A senior politician confided after seeing the premier of the documentary Celia that it's a pity that there isn't provision within our vast bureaucracy to embrace someone like Celia Lashlie, who died early in 2015 within months of being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.

The documentary was harrowing for the audience of several hundred packed into the Embassy Theatre in Wellington.

They were confronted with the horrible truth of this country, which leads the world in areas of which we should be ashamed. It centred on family violence, drunkenness and the desperation of those who find themselves stuck in a generational cycle.


Lashlie confronted all that in a way that few have.

She didn't have all the answers, but she did have compassion and understanding of not necessarily seeing bad in everyone. She saw there was a way out but that took a great deal of acceptance of the ugly realities of a situation in which far too many people find themselves.

At the premiere, we were handed cards which outlined Lashlie's principles which are worth reflecting on.

In the area of social change, she reasoned every child is born pure with their own particular brand of magic.

She believed working with mothers will change the destiny of children and said communities were the key.

Taking a leaf out of her own book, she urged women to have the moral courage to speak up for those who can't, and to play to their strengths.

In the area for which she was probably best known - raising boys into good men - she espoused common sense. Boys need laughter and silence from their mothers and they need to recognise the desire of boys to live in the moment and their inability to plan their lives.

The power of peer pressure should never be underestimated, she reasoned, and to her the key to raising boys was to set clear boundaries and realise they have to see and appreciate the consequences of doing or not doing something before it becomes real enough to matter and to motivate them.

This no-nonsense woman certainly made her mark, and the documentary reinforces that.

The politician was right, the likes of Celia Lashlie, her understanding and insight should have been embraced by what is a fairly rigid system looking for outcomes but not knowing quite how to get there.

An academic background may open the door to bureaucracy, but it's no substitute for the basic common sense that's delivered by someone with life's experiences.