Dame Susan Devoy admits it will "take time to understand a Maori viewpoint" - and promises her actions as Race Relations Commissioner will speak louder than her words.
Her appointment two weeks ago after a long search by the Ministry of Justice drew strong criticism over her comments in a column last year that Pakeha New Zealanders should not "feel ashamed" on Waitangi Day.
Last night on Maori TV, speaking out for the first time since she got the job, Dame Susan said she had delayed speaking publicly because nothing she said was going to appease her critics.
Her experience working with disadvantaged and vulnerable groups in the health and disability sector qualified her for the position, she said.
She was labelled "clueless" by Maori leaders who drew on a Bay of Plenty Times column she wrote suggesting Waitangi Day should be a holiday where Pakeha New Zealanders did not "feel ashamed".
Last night, Dame Susan said: "What I believe is a lot of New Zealanders don't understand the genesis of Waitangi Day, you know, and that's sad, isn't it? That they don't understand that that is the signing of our founding document.
"I would love to see Waitangi Day be a day where all New Zealanders can really understand what that really means.
"So I need to take time to understand a Maori viewpoint ... and that's what this role is about. People need to give me time and let my actions speak louder than my words."
The former world squash champion regretted comments in her biography that she had wanted to play in South Africa during the apartheid era.