Leader of the House Gerry Brownlee brought a motion to Parliament on October 20, congratulating New Zealand Red Cross on our centenary.

This official gesture was followed by a function at the Beehive, where social historian Professor Margaret Tennant launched her book “Across the Street, Across the World: A History of the Red Cross in New Zealand”.

Speaking at the launch, Prime Minister John Key thanked New Zealand Red Cross for its important work at home, in the Pacific and overseas.

It was well known Red Cross worked in some of the most difficult environments in the world, going to the ends of the earth to try and save lives, he said.

Red Cross is known for its compassion and the quality of the things it does, and for being there in times of need.

“You do amazing things. I have no doubt 100 years from now – it won’t be me – but someone will be here, celebrating 200 years.”

Mr Key also described his own connection with Red Cross, recounting how his mother volunteered as a Meals on Wheels driver and acted as treasurer for her local branch.

As a young accountant, he was also called upon to help, with his mother asking him to sign the annual branch accounts. Somewhere in the Red Cross records, his signature would appear on the books, he said.

With more than 10,000 members across New Zealand, almost every Kiwi household would have a connection to Red Cross, Mr Key said.

The event’s keynote speaker, author and social historian Margaret Tennant, talked about her journey while researching and writing the book, which highlighted how Red Cross’ story touched upon so much of New Zealand’s social history.

Red Cross’ history features stories about aid workers saving lives in disasters and conflict zones, about everyday Kiwis making a difference at home, and about our work helping communities across the world. Many of these stories can be read in the special Centenary collection on our website.

The function was also a chance for Red Cross to recognise the involvement of individuals and organisations who have contributed over a long period of time, by presenting specially-designed centenary coins.

These were presented to the Prime Minister, Margaret Tennant, David Vogelsanger, the Swiss Ambassador, Deputy High Commissioner Helen Smith of the British High Commission, Mexican Ambassador Leonora Reuda, New Zealand Red Cross solicitor Michael Quigg, Suzanne Rolls of the New Zealand Nurses Association, and Darrin Goulding of St John.

Margaret Tennant’s book, “Across the Street, Across the World: A History of the Red Cross in New Zealand”, can be ordered here.