Louise Nicholas receives her Queen's Birthday honour
"Beautifully crazy" were the words rape survivors' advocate Louise Nicholas used to describe the feeling of getting a Queen's honour today.
Nicholas was officially made an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit (ONZM) for services to the prevention of sexual violence, receiving the honour from Governor-General Sir Jerry Mateparae at a ceremony at Government House on Tuesday.
Speaking afterwards, she said she never dreamed of being recognised so formally.
"The day I stood in front of the nation and told them what had gone on in my life, I would never have guessed in a million years I'd be standing here today.
"On 30th January 2004, the promise I made to everyone out there was that what happened to me will never happen to anyone else, and I will fight until my last breath. And to be recognised today is crazy. It is crazy, beautiful."
Nicholas rose to national prominence when she claimed that, as a teenager in Rotorua, she was raped by four policemen.
Her decision to go public with her story and seek accountability for what happened saw her battle through five court cases.
The accused officers were eventually acquitted, but her case rocked the justice system to the core and, after a 2007 commission of inquiry, senior police were forced to confront how officers treated sexual violence victims.
Listening to her achievements listed at the ceremony, she was reflecting on her family, Nicholas said.
"I was actually thinking of my father-in-law because if it wasn't for him asking me what my problem was all those years ago, I wouldn't be standing here today, and also my mum who passed away in 2008 and the courage she showed in supporting me.
"And my husband Ross – what he's been through. If I was him I would have buggered off years ago, because I'm hard work," she laughed.
Nicholas was awarded her honour alongside police Detective Superintendent Andrew Lovelock, who was receiving honours for services to New Zealand Police and the community.
She acknowledged the juxtaposition between herself and a police officer receiving the same award at the same time.
"When I walked into the room and saw Andy Lovelock there receiving the same award as my own ... I said, we've gone full circle.
"We now have the survivors we support saying that the police are doing an amazing job ... Would that have been said ten years ago?"
She was also congratulated by police Commissioner Mike Bush – who she calls 'Mikey B' – and said it was special to have him there.
Mateparae gave Nicholas specially acknowledgement apart from the rest in his closing speech, noting that he doesn't "normally single out an individual".
Nicholas said she was touched.
"He's just such a beautiful human being. To have an acknowledgement from the highest order is pretty special."
Nicholas was named as the Governor-General's Anzac of the Year in April.
Others to receive their awards later this week will include Black Caps captain Brendon McCullum and coach Mike Hesson.