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Ryman Healthcare Senior New Zealander of the Year Finalists Announced

The finalists for the Ryman Healthcare Senior New Zealander of the Year award were announced this morning. The Senior New Zealander is one of seven categories of the Kiwibank New Zealander of the Year awards.

One of this year’s judges of the Senior category, Age Concern Wellington Region CEO, Stephen Opie, says the three deserving finalists represent the amazing and varied mahi of the fuller list of 58 nominees. The other judges were Meng Foon (Race Relations Commissioner), Hon Margaret Austin and Mark Benjamin (CEO Standards and Monitoring Services).

The three finalists are Marie Jujnovich from Auckland, Sir Mark Dunajtschik from Wellington and Professor Sir Pou Temara from Hamilton.

  • Marie Jujnovich has been supporting children and whānau impacted by childhood heart conditions for the past 30 years as a Volunteer Family Support Taituarā. She started volunteering in June 1991 at Green Lane Hospital, before moving to Starship when the cardiac team was transferred there in 2003. Up until lockdown 2021, Marie was still on the ward two days per week from 6.30am to 2.00pm – at age 85 years. Affectionately known as ‘Nana Marie’, Jujnovich has been a beacon of light for thousands of New Zealanders at some of their most difficult times.
  • Sir Mark Dunajtschik spent three years in a Yugoslav concentration camp during WWII before escaping with his mother and becoming a refugee in Germany. He eventually arrived in New Zealand, where decades later he is considered one of our nation’s most significant philanthropists. Mark, along with his life and business partner, Dorothy Spotswood, have donated tens of millions for a mental health unit at Hutt Hospital and a new children’s hospital in Wellington. He also played a pivotal role in the establishment of the Life Flight Trust, which has which has been credited with saving 22,000 lives.
  • Professor of Māori language, knowledge and culture, Sir Pou Temara (Ngāi Tūhoe) was raised by his grandparents in a Tūhoe environment where te reo was the first language. He went on to become a professor of te reo and tikanga at Waikato University, and a tutor at Victoria University of Wellington as well as Te Whare Wānanga o Awanuiārangi. He is considered one of the most significant cultural authorities on whaikōrero whakapapa and karakia, and is widely credited with playing a crucial role to the survival of te reo Māori.

“All three finalists have made a significant contribution to New Zealand society as seniors. They’re great examples of the many seniors across the nation who continue to work and learn, contribute to and change their communities,” Stephen Opie says. “The strength and breadth of the full nominee list is inspiring, and certainly proves that our society must value and love its seniors better, and that their care and support of our people and culture should be held up as an example to other generations.”

The winners will be announced at an awards dinner on March 30.

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