"Kua hinga te Totara i te wao nui a Tane
The Totora has fallen in the forest of Tane"
The above Maori Whakatauki (proverb) epitomises the perfect metaphor to express the deepest sadness in my heart on hearing of the passing of Celia Lashlie. A Totara is a large tree that lives for hundreds of years, and when one of them falls in the forest, it is a great tragedy.
Celia Lashlie was one of New Zealand's great Totara's and her loss will leave a gap in our Nations psyche. Celia was the first woman to work in a male prison in NZ, had an extensive background in social work and education, and she was the manager of Christchurch's Women's prison. She was internationally known for her work on growing boys into men, and an authority on all things to do with social justice, equity and standing strong for those who are most vulnerable.
An outspoken and forthright individual, Celia was one of those strong female heroes that our world needs more of. Her ability to cut through to the chase, and her advocacy for others made her someone I looked up to and felt deep admiration for.
I recall sitting in a workshop she was running where she was retelling stories of her experiences and the lessons she had learnt, thinking how inspirational she was and how her stories and lessons were applicable to the communities many of us work in. Speaking with her afterwards about a common understanding we shared about our most vulnerable children, I knew I was in the presence of a great person who not just talked the talk, but lived, breathed and walked the talk.
Such individuals with a deep ethical commitment to the collective, are rare.
Celia's contribution to our society is one that will shape our society for years to come. Devastating (and this word is too soft to describe our worlds loss) as her passing is, we must remember her contribution, her sage words of wisdom and continue to carry the torch for her.
To do this we must;
Fight for our communities.
Advocate for our communities.
Grow our gorgeous boys into good men.
Finally, Celia, knowing her time was near after being diagnosed with untreatable pancreatic cancer, stated,
"Its time to leave the work to others now."
Celia, Thank you, thank you.
We will not let you down.