Heroes in word and deed

By Martin Johnston

John Kirwan and Jonathon Fatu are about as far apart as two people could be.

Kirwan, 42, is a famous former All Black. Private Fatu, 22, serves in the Royal New Zealand Infantry Regiment.

But they do have something in common - they have helped people in need. For this, Kirwan and Private Fatu have gained something else in common - both are in today's Queen's Birthday Honours list.

Kirwan, who in 1989 was made a Member of the Order of the British Empire for his rugby career, is now appointed an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit for his services to mental health.

In particular, he is being honoured for television advertisements he fronts which are credited with striking a chord with many viewers, particularly men, affected by depression.

Private Fatu has been honoured with a New Zealand Distinguished Service Decoration for saving the lives of two soldiers - one of them his platoon sergeant - after an explosion at Waiouru in May last year.

This year's top honour goes to jurist and international law specialist Sir Kenneth Keith, who is appointed a member of the Order of New Zealand.

Sir Kenneth, 69, joins 18 other New Zealanders in an exclusive club of "ordinary" members of the order.

He is living in The Hague, Netherlands, after being appointed last year to a nine-year term on the International Court of Justice.

Sir Kenneth is the first New Zealander named to the court, but he was already familiar with it. He argued nuclear test cases before the court as a member of a New Zealand team in 1973, 1974 and 1995.

The Hague posting capped a distinguished career. He was professor of law at Victoria University of Wellington, president of the Law Commission, an Appeal Court judge and sat on the new Supreme Court in 2005 and last year.

In an interview before he left for the Netherlands, Sir Kenneth said his appointment to the International Court of Justice was a mark of New Zealand's standing in the international community.

"New Zealand is seen as a very good international citizen and we are seen as a significant contributor to the international rule of law."

Two women and three men were created Distinguished Companions of the New Zealand Order of Merit (DCNZM).

Under the old honours system, they would have been dames and knights.

Honoured were writer Patricia Grace, barrister Alison Quentin-Baxter, Warehouse founder Stephen Tindall, dairy farmer and Fonterra chairman Henry van der Heyden and Justice William Young, president of the Court of Appeal.

Companions of the New Zealand Order of Merit (CNZM) include sports medicine specialist Dave Gerrard, who has been doctor for many Commonwealth and Olympic teams.

Another is the Rt Rev John Osmers, now in his 70s, formerly Anglican Bishop of Eastern Zambia.

His work in Lesotho for South African exiles on behalf of the African National Congress led to conflict with the South African police in the 1970s, and after an attempt on his life he had to flee Lesotho in 1980 and Lusaka in 1988.

The list of Officers of the New Zealand Order of Merit (ONZM) includes reality TV queen Julie Christie, singer Tina Cross, performer Ginette McDonald - also known as "Lynn of Tawa" - and Kevin Milne, a member of TV One's Fair Go team for almost 25 years.

Shearing champion David Fagan, already an MNZM, is promoted to the rank of an officer of the order.

Kirwan's honour recognises his work in raising awareness of mental illness.

Helplines and counselling services have reported a big jump in the number of men seeking advice and guidance since the campaign began last October.

Lifeline credited Kirwan in part for half of all callers being men in the six months to April this year - reversing a 42-year trend of two-thirds of callers being women.

Kirwan, who coaches the Japanese rugby team and could not be contacted for comment, speaks about his own struggle with depression in the ads, which are designed to encourage people to seek help early for the condition.

The Mental Health Commission's communications adviser, Debbie Hannan, said Kirwan's royal honour "is terrific news and a well-deserved recognition of all his efforts to de-stigmatise mental illness".

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