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Helen Clark

9 May, 2007

Centennial Celebration of NZ School Journal

Launch of book and opening of exhibition
"A Nest of Singing Birds"
National Library
Wellington

This evening’s event celebrates 100 years of the continuous publication of the School Journal.

This is a momentous occasion, and thus we are marking the centenary with the opening of an exhibition and a book launch, both of which reflect the first 100 years of the School Journal.

Most New Zealanders educated here will have read the Journal as children and will have fond memories of it.

It is much more than a children’s magazine – it is a New Zealand institution and a record of our social history since the early twentieth century.

The Journal’s role has been to provide New Zealand school children with New Zealand-based reading material, relevant to their lives. In so doing it helped pioneer an authentic New Zealand body of children’s literature, which in the 21st century we cannot imagine being without.

Yet this wasn’t always so – many of us here grew up in an era when there were very few New Zealand children’s books.

Many of New Zealand’s foremost authors and illustrators have had their work published in the School Journal, or have been on its staff, during its first 100 years. Writers like Margaret Mahy, Janet Frame, Elsie Locke, James K. Baxter, Alistair Te Ariki Campbell, Witi Ihimaera, Patricia Grace, Joy Cowley, Jack Lasenby, David Hill, and Norman Bilbrough have all graced the pages of the Journal.

Artists, illustrators and photographers, including Colin McCahon, Rita Angus, Russell Clark, Cliff Whiting, Dick Frizzell, Mervyn Taylor, Juliet Peter, Jill McDonald, Gil Hanly, Ans Westra, Gavin Bishop, Bob Kerr, Gus Hunter, and Christine Ross have all contributed their talent to making the Journal a world class publication for children.

These authors, artists, illustrators, and photographers are representative of a Who’s Who of New Zealanders in these fields.

The School Journal has been loved and remembered by generations of ordinary New Zealanders, including current readers. It has encouraged generations of children, including the current one, to love reading.

It has also encouraged children’s writing by publishing stories, plays, poems, and articles written by students.

Late last year, for example, Learning Media and the Ministry of Education held a writing competition for students from Years three to eight, with winning entries to be published in the May 2007 centennial edition of the School Journal. The theme was "In A 100 Years Time..."

There were over 1000 entries. The winners, who are here today are:
·Brittany Dick - Richmond School, Nelson
·Wilson Cowie - Fendalton Open Air Primary School, Christchurch
·Maddy Ross - Maraekakaho School, Hastings
·Lucy Davy - Ponsonby Intermediate School, Auckland

Over the past 100 years the School Journal has depicted significant events and values which have shaped our national identity.

Material published in the Journal has not always been without controversy. A Treaty claim made on behalf of the Moriori people establishes wrongs were committed against Moriori as a result of incorrect information in early twentieth century publications of the School Journal.

Both the centenary celebration events planned and ongoing work with the Hokotehi Moriori Trust offer opportunities to help redress that grievance.

“A nest of singing birds” is how the School Journal office was described to poet and journal editor Alistair Campbell during the 1950s.

It referred not only to Campbell and his fellow poet-editors of the time - James K Baxter, Louis Johnson and Peter Bland - but also to the wide number of other gifted people, both on the staff and as contributors, involved with the Journal at the time.

The exhibition, A Nest of Singing Birds - 100 Years of the New Zealand School Journal, which is opening this evening, has been curated by Gregory O’Brien, Susanna Andrew and Jenny Bornholdt.

It tells the story of the Journal and the role it has played in the development of our country’s arts and literature.

Mounting the exhibition has been a team effort between the National Library, Learning Media, the Ministry of Education, and Archives New Zealand. I congratulate everyone involved in bringing this exhibition together.

It includes original works by artists who contributed to the Journal, including Rita Angus, and Colin McCahon, and features manuscripts, correspondence, photographs, and copies of the School Journal itself from 1907-2007.

Gregory O’Brien has written the history of the Journal. It too is called A Nest of Singing Birds.

This beautifully illustrated book celebrates in words and images the publication of the School Journal which has shaped and reflected the country we live in.

It gives me great pleasure now to open this exhibition and to launch the centennial history of the School Journal.

  • Helen Clark
  • Prime Minister