After the shambles of the last few days in Parliament, especially within my old party, the most frequent inquiry from friends and associates is to confirm that I am glad I left.

Apart from acknowledging that I wouldn't mind being a fly on the wall in some of those parliamentary offices, I agree that it is good to be out.

It is amazing to see what one person can do in terms of damage to their own reputation and the collateral damage mere accusations can do.

Read more: Chester Borrows: Is justice in need of change?
Chester Borrows: Time to declutter

A bull in a china shop has nothing on Jami-Lee Ross. Despite any good stuff he may have done, he will be remembered for that meltdown, and a week ago nobody knew his name.
Yesterday I went to the farewell of our Chief Social Worker Paul Nixon. Most wouldn't know Paul's name either, and yet his legacy his huge.

Advertisement

The quietly spoken, ever-sensible Welshman has left his mark on New Zealand's social services with professionalism of staff, and caring and nurturing of the departments they work for, elevated.

Arriving to a storm of tragedy over child homicide and a government inquiry, Paul led investigations that changed practice and encouraged individuals to always be their best and to bear the weight of responsibility of public servants who must intervene in people's lives and make them better.

Paul took special interest in Whanganui and its restorative justice expertise and made connections between us and the cities piloting restorative practice in England, Wales, Canada and Australia. He set up Whanganui's Restorative Practice Advisory Board and, through his contacts, put Whanganui on the international map for this area of work.

Without seeing the need to wound people — unlike many changemakers who are driven by ego, wanting to be seen to do well rather than be seen to do good — Paul changed the way we deal with vulnerable children and families from within departments in a gentle yet transformative way.

His farewell was highlighted by people acknowledging how he had changed their practice and thereby the lives of thousands of young people by showing those charged with their care a better way of engaging their risks, threats and hurts.

In a recent interview on Nine to Noon Paul told a few stories from his experience that had coloured his practice and made him a man with an international reputation for excellence in his field.

At his poroporoaki we celebrated him, and he pointed to the support of his wife and family for his strength and ability to be able to lead in the way he has, because nobody does this stuff on their own.

The stark differences between these two men — one capturing all the news this week and the other, sadly, not rating much of a mention — spoke volumes to me.

Advertisement

One completely driven by vengeance and one by compassion. One a slow-motion train wreck, and the other a model of grace and servitude.

I chose these men to comment on because of that stark difference and because many in Whanganui — and in New Zealand — will never have heard of the good work of Paul Nixon.

These stories need to be told, or else we will only concentrate on the facile and the fury of people whose behaviour has been the subject of headlines, while their contribution has been as helpful as a coffee stain down the front of your shirt.

We should applaud the contribution of those who willingly and quietly go about making huge change yet receive little recognition, because that is not why they did what they have done.

Thanks, Paul.

Chester Borrows served as Whanganui MP for 12 years and as a minister in the National Government