Michelle Kidd, QSM

2016 Recipient Michelle Kidd V1

Michelle Dianne Kidd QSM is a woman who has made an outstanding contribution within her chosen field, a substantial contribution to the community and has embraced the philosophy of the Sacred Heart in her everyday life.

Michelle Kidd is an Alumna of Baradene from the 1960s. She first came to Baradene as a boarder from Putaruru at aged 8. As a child, Michelle was often very homesick, but she recalls the care of Sister Gilmour, Sister Grace Thompson, and even the stern Mother Maher offering comfort by saying the rosary and praying beside her bed to try to make that feeling go away.

Michelle left Baradene at age 15 to nurse her mother, who had alcohol addiction problems. She then went on to have a family and had eight children. While bringing up her eight children, she then re-commenced her education. She has obtained the following qualifications M.Ed.(Hons), DipR.S.M. Dip.Ed.(A&H).

Michelle’s beliefs and cultural grounding mean that she strongly leads her family by example. She now has 16 grandchildren and is very proud of her mokopuna.

Michelle started doing voluntary work in the community. Due to her work with people in trouble with the law, she was approached some 20 years ago by some pioneers of Restorative Justice in New Zealand, including Jim Boyack, a well-known lawyer. Restorative Justice helps those with criminal convictions to face up and apologise to their victims, which was relatively a novel concept in the law.

When the Methodist Mission set up a shelter for the homeless people of Auckland, they asked Michelle to do voluntary work with the people who came to the shelter for somewhere safe to stay. Subsequently, this became a paid position at the behest of Angus Fletcher (who championed her being paid). Michelle then continued to work with the Mission to help people who were homeless, were in prison, and were appearing before the Courts. She did this with the Mission, which subsequently morphed into the Lifewise Organisation for 18 years. The Auckland District Court recognised the invaluable service she provided by providing her an office space within the Court building.

During that time, Michelle was a tireless worker, helper, and supporter of the homeless, the disaffected, the mentally unwell, and the prisoners of Auckland. She has given unstinting support and service to individuals and families affected by child abuse, neglect, addictions, and disabilities. Michelle has also striven to provide these people with a ‘voice’ in the broader community and to honour their dignity. This was recognised in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List of 2010 with a Queen’s Service Medal for services to the community.

In December 2014, a charitable trust was established, enabling her to continue her work in the community, prisons, and courts. Te Rangimarie Charitable Trust now employs Michelle in her work, which has expanded considerably. The Auckland District Court still supports the Trust and Michelle by continuing to provide office space at the Court.

Michelle was amongst those who established Te Kooti o Timatanga Hou – the Court of New Beginnings - for the homeless. Te Kooti o Timatanga Hou focuses on homeless people who appear in Court and endeavours to address the underlying causes of their offending. It assists them with housing, social work support, mental health assistance, and employment opportunities. It has been a great success thus far.

She also fought for the setting up of the Alcohol and Other Drug Treatment Court (AODTC), which is currently government-funded and is in its five-year pilot phase at present. The AODTC endeavours to ensure that those for whom alcohol or drug addiction is a primary cause of their offending receive the treatment they desperately need.

She also works in the Family Violence Court. This involves Michelle helping people, many of whom have been raised in bad circumstances, to make changes in how they deal with their partners and their parenting. Her involvement with this Court is seen as so pivotal by the Judiciary who sit in that Court that she has been requested to assist with establishing a similar Court at the Manukau District Court. 

Michelle continues to support the drug-addicted, the alcoholics, the prisoners, and the victims of crime and family violence, to help those who need to change their ways and make the world a better place for all of us. Michelle works closely with many groups who deal with “her people”. She deals with many people in very senior positions, such as Judges, lawyers, court staff, and senior management, as well as Police and various other prosecution and government agencies. Michelle is fearless in dealing with such people and agencies when promoting the welfare of “her people”; those people are often mistrustful of such agencies, but they know that Michelle will not let them down.

Michelle is not afraid to be bold and speak out when she sees an injustice. As a result of an open letter recently published in the New Zealand Herald, concerned but influential Auckland citizens are now working hard on formal plans to establish a Night Shelter in Auckland. Michelle is the core that holds that group together.

Due to her own personal background, she sees how successful it is to introduce and foster the people she helps in getting to know their Reo or language. It gives her great pride when she sees this help in their rehabilitation.

Michelle has great mana, and there are times when persons that even Court security has deemed to be too “difficult” to handle have been well managed by Michelle, and their court hearings have been able to proceed. 

She receives a level of respect from defendants that other persons in authority may not. This is because she is genuine, humble, and truly loves those she serves. She is called “whaea” by all those who know her.

Michelle is the ultimate exemplar of “Christianity with its sleeves rolled up”. She doesn’t just talk the talk. She walks the walk. She sees her role as not simply beginning and ending at the courtroom door but very much operative in the wider world. 

A nominee of Michelle wrote they are reminded of this scripture when considering Michelle:

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
And to walk humbly with your God.
~ Micah 6:8

She is an exemplar of the charism of Baradene and Madeleine Sophie, making it very real in the community around us. For years she has been a court worker at the Auckland District Court, employed by the Methodist Mission and more recently by its linked association, Lifewise. She has looked after those appearing in Court, comforted victims, calmed inflamed situations outside Court, helped the homeless find a bed for the night, given money to the recently released from prison so they can get home, and purchased underwear for men and women in prison or being released from prison. She has helped people into rehabilitative programmes and provided timely and appropriate advice to lawyers, Police, court staff, and Judges. She has a special outreach to the homeless, the mentally unwell, the vulnerable, and the people otherwise ignored.

In her life and work, she is and always has been active in her community and with her family. Her work for the betterment of society is lengthy and ongoing, and she is a person who clearly embraces the spirit of Cor Unum.