Don’t let OE fade away

Photo: Getty Images
Photo: Getty Images
In this current climate it’s very easy to feel that the big, wide world will be just too unsafe. But we need to keep the OE tradition alive, writes Ian Munro.

Ian Munro
Ian Munro
One of the bright spots in the past month was the recognition given to "Nurse Jenny" by British Prime Minister Boris Johnson for her part in caring for him which, in turn, brought to light another Kiwi nurse Jenny who, decades earlier, had nursed former British Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill.

These two young women reminded me of the comment made by former United Nations Secretary-general Ban Ki-moon while visiting New Zealand in 2011.

"I know that the Overseas Experience is a meaningful part of the individual lives of so many New Zealanders. In fact, it defines your national character. More than any other country you are people of the world."

And that comment echoes one made by another visitor, American anthropologist Margaret Mead, back in the 1930s.

"It is New Zealand’s role to send out its bright young men and women to help run the rest of the world. And they go, not hating the country of their birth, but loving it. From this loving base they make their mark on the world."

Over the past couple of months many young New Zealanders have found their way home, some perhaps for good, others perhaps anticipating a resumption of their OE.

Experiencing the world, appreciating the ways and customs of others and standing up for the oppressed is something that has been a very important part of being a Kiwi since our parents and grandparents headed offshore during the wars of the 20th century.

Young Kiwis have long been seen as affable, hardworking, decent people, keenly sought after as employees. You can find them in just about every country, involved in making a difference in all walks of life. Some will remain offshore as the opportunities to use their talents can be more easily achieved elsewhere, but it’s interesting to note that they tend always to call New Zealand home.

In this current climate it’s very easy to feel that the big, wide world will be just too unsafe and to either recommend that they come home or not go in the first place. But we mustn't stop them. We need to keep this tradition alive.

As we bring them up, we must continue to encourage them to question, to inquire, to experience what life has to offer, to go out and explore, to want to see and try for themselves, to be resourceful, to be compassionate, and to look out for their fellow human being no matter what race or creed.

We need to encourage those with the dreams, energy, gumption and get up and go to leave their New Zealand nest for a few years for their benefit, our country’s benefit, and because they’re still needed "to help run the rest of the world".


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