A care for people in the community has led Paul Green to a life of service in New Zealand. “It is a way of doing my civic duty and contributing to my community while saying thanks to the country that welcomed my family here almost 50 years ago.” Many of the volunteers we work with at Age Concern care for their communities. Paul is not different, but his work has led him to many prisons, universities and quite a few board meetings. A founding member or volunteer for several organisations such as the Manawatu Community Justice Trust and the Manawatu Society for Alcohol and Drug Use, Paul’s community service spans several decades.
A few months shy of his 90th birthday, Paul’s conversation remains witty and perceptive. Paul has seven children, many grandchildren, and one great-grandchild. His family is a very important part of his life. Although he’s taken a fall, bruised some ribs and had his first black eye recently, he still manages to go to Age Concern’s weekly Steady As You Go exercise class. “It’s especially important for me to exercise after this fall. I need to rebuild confidence,” he says. “I might try to join a second class. I need all the exercise I can get.”
Paul studied and taught history in the USA before he was drafted to the Army in the 1950s. When he got out of the Army, he realised he wanted to specialise in sociology. “History has served me well as a sociologist though. History can educate our approach to sociology.” After moving to New Zealand in 1973, Paul taught Sociology and Social Psychology at Massey University until he retired in 1998. At the time, Massey University’s policy required Paul to retire at 65.
“The unexpected early retirement came as a shock, as I was all set to do my final year as a Massey Sociology lecturer. My 65th birthday came on the 19th of January, and I received a letter requesting that I vacate my office before the end of that month.”
Having acquired a reputation for public lectures, Paul continued lecturing on a variety of social issues to various groups of educators and enterprises. His specialities involved New Zealand race relations, the Treaty, and New Zealand’s cultural identity.
“For a few years in the early 2000s, I provided training on those topics to volunteer tutors working with English Language Partners. The tutors met with immigrants to help them with their knowledge of New Zealand culture as well as our unique brand of English and social relations. After a lifetime of tertiary teaching, the continued lecturing helped me retain my sanity and sense of usefulness.”
Paul’s community service spans a dizzyingly long list (including serving on Ethics Committees), but Restorative Justice has always been an area of particular interest for Paul. He devoted many years to volunteering in this field, particularly after retirement. Restorative Justice is an approach to offender rehabilitation which encourages taking responsibility for actions, making amends, and discouraging offenders from causing further harm. It is often a more successful approach than disciplinary methods. Programmes were frequently held in prisons, and inmates were given a certificate of graduation upon completion. A relationship of trust was often formed with offenders, and positive change was enabled.
Paul became a Board Member for Age Concern Wellington Region a couple of years ago. At a Steady As You Go exercise class, he heard the charity needed more Board Members and came to the AGM. He was elected as a Board Member, and enjoyed serving the organisation until his health prevented him from continuing. “I think organisations for older people are very important and contribute to the common good of our community.” Paul says. “Older people are still valuable in their communities, and have a lot to offer. Organisations like Age Concern help people see this.”
Quite at ease with the technology of our video call, Paul takes his time replying to my questions. He comes across as unassuming and humble. Our conversation touches briefly on politics, another topic Paul is passionate about. “Have you ever considered getting into politics?” I ask. “Yes I have thought about it, and still do think about it. But it’s probably too late now…” he says regretfully. He’d probably make a great politician.
Age Concern Wellington Region is thankful for Paul’s valuable contribution to the organisation, as well as his ongoing participation in the organisation’s programmes. Thank you Paul!
~ Lorna Harvey, Communications Coordinator