Working Women's committees she helped set up around the country during the 1930s. She edited progressive women's magazines which tackled 'modern' topics such as birth control and pay inequality. Locke also wrote for school journals and penned novels such as the best-selling Runaway Settlers (1965).  

Locke left the Communist Party, disillusioned after the invasion of Hungary in 1956, and continued political activism throughout her life – campaigning against nuclear weapons, racism as well as environmental and women's issues.

She lived in Christchurch for most of her adult life and is remembered there with a bronze bust and a memorial which forms part of the popular Margaret Mahy Playground in the central city.

Read more about Elsie Locke on Te Ara and at Christchurch City Library.

Elsie Locke – Dictionary of New Zealand Biography.

Collection reference 24167
Year 1976
Credits Radio New Zealand

Neroli Fairhall, MBE

Neroli Fairhall was the first athlete with paraplegia to win a gold medal at a Commonwealth Games, and the first ever to compete at an Olympics. In 1982, she won a gold medal for archery at the Commonwealth Games in Brisbane. This brought huge international media attention, which she refers to in this 1982 radio interview, in which she reflects back on that momentous year.

International interest in Fairhall intensified when she qualified for the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, where she finished 35th in her event. (She had been selected to compete at the 1980 Moscow Olympics, but New Zealand athletes joined the boycott of those Games in protest at the Soviet Union's invasion of Afghanistan.)

Fairhall had competed in many different field events as a Paralympian during the 1970s, after being severely injured in a car accident in Christchurch in 1969. The switch to archery saw her become the national champion and go on to international success. She continued coaching archery and competing up until 2000 and passed away in 2001 at the age of 61. 

Fairhall was awarded an MBE in recognition of her services to archery and the disabled community.

Find out more about Neroli Fairhall:

Read Neroli Fairhall's athlete profile on the NZ Olympic website. 

Read an Obituary to Neroli FairhallNZ Herald.

Collection reference 25696
Year 1982
Credits Radio New Zealand

Kassie Hartendorp

Ngāti Raukawa, Ngāti Pareraukawa

Kassie Hartendorp is a courageous activist claiming spaces for takatāpui to feel safe and connected. Hartendorp enjoys the term takatāpui as it brings her whole identity together, “it is a word for anyone who is sex, sexuality or gender diverse. It is an umbrella term that acknowledges that queerness and Māoriness may exist within the same body.” 

Connectedness is important to Hartendorp who is a founder member of the Tīwhanawhana – a safe space for takatāpui to kōrero, share kai and participate in kapa haka and waiata.

Watch He Kākano Ahau – From the Spaces in Between – a 2017 Loading Docs short documentary directed by Kathleen Winter (who is also featured in Standing on the Shoulders), which celebrates Hartendorp as she seeks to bring an indigenous focus to Pride celebrations.

Find out more about Kassie Hartendorp:

Read the article Kassie Hartendorp is rewriting the narrative on being queer and Māori, published 26 April 2018.

This RNZ article Māori Whānau get new advice for supporting LGBTQI kids features Hartendorp, published March 2017.

Read this Sue Bradford interview with Kassie Hartendorp (2016).

Collection reference F263218
Year 2017
Credits Director: Kathleen Winter; Producer: Jaimee Poipoi

Dame Fran Wilde

An intense interest in social issues propelled Fran Wilde into politics. She became MP for Central Wellington in 1981 and was the Parliamentary Whip for the fourth Labour     Government (1984 – 1987). 

In 1985, Wilde courageously introduced the Homosexual Law Reform bill. This sparked 16 months of heated debate and she became the target of hate mail and death threats, as well as tirades from critics on the opposition benches. Despite this Wilde and others campaigned hard for the bill which passed into law in 1986.

Other issues Wilde campaigned for included recognition of rape within marriage, nuclear-free New Zealand and Adoption Law Reform. In 1992, Fran Wilde resigned from government to stand for the Wellington Mayoralty – she won and became the Capital City’s first female Mayor.

Watch Fran Wilde in this 1985 debate for Homosexual Law Reform.

Find out more about Fran Wilde:

Read more about Fran Wilde on NZ History and Wikipedia.

Check out Barry Soper's article on the NZ Herald – Barry Soper: Dame Fran Wilde, a true trailblazer.

To discover the contemporary news coverage of the campaign for Homosexual Law Reform, watch Thin Edge of the Wedge.

Collection reference F80159
Year 1985
Credits Presenter: Rodney Bryant; Speaker: Fran Wilde

Chlöe Swarbrick

In 2017, at 23, Chlöe Swarbrick was the youngest politician to enter Parliament since Marilyn Waring (who was also 23 when she became an MP in 1975). 

This courageous woman is aware that young people do not have a monopoly on political disillusionment. In her maiden speech, however, she wryly pointed out “it’s hard to engage in a system that doesn’t look or sound like you, that talks down to you, that disparages your participation and that you don’t feel you can change.” 

As a young woman in Parliament Swarbrick is a beacon for youth, working to create a new normal that does reflect them and which is adaptable to change.

Watch this excerpt from Chlöe Swarbrick’s Maiden Speech to Parliament.

Find out more about Chlöe on the Green Party's website.

Collection reference N/A
Year 2017
Credits Production: Parliamentary TV

Nancy Wake

Courageous is a word that defines Nancy Wake. She was born in New Zealand, grew up in Australia and was living and working in France at the outbreak of World War Two. 

As a resistance fighter in France in World War Two, she led an army of 7,000 Maquis troops in guerrilla warfare to sabotage the Nazis. 

Known as the “White Mouse” because of her ability to evade capture, she was the Allies’ most-decorated servicewoman and the Gestapo’s most-wanted person.

In this excerpt from a 60 Minutes interview Nancy Wake, then aged 89 years, talks about the responsibility of her job.

Find out more about Nancy Wake:

See this profile of Nancy Wake and timeline of her life

Read more about Nancy Wake in Legends on

Collection reference TZP245584
Year 2001
Credits Producer: Melanie Jones; Presenter/Reporter: Mike Valentine

Tuaiwa Hautai Eva Rickard

Tainui Āwhiro, Ngāti Koata

Eva Rickard is well known for leading the long struggle to have Raglan Golf Course returned to whānau. She was a courageous campaigner and activist dedicated to championing Māori. Disillusioned with the political structure, Rickard worked to adapt the party political machine and Pākehā system, she founded the Mana Māori Movement and was a member of Mana Motuhake. 

Eva Rickard also championed women’s rights within te ao Māori, encouraging Māori women to speak at official gatherings, including on the marae.

Watch this excerpt from Standing in the Sunshine as Eva Rickard talks about her disillusionment with the political structure.

Listen toEva Rickard talking about her life.

Eva Rickard – Dictionary of New Zealand Biography.

Collection reference F21173
Year 1993
Credits Director: Melanie Read; Producer: Malcolm Hall

Georgina Beyer

Te Āti Awa, Ngāti Mutunga, Ngāti Raukawa, Ngāti Porou

In 1995, former sex worker and nightclub performer Georgina Beyer of Carterton made global headlines by becoming the first transgender person ever elected as a mayor, anywhere in the world. She followed that by becoming the world's first transgender MP in 1999, winning the traditionally conservative Wairarapa seat for Labour. 

While serving the needs of her rural electorate, Beyer also spoke from her own experience in support of the 2003 law change that decriminalised prostitution. And as New Zealand's most public, openly transgender woman she worked on behalf of the LGBTQI community, famously facing down Destiny Church's "Enough is Enough" anti-gay marriage protest rally on the steps of Parliament in 2004. 

In this excerpt from a radio interview you can hear Beyer's comments after she was first elected Mayor of Carterton in 1995.

Find out more about Georgina Beyer:

Listen to a 1995 radio interview with Georgina Beyer.

Listen to Georgina Beyer dressing down Destiny Church protestors in 2004 in RNZ's Eye Witness programme.

Collection reference 21563
Year 1995
Credits Interviewer: Clare Sziranyi, Morning Report, RNZ National

Louise Nicholas


Over a decade before the #metoo movement and greater awareness of rape culture, Louise Nicholas turned her experience of sexual assault into a campaign for reform. Her case helped prompt Prime Minister Helen Clark to order a Commission of Inquiry into Police Conduct in 2004. The Commission's report found multiple cases of sexual assault by serving police officers and recommended widespread reforms in how police handle complaints against them.

In this excerpt from a radio interview, shortly after the report was released in 2007, Louise Nicholas told RNZ's Kathryn Ryan she hoped her public campaign would inspire any victims of sexual abuse to speak out. Nicholas went on to be New Zealander of the Year in 2007.

Find out more about Louise Nicholas:

Listen to the full 2007 interview with Louise Nicholas.

Read about Louise Nicholas winning New Zealander of the Year 2007.

Collection reference 156472
Year 2007
Credits Interviewer: Kathryn Ryan, Nine to Noon, RNZ National

Dame Margaret Sparrow


Dame Margaret Sparrow has championed the sexual health and reproductive rights of women throughout her long career. As a medical student in the 1950s she had an illegal abortion herself, and when the contraceptive pill was introduced in the 1960s she was one of the first women in New Zealand to take it. 

When a French drug company developed the so-called 'abortion pill' RU-486,   Dr Sparrow set up a non-profit company to import the drug and make it available to New Zealand women. 

In this radio interview from 1990, Dr Sparrow explains that New Zealand law needed to change if RU-486 was to be made available here.

Find out more about Dame Margaret Sparrow:

Read about Dame Margaret Sparrow in this article on Broadly

Listen to her speaking with RNZ's Kathryn Ryan and talking about the history of abortion in New Zealand. 

Collection reference 57374
Year 1990
Credits Interviewer: Nona Pelletier; Morning Report, RNZ National

Agnes Bennett


Dr Agnes Bennett was one of Wellington's first female doctors in the early 1900s. 

When World War One broke out in 1914 Bennett tried to join up but was turned down – because she was a woman. Undeterred, she set off on her own to join the French Red Cross, but her ship stopped off in Egypt just as wounded men from the Gallipoli campaign started pouring into hospitals there. She was offered a position with the Medical Corps, with the status and pay of Captain – making her the first commissioned female officer to serve in the British Army. Next she joined an all-women medical unit in Serbia and then fought the 1918 flu epidemic in British hospitals.

In this excerpt from a radio interview Bennett explains how she was the first woman to drive a car in Wellington. For a GP making night-calls on patients, a car was a big improvement on the horse-drawn 'hansom' cabs she had to use when she started in 1904.

Find out more about Dr Agnes Bennett: 

Listen to the full recording of Dr Agnes Bennett talking about her life.  

Listen to her talk about treating Gallipoli's wounded. 

View Dr Agnes Bennett's photos from World War One.

Read some of her letters to other early women doctors. 

Collection reference 32013
Year 1955

Lindah Lepou

Artist and fashion designer, Lindah Lepou was incredibly courageous when she complained to the Human Rights Commission after her forced removal from handing out the Award for Best Male Performer at the first Pacific Music Awards in 2005. 

For Lepou, the opportunity to present the Award was not only a personal honour but also a recognition – to have it taken away hurt all fa’afafine and transgender people. “It is important for fa’afafine and transgender people to realise that, if they are discriminated against, they can complain to the Human Rights Commission. It’s also important for those who might be tempted to discriminate to know that we won’t accept it.”

Watch this excerpt from One News that covers the incident.

Watch Inspiring Islander: Lindah Lepou on The Coconet.

Collection reference TZP301093
Year 2005
Credits Reporter: Barbara Dreaver