In the most recent King’s Birthday and Coronation Honours list, Jacinda Ardern, renowned for her republican beliefs, has been appointed a Dame Grand Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit.
Ardern, a former prime minister, uniquely stood out as the sole recipient of the prestigious Dame or Knight Grand Companion title amongst 182 honourees this year, a tribute demonstrating significant contributions to the state.
Her recognition comes on the heels of a period of unprecedented challenges for New Zealand, marked by the Christchurch terrorist atrocities and the global COVID-19 crisis.
In an interview with The New Zealand Herald, Ardern expressed a mixed response to her latest honour, saying:
"Many of the trials we endured as a nation over the last five years were a collective effort, not just about one person." Yet, she acknowledged that she had given similar advice to other New Zealanders considering such recognition in the past.
She accepted this honour, she said, as an expression of gratitude to her family, colleagues, and supporters during her challenging yet rewarding term.
In 2021, Ardern asserted that New Zealand might distance itself from the Monarchy during her lifetime, but affirmed she would not precipitate such action. She speculated that the role of governor-general may become obsolete in the coming years, following Dame Cindy Kiro’s recent succession.
Ardern took the world stage when she became the youngest head of government globally, elected at the age of 37 in 2017.
She announced her resignation early this year, revealing she did not possess the energy necessary for the demanding role.
However, her tenure was marked by controversial decisions, including the rapid prohibition of most semi-automatic weapons and assault rifles following the horrific Christchurch mosque attacks.
Post-resignation, Ardern was named the special envoy to the Christchurch Call, an initiative she helped establish to combat 'extremist online content.'
This international collective, which she continues to support, consists of governments, online service providers, and civil society organisations.
Ardern also revealed her plans to attend Harvard University later in the year to study leadership, governance, online extremism, and challenges around generative artificial intelligence tools.
As she looks forward to a semester away, she reassured her followers on Instagram, "After all, New Zealand is home!”