Rt Honourable Helen Clark

BLAKE 20th Anniversary Lifetime Achievement Award

On the 20th anniversary of the establishment of the Sir Peter Blake Trust, a lifetime achievement leadership award has been presented to former New Zealand Prime Minister and global development leader Helen Clark.

At age 12, Helen Clark left her childhood home on a Waikato sheep and beef for boarding school in Auckland. In New Zealand’s biggest city, after completing her studies at Epsom Girls’ Grammar, she found her political voice.

Clark became politically active during her teens, protesting against the Vietnam War and campaigning against foreign military bases in New Zealand. She gained Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in political science from Auckland University, then taught at the University until 1981, leaving when she won the electorate seat of Mt Albert for Labour. She held the seat for 27 years – nine of those as the first woman to be made Prime Minister of Aotearoa New Zealand through a general election.

She followed that historic leadership milestone with more: she was the country’s first leader to win three consecutive elections; the first woman to lead the United Nations Development Program; and the first female Chair of the United Nations Development Group.

Along the way, Helen has redefined what is possible for women in Aotearoa New Zealand and beyond, and become a colossus on the world stage in the areas of progress, equity, and sustainability.

During her tenure as Prime Minister, from 1999 to 2008, Helen became well-known for her active holidays and adventurous spirit. She was a strong supporter of Sir Peter Blake’s work to draw attention to the ocean environment and, to that end, visited Blakexpeditions in the Amazon.

In 2001, when Sir Peter was murdered in the course of his advocacy work in the Amazon, Helen attended his funeral in the United Kingdom. She was critical to the establishment of the Sir Peter Blake Trust, working alongside Pippa, Lady Blake, to ensure continuation of the adventurer’s legacy of ocean-based exploration, education, and environmental advocacy.

The Clark Government pledged $1 from each person in New Zealand – $3.8m in total – for the establishment of the Trust. CEO James Gibson says this endowment fund still sustains the Trust today, as it delivers programmes reaching over 40,000 young Kiwis every year.

Pippa, Lady Blake, remembers Helen’s determination that the Trust continue work in Sir Peter’s name.
“Helen visited us aboard Seamaster shortly before Peter’s death, and became a strong advocate that Peter’s legacy be extended through the establishment of the Sir Peter Blake Trust. Simply put, the amazing work of BLAKE today would not exist without Helen’s contribution to getting the trust up and running.”

This year, to mark 20 years of the Trust, Helen Clark was presented a lifetime achievement award at the Trust’s annual awards ceremony, alongside six BLAKE leaders.

The BLAKE award adds to a long list of national and international honours. For her work on peace and disarmament, she was awarded the Peace Prize from the Danish Peace Foundation in 1986. In 2009, she was made a member of the Order of New Zealand, the country’s highest honour. The Helen Clark Foundation, a public-policy think tank, was established in 2019.

Pippa, Lady Blake, says Helen Clark was a deserving winner of the one-time BLAKE lifetime achievement leadership award.

“She’s an incredible woman. She has excelled in huge leadership roles, with responsibility for millions of people, but I also got to know her as a person and she was such a warm, kind, strong leader and a determined supporter of everything my husband stood for. Peter believed New Zealand produced great leaders and he would have been so proud of everything Helen has achieved on the world stage.”