UCOL honour for leader of WWI tribute

By Nathan Crombie nathan.crombie@age.co.nz -
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The Rimutaka Re-enactment march over the Rimutaka Hill from Featherston to Kaitoke. The marchers, with Robert "Tweet" Bird in front as an army major. PHOTO/FILE
The Rimutaka Re-enactment march over the Rimutaka Hill from Featherston to Kaitoke. The marchers, with Robert "Tweet" Bird in front as an army major. PHOTO/FILE

Vietnam veteran Robert "Tweet" Bird is to receive a 2016 UCOL Council Honours Award for his work with the Rimutaka crossing re-enactment.

Jean Archer, senior communications adviser for UCOL, said the awards recognised inspirational role models for UCOL students and people who reflected the educational organisation's community connections.

Mr Bird served as chairman of the Rimutaka Crossing Re-enactment Group and organised the re-enactment march, which in September last year recreated the journey of soldiers bound for World War I after training at Featherston military camp.

Ms Archer said the event involved many Wairarapa leaders, iwi members and funders, as well as 150 direct descendants of soldiers who had marched in the original event.

"It gave the Wairarapa community the opportunity to honour the service of the 60,000 men who trained in Wairarapa Army Camps and then embarked for active service in foreign lands," she said.

"The event, which was a commemoration of the first deployment 100 years ago, took 18 months of dedication from Tweet, created new memories and a sense of Wairarapa pride."

Mr Bird, who served with Victor 5 Company in Vietnam, had also served on the committee of the Masterton Returned and Services Association and was a past vice-president of the organisation.

He said he was accepting the award "on behalf of the re-enactment committee and all the hard-working people who were involved".

"I was only part of the team. It's really not about me. So I'm accepting that award for all of us, all of the original marchers and their descendants, the veterans, police officers and everybody who marched in the re-enactment. It's for us all."

Other UCOL award recipients included Emeritus Professor Sir Mason Durie, who will receive the highest honour of Honorary Fellow for outstanding and distinguished contribution to UCOL, the wider community and society in general.

Sir Mason is most well-known for his contributions to Maori health and the concept of Whare Tapu Wha, a key framework underpinning UCOL's current Maori Education Strategy, Rourou Aronui, Mrs Inglis said.

Honorary Associate awards go to Whanganui architect Bruce Dickson and Amanda Street, for her leadership of Feilding High Schools' Wearable Art Show Events.

Institutional Medals will be awarded to Mr Bird; Kevin Ross, former Whanganui District Council chief executive; Clare Crawley, Cancer Society of NZ Central Districts head and former UCOL deputy chief executive strategy; and Bonnie Dewart, former UCOL deputy chief executive academic.

"The UCOL Council awards are our way of publicly recognising those who contribute to the life and vibrancy of our communities," Mr Inglis said.

The UCOL Council Honours Awards will be conferred at ceremonies in March at Palmerston North on March 15 and 16, the Whanganui campus on March 24, and the Wairarapa campus in Masterton on March 22.

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