Posted by Grant Paice on May 08, 2019
Kate Smart - A Life of Service
 
 
We were delighted to be addressed last week by Kate Smart who recently joined us.
 
Kate thanked us for the warm welcome she has had since joining Papanui Rotary and shared how much she is enjoying getting to know everybody and learning more about Rotary.
 
Kate is the 2nd daughter in a family of four daughters all who have had interesting lives and achieved much in their respective careers.  Her story began in North Canterbury where she chose to be born to gifted and intelligent parents. Her father's grandfather, James White Bernard, was mayor of Kaiapoi and sworn in as a JP during the 1st World War.
 
Her father, Herbert James Barnard, was one of a group of very young men from North Canterbury sent to England during WW2 to train as pilots in the RNZAF.  Her mother Doris was a fashion designer and garment maker of hundreds of wedding & bridesmaid dresses in North Canterbury and an accomplished painter in oils.
 
She attended Cashmere High and participated with great commitment in their school of music passing her Associate and Licenciate of Trinity College in Pianoforte. It was while at Cashmere that Kate joined Rotaract, and there is something to this day that she still laughs about from back then.
 
“Our small group decided to invite Prince Charles to New Zealand and Cashmere high school.  He was so young and eligible back then so I wrote him a letter and posted it to Buckingham Palace inviting him to come and speak to our Rotaract club.”
 
Some months later the principal at that time called Kate into his office. She went with trepidation wondering what she had done wrong. Did she blow up the science lab accidentally? Was she caught smoking in school uniform?
 
When she went to his office the Principal told her sit down in front of his imposing desk.  “I hear you invited the Prince of Wales to Cashmere on behalf of Rotaract?" he stated.   "Yes" she replied: “I sent him a nice letter and thought it was a good idea."
 
“Well he is coming to New Zealand and to Christchurch but don't think it was anything to do with you." he replied. He then proceeded to tell her that she and one other Rotaract member would be nominated to visit Prince Charles and Princess Anne at a meeting of other young people at Mona vale.
 
“So that is how I got to meet the young and handsome Prince of Wales.  My life however proceeded as a commoner because he did not ask to marry me as he chose Diana instead” smiled Kate.
 
Nevertheless she did move along the marriage and children pathway shifting to Gisborne with her then husband who was appointed regional director of the East Coast Dept. of Social Welfare.  She found the East Coast a very fulfilling experience including learning basic Te Reo and Tikanga Maori. 
 
Kate worked for the New Zealand Employment Service there for eight years which including having to drive to Ruatoria from for reporting.  Her encounter with Rastafarians on horseback, gangs, seasonal work forces, the Watties Tomato Sauce Factory and Rogernomics was all mixed in with the great fun she had as a member of the Gisborne Operatic Society and she played piano for several shows, some cabarets and also enjoyed being in a three piece restaurant band for some time.
 
Next came her two beautiful babies, Connie and David, and they returned to Christchurch just prior to David being born. 
 
 
Connie was born on the 1st Day of Puawa-te- Atatu Daybreak Report for DWS, a shift in social work theory and delivery to ensure children were placed with whanau in the first instance rather than with strangers. The local iwi, Te Ronga Whakata, gifted Connie the name “Kohanga-Warm Nest” which was a real honour.
 
Her years of balancing parenting with the need and desire to retain her job with the public service was tiring and difficult as many women can relate to with the cost of childcare resulting in  her working for $2 an hour for a few years.  This imbalance of financial outgoings for women still exists today. 
 
Kate worked for both DWS, latterly NZES and following a political merger the new Ministry of Social Development (MSD). She was also seconded to Recover Canterbury as one of the business advisors post the February 2011 earthquake.
 
Kate explained that her role in the Ministry as a Regional Labour Market Advisor involves marketing a suite of products & services to employers.  Her mail goal is to contract, in partnership, to fill shortages in industry skills.
 
“With 5,500 people in Canterbury receiving jobseeker benefits we are always seeking out new markets to partner with.” shared Kate.  Some examples of their contracts include the City Care Pre Apprenticeship program which has received a lot of media coverage over the years.
 
Negotiating a partnership with MSD starts at the beginning by building a relationship with the employer, asking and advising how MSD recruitment services can meet their needs, arranging contracts and the placement of  trainees into pre-employment or industry training and following up on employment outcomes.
 
Current projects of interest include finding pathways of training for people being assisted by family violence providers that enable them to join the sector at entry level, maintaining an alliance with major hotels, plus actively pursuing opportunities with the new Christchurch Convention Centre.
 
“MSD places hundreds of job seekers into work each year using every method available which includes wage subsidies, industry partnerships, singleton vacancy matching comma recruitment events and expos” explained Kate.  She sees it as a role that requires a sharp eye to the future as the visitor economy and manufacturing industries become the shining lights on the horizon for Canterbury as the rebuild diminishes.
 
“If someone was to ask me what has been my greatest achievement with MSD, I would say that often it is a matter of small miracles every day and of particular note to me is the building of the course participation assistance directory for Canterbury which enables every registered job seeker to access up to $1,000 per annum to pay for short vocational training courses or certificates if they cannot pay for themselves in areas including first aid, site safe passports, HT licence etc.” explained Kate.
 
Three years ago she submitted a business case to the MSD Executive Team to research, record and approved training which would become a menu and directory for case managers to use with job seekers.  This is now well and truly installed across the region with expenditure increasing from $30,000 three years ago to almost $500,000 this financial year.
 
Kate saw her two years with recover Canterbury as a once in a lifetime experience involving teams of staff referred to as “road warriors” that would descend on affected business areas to initially gauge what was happening.
 
The Canterbury Community Trust set up grants to businesses affected by the earthquake to assist them going forward. It was a devastating time for some businesses.” said Kate.  Various people assisted them through this process including in particular Pete Townsend, the then chairman of the Canterbury Employers Chamber of Commerce.
 
One noticeable presence on this project was IRD who were committed to helping businesses who have shied away from their tax obligations with many being supported by the waiving of penalties.
 
After her two years at Recover Canterbury Kate returned to MSD as a work broker working with employers and order to get unemployed people into work. As she moves around the city today people occasionally stop to remind her they know her name and what she did to help them which is very rewarding.
 
Kate feels that being without a job in our culture and society means a lot of things that are not beautiful including poverty, debt, anxiety but most of all a loss of confidence.  She views that this last loss in particular effects many MSD clients with overcoming barriers being the 1st step on the staircase of successfully returning to work.
 
Kate shared that our communities have also changed.  We no longer have mum, dad and the 2.5 kids plus we have many social issues on our doorstep including the need for social housing for families, caring and guiding for people who are struggling to manage their own lives and well-being, and parents raising children on benefits where the costs of rent, electricity, meat, and dental treatments are extremely high compared to their income.
 
“There is still much to do.” said Kate.  While the wheels of Government move slowly, she continues to beat the drum and bring to the table worthy partnerships & pathways for people in our community in order to upskill them and help them live independent lives.
 
In recent times Kate has connected with Deryn Tregurtha who will be her Rotary Sponsor and whose accomplishments she admires. Kate finished her talk by thanking Deryn and Papanui Rotary members for welcoming her into a great club and for the opportunity to share her story with us.