He Panui


More Honours 2010

Sister Margaret Martin and Sister Anne Hurley were honoured in the New Year’s List for services to the community.


Margaret Martin and Anne Hurley at their Investiture at Government

Sisters Margaret and Anne have contributed to the welfare of the Wiri
community in Manukau for over 20 years. They moved there in 1988 and co –
established a social service agency Sisters of Mercy Wiri, which
provides many community services and programmes including advocacy,
social work services, home visitation, health promotion, community
education programmes as well as programmes and outings for children. One
significant outcome of the community development work they have been
engaged in was the establishment of the Wiri Community Hall.

Sister Margaret has served as a member for many years on both the boards of Friendship House Trust and Habitat for Humanity Greater Auckland and was an executive member of Te Ora o Manukau Healthy City Committee. She has also been an active member of the Habitat for Humanity Family Selection Committee, the South Auckland Family Violence Prevention Network, Strengthening Families Steering Committee, Manukau Child Advocacy Group, the Wiri Whanau Support Group and a member of various housing, networks advocating on housing issues. Margaret is a member of the recently established Ra Wiri Residents Association.

Sister Anne was a member of the Manurewa Community Board for 9 years and Chairperson for 6 years. She is an advocate on housing issues having been a member of the NZ Housing Network and the Greater Auckland Housing Collective. She has also been involved in the Manukau Housing Scheme and for 7 years was the Catholic representative on the NZ Council of Christian Social Services. Anne was on the Board of the Meningoccal B project, was a member of the Wiri Whanau Support Group and is a current member of the Ra Wiri Resident’s Group.

An article from wvintir.manukaucourienco.nz By Karen Mangnall

THERE’S a funny thing about being world famous in Wiri. Just ask Sisters of Mercy Anne Hurley and Margaret Martin. After 21 years of living and "engaging for change" in the area, the Catholic nuns know everybody and everybody knows them. Sort of.

A cheery "hi Sister Margaret" often greets Sister Anne. And vice versa.

"We’re famous," Sister Anne observes wryly. "They’re always mixing us up, especially the kids."

So it wasn’t unusual that the flood of plaudits for the Queen’s Service Medals they received in the New Year’s Honours list included their bank teller congratulating Sister Margaret, thinking she was Sister Anne.

Their QSMs are "for services to the community", a phrase that skims the surface of their work for at-risk Wiri families, women and children over the past two decades. They started in Wiri in 1988 in a little house built with the help of other Sisters of Mercy, smack in the middle of the Manukau housing scheme.

"In those days Wiri had no facilities, no shop to get milk, no traffic on Wiri Station Rd," Sister Anne recalls.

"They said: ‘We’ve got nothing here, just houses, we’re miles from anywhere, what can you do for us’?"

The appeal for help coincided with the Sisters of Mercy looking to move out of an institutional setting to live and work within local communities. "And it seemed the right place," Sister Margaret says.

Community development dominated their first 10 years in Wiri setting up the Wiri community hall, lobbying for traffic lights at the Great South – Kerrs Roads intersection and cleaning up Wiri pond.

By the end of the decade their Wiri house was the hub for a social services agency with home visits, health promotion and community programmes, as well as lobbying local and central government on housing, health and family violence prevention. "It was clear we could no longer continue what we were doing from home," Sister Margaret says. So after a "period of prayer and reflection", in 1999 they set up the Wiri Centre, a community house owned by Wiri Central School and funded by Manukau City Council.

From there they’ve spent the past decade running a social work service for the Social Development Ministry and a range of community programmes, including healthy eating and exercise. Their philosophy of "engaging for change" means while they provide food to hungry kids at school they also visit their families to ensure they take up the responsibility of giving their children breakfast.

Close relationships with local families and different agencies are a feature of their ministry along with living where they work. "We don’t come into the community to work and then go out," Sister Margaret says. "The issues that affect people here also affect us on a day – to – day basis."

"And night-to-night," adds Sister Anne. The strength and prayers of the Sisters of Mercy have been the key to their work and success, they believe.

"I could never have done what I’ve done or been who I am if I hadn’t answered the call," Sister Margaret says. "It’s too hard. The reality is that being Sisters of Mercy does open doors that wouldn’t otherwise be open and we use that," Sister Anne says.

"We’re Pakeha, middle-class women in this area which is predominantly Maori and Pacific but there is that acceptance because we’re women of God.”

"That’s the foot in the door – after that we’re just ordinary old Anne and Margaret."

Wiri has grown to a sizable community of around 800 households. Instead of families with young children, "youth" is the predominant population. And there are more agencies doing the same work.

So late last year the Sisters decided it was "time to let go" of their work at the Wiri Centre and work from home.

But Sister Anne, 66, and Sister Margaret, 58, are adamant they aren’t retiring or leaving Wiri.

"When we were leaving the Wiri Centre one woman up the road said: ‘When are you going home’?

"I think she belongs to a church where they go home after their mission," Sister Anne says. "But I live here and my home’s here."

For now the Sisters are enjoy¬ing the "lovely surprise" of their QSMs, working in their garden and reflecting on the next stage in their journey. What’s next isn’t clear except they want to be "more pastorally present than administratively,” Sister Margaret says. "We see ourselves as being more awake to possibilities than we have been for some time."