"This is for Sophie," with those quiet words anti-domestic violence campaigner Lesley Elliott accepted the top honour at the 2014 Women of Influence awards last night.
Elliott, who had already picked up the Community award, is the founder of the Sophie Elliott Foundation, an organisation inspired by the death of her daughter Sophie at the hands of her ex-boyfriend.
The Sophie Elliott Foundation works to help young women foster healthy relationships through the foundation's Loves-Me-Not programme in schools.
"This is for her, this is my legacy for her. She's been my inspiration," Elliott said.
In the more than six years since Sophie's killing, about 80 New Zealand women have died at the hands of a partner or former partner.
Now in its second year, the Women of Influence Awards, a partnership between Fairfax Media and Westpac, celebrate the women helping shape the future of New Zealand.
"Lesley's bravery and courage in overcoming a personal tragedy, her quiet determination in the public arena to further this exceptionally worthwhile cause, and her direct and very real impact on public policy and political discussion make her a game changer." judge and Westpac business bank and wealth boss Simon Power said.
He was Justice Minister at the time Elliott and her husband Gil worked to get the law changed around how victim impact statements were used by courts.
Last night's black tie dinner in Auckland, attended by 600 people, also celebrated seven other category winners.
■ Traci Houpapa won the DLA Phillips Fox Board and Management award for her ability to lead in new and different ways in tough environments. The judges were especially impressed by her role as the first woman chair of the Federation of Maori Authorities - the largest Maori Economic network in New Zealand.
■ In the outstanding field of finalists in the Social Enterprise category, the judges named two winners.
Jo-Anne Wilkinson provided leadership to Foundation for Youth Development until recently stepping down as executive director. The organisation has grown to reach 18,000 young people a year through its programmes and national network of licensees.
Anne Miles was honoured for her contribution to the academic achievement of young Maori and Pacifica women. As principal of McAuley High School for more than a decade she has led a dramatic rise in achievement for her students.
■ Kerry Prendergast won the Local and Regional category, with the judges impressed by her sustained influence on Wellington City and its region through her 24 years as a councillor, deputy mayor and mayor.
■ Professor Margaret Brimble was chosen as the MasterCard Innovation and Science category winner. The judges commended her leadership in medicinal chemistry, where she has an international reputation for innovative research, drug development, and her ability to still find time for teaching and giving back to the sector.
■ The Westpac Hotpoints Emerging Leader category was won by young lawyer Althea Carbon. Judge Jamie Fitzgerald said her commitment to not just her own impressive personal achievements, but also to the performance of others was very hard to match by anyone at any age.
■ A new category, Arts, was won by co-founder of the New Zealand Dance Company Shona McCullagh. The judges said her name was synonymous with contemporary arts in New Zealand and her leadership was critical to the arts community.
■ Publishing success Dame Wendy Pye was recognised as the winner of the AUT Business School Business Entrepreneur category. Her educational products are now sold in more than 20 countries, with sales of over 218 million copies.
In a surprise celebration, the first Women of Influence Lifetime Achievement award was presented to Dame Malvina Major, recognising her success as one of the country's finest opera singers and a tireless worker in the community.
"I'm getting older, I should give up," Dame Malvina told the crowd, before making it very clear that her heart still lies in music.
Prime Minister John Key beamed in via a pre-recorded video message to congratulate Dame Malvina.
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