Rod Graham is a craftsperson through and through, and he’s been shaping Ōtaki’s community for more than 50 years.
His active community involvement has led to him being awarded a Queen’s Service Medal (QSM) to recognise his services to the community, as part of the King’s Birthday and Coronation Honours 2023.
During those 50 years he has greatly impacted the community by promoting the arts and bettering the education sector.
Graham, who is a founding member and president of the Ōtaki Pottery Club, has always encouraged the arts through clay, and some of the projects he has been involved in are Clay in Schools, the Festival of Pots and Garden Art, the Matariki Star Glaze festival, and community firings.
“Since working with Dame Doreen Blumhardt at Wellington Teacher’s College in the 60s, I have always had a passion of sharing my joy of working with clay with others,” he says.
“Being part of the Ōtaki Pottery Club since its inception has given me the opportunity of being part of a creative community and a platform to share my knowledge and experience.”
His passion for education began at Wellington Teacher’s College in 1968, and one of the largest highlights of his career was when he worked alongside the people of Ngāti Kapumanawawhiti to establish bilingual education within the school, which was a first for Ōtaki.
He really cares about young people and said he has always enjoyed working with them, “to help them recognise their gifts and talents with the idea of giving them hope for a brighter future”.
Graham has been the chair of the Cobwebs Community Trust since 2009 and said that he has enjoyed working with enthusiastic trustees and volunteers to reach out and support people who need a helping hand.
Receiving the award was quite a surprise for Graham, and at first, he found himself wondering if he was the right person for it.
“My first reaction was one of surprise, my second was... does this come with a house?” he joked.
“But seriously, to begin with I felt that I work with so many people who are more deserving.
“It was my daughter who reminded me that it is indeed an honour and should be accepted with humility in order to inspire my grandchildren to serve the community as they grow.
“I am a team player, I can’t do the things I think are important without working with like-minded people, therefore I can carry them with me as I accept this award.”
He would like to thank his family, friends, and supporters, who are “so much a part of my life”, and acknowledged the community as well.
“The community has been very good to me; it has been supportive and encouraging.
“I love being part of the Ōtaki community, as a Christian it is important for me to serve others.”