Tragedy prompts years of service

DEDICATED DECADES: Nancy Hawks has been recognised for her 30 years of work in the community with a Queen's Service Medal.
JOHN HAROLD/Papakura Courier
DEDICATED DECADES: Nancy Hawks has been recognised for her 30 years of work in the community with a Queen's Service Medal.

The tragic death of Nancy Hawks’ five-year-old son spurred her into decades of service in politics and community groups.

The Opaheke resident and former Papakura deputy mayor received a Queen’s Service Medal in the New Year’s honours list, recognising her extensive work in the community over three decades.

Ms Hawks says she first got involved in community causes after her son Craig, who had cystic fibrosis, died 30 years ago.

She campaigned for early diagnosis of the hereditary condition which can affect the lungs and sinuses, the digestive system and pancreas.

"I got involved in the Cystic Fibrosis Association in the 1970s and I went to Parliament to present submissions and I realised you had to do things on a political level to get things going.

"You have to stand up and be counted.

"I knew it wasn’t going to help my child, it was too late for Craig, but you have to sort of look at the wider picture."

As a result of the campaigning and work by the Auckland medical school all newborns are now tested for cystic fibrosis.

Ms Hawks says that means those with the condition can get better care and support at an earlier stage and parents find out earlier if they have other children who might also be affected.

Ms Hawks was national secretary, national president and patron of the Cystic Fibrosis Association.

After that experience she decided to continue her work in the community. She enjoys working with people.

"I am a people person. I know when I go shopping there’s always somebody I stop to talk to."

She served on the Papakura District Council for a total of 18 years and was deputy mayor for nine. She retired from the council at last year’s elections.

Ms Hawks is a schoolteacher and has worked at many schools in south Auckland and Papakura over the years. She now teaches students with special needs at Rosehill School’s satellite unit at Clendon Park School.

It’s a job she loves. "There’s not many jobs where you can wake up in the morning and think, oh neat, work today!"

Ms Hawks was born and raised in Papakura and can trace her ancestry on her father’s side back to Clark and Catherine Smith, who were among the first Europeans to settle in the area in the 1860s.

Her passion for researching her own family history drew her to the Papakura branch of the New Zealand Society of Genealogy and she is now the group’s convener.

She is a justice of the peace and a member of the Franklin Justice of the Peace Association, a former president of the Papakura East Plunket committee, a foundation member of the Papakura Citizens Advice Bureau, a member of the Papakura RSA and a member and past president of the Papakura Lioness Club.

Ms Hawks has also long been involved in Papakura rugby league. She was patron of the Papakura Rugby League Schoolboys for 25 years and is a trustee of the Papakura Rugby League Foundation. She has written the history of the Papakura Rugby League Club.

She was also the Auckland Asthma Society’s executive/education director and magazine editor.

Ms Hawks says she is "tickled pink" with the Queen’s Service Medal.

"The reaction from other people has been really good. Somebody I barely knew called out to me as I was crossing at the lights ‘Congratulations’."

Two other local residents made the New Year’s honours list – Dr Rosamund Vallings of Clevedon was made a member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to people with chronic fatigue syndrome and Beant Jador of Conifer Grove received a Queen’s Service Medal for services to the Indian community.

The Papakura Courier will bring you their stories next week.

Papakura Courier