They were John Joseph Herrmann (MBE), Keu Mitchell (BEM), Pani Iokopeta Ben (MBE), Reverend Tuaine Ngametua (OBE), and Saitu Marsters (BEM).
While Marsters is a resident of Penrhyn and will be given his award later in the year, the other four were presented with their awards in person by Queen’s Representative Tom Marsters.
Awarded an MBE (Member of the British Empire) for his services to education and the community, John Herrmann holds a Bachelor of Arts from the University of the South Pacific and a Master of Arts from Australian National University.
His achievements are many and varied. He has worked as principal, deputy principal and teacher at various schools around the Cook Islands, New Zealand and Australia, and has also served on various government committees and boards relating to education, as well as being education secretary from 2006 to 2009.
In addition to his educational achievements, Herrmann has also managed the Cook Islands national rugby team and the national women’s volleyball team, and chaired the National Rugby Forum in 1999.
Awarded the BEM (British Empire Medal) for her services to the community, Keu Mitchell’s passion for the welfare of children is well-known.
In 1952 she was appointed secretary of the Avatiu Child Welfare Association and later became its president. Her experience at the village level led to executive positions on the Cook Islands Child Welfare Association, of which she became a life member. She was also a Sunday school teacher and deacon with the Cook Islands Christian Church in Avarua.
In addition to her child welfare work, Mitchell also represented Avatiu in a number of sporting activities, including tennis and netball. She was president of the Cook Islands Handball Federation from 2000 to 2009 and patroness from 2009 to 2017. Awarded an MBE for her services to the community, Pani Ben began her professional career with the Ministry of Education from 1962 to 1993. During that time she held various positions, ranging from senior mistress assistant at Ngatangiia School to principal of Tukao School in Manihiki and Maori Language Assistant Advisor.
In 1993 Ben transferred to Internal Affairs as assistant director and subsequently director for social welfare. She has also been active in Sunday school, Women’s Fellowship, Girl Guides, and the Takitumu Conservation Committee.
Awarded an OBE (Officer of the British Empire) for his services to the community, Tuaine Ngametua is currently president of the Cook Islands Christian Church.
In 1977 he attended Takamoa Theological College at the age of 21, one of the youngest students to attend, and five years later was ordained as a pastor in Mitiaro. Since then Reverend Ngametua has also served the communities of Penrhyn and Mauke islands as pastor, as well as the Rarotonga communities of Nikao, Arorangi and Avarua.
He also served as chairman of the Religious Advisory Council in 2011 and 2016, and has a talent for composing Cook Islands traditional hymns.
Awarded the BEM for his services to the community, Saitu Marsters became deacon of the Tetautua Ekalesia in 1971 and continues to hold that position today.
Having lived and worked most of his life in Penrhyn, Marsters was elected island councillor for the village of Tetautua in 1985 and remains a councillor to this day. He also served as mayor of Penrhyn from 1987 to 1994.