Silvia Cartwright

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Dame Silvia Cartwright

Governor-General Silvia Cartwright.jpg
18th Governor-General of New Zealand
In office
4 April 2001 4 August 2006
Monarch Elizabeth II
Prime Minister Helen Clark
Preceded by Michael Hardie Boys
Succeeded by Anand Satyanand
Personal details
Silvia Rose Poulter

(1943-11-07) 7 November 1943 (age 75)
Dunedin, New Zealand
Spouse(s)Peter Cartwright (died 2019)
Alma mater University of Otago

Dame Silvia Rose Cartwright PCNZM DBE QSO DStJ (née Poulter, born 7 November 1943) is a New Zealand jurist who served as the 18th Governor-General of New Zealand, from 2001 to 2006. She was the second woman to hold the office, after Catherine Tizard.

Catherine Tizard Viceroy, academic, public administrator

Dame Catherine Anne Tizard is a New Zealand politician who served as Mayor of Auckland City from 1983 to 1990, and the 16th Governor-General of New Zealand from 1990 to 1996. She was the first woman to hold either office.


Early life

Cartwright is a former student at Otago Girls' High School, and is a graduate of the University of Otago, where she gained her LL.B degree in 1967.

Otago Girls High School

Otago Girls' High School (OGHS) is a secondary school in Dunedin, Otago, New Zealand. It was opened 6 February 1871, after a long campaign by Learmonth Whyte Dalrymple. It is reputedly the oldest girls state-run secondary school in the Southern Hemisphere and the sixth oldest of its type in the world.

University of Otago university in New Zealand

The University of Otago is a collegiate university located in Dunedin, Otago, New Zealand. It scores highly for average research quality, and in 2006 was second in New Zealand only to the University of Auckland in the number of A-rated academic researchers it employs. In the past it has topped the New Zealand Performance Based Research Fund evaluation.

The Bachelor of Laws is an undergraduate degree in law originating in England and offered in Japan and most common law jurisdictions—except the United States and Canada—as the degree which allows a person to become a lawyer. It historically served this purpose in the U.S. as well, but was phased out in the mid-1960s in favor of the Juris Doctor degree, and Canada followed suit.

Public life

In 1989, she became the first female Chief District Court Judge, and in 1993 she was the first woman to be appointed to the High Court. [1]

Prior to her appointment as Governor-General, she presided over a 1988 inquiry into issues related to cervical cancer and its treatment at Auckland's National Women's Hospital, known as the Cartwright Inquiry.

The Cartwright Inquiry was a Commission of Inquiry held in New Zealand from 1987 – 1988. It was commissioned by the then Minister of Health, Michael Bassett to investigate the alleged malpractice of Associate Professor Herbert Green, a gynaecology and obstetrics specialist. The inquiry was headed by then District Court Judge Silvia Cartwright, later High Court Justice, Dame, and Governor-General of New Zealand.

Cartwright has previously served on the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, [1] and played a major role in the drafting of the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. [2] [3]

Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women United Nations General Assembly resolution adopted in 1999

The Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (OP-CEDAW) is an international treaty which establishes complaint and inquiry mechanisms for the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). Parties to the Protocol allow the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women to hear complaints from individuals or inquire into "grave or systematic violations" of the Convention. The Protocol has led to a number of decisions against member states on issues such as domestic violence, parental leave and forced sterilization, as well as an investigation into the systematic killing of women in the Mexican city of Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua.

In 2007, in recognition for her work as a lawyer, the Auckland Women Lawyers’ Association established a lecture known as the Dame Silvia Cartwright Lecture Series. [4]


Cartwright's term as Governor-General was from 4 April 2001 to 4 August 2006. She was succeeded by Anand Satyanand at midday on 23 August 2006. During the intervening period, Chief Justice Dame Sian Elias was the Administrator of the Government (acting governor-general).[ citation needed ]

On 16 June 2002, Cartwright made a speech at the Annual General Meeting of Save The Children's New Zealand branch, in which she criticised section 59 of the Crimes Act 1961, which allowed parents to use "reasonable force" to discipline their children. [5] A number of groups criticised this position, such as the Society for the Promotion of Community Standards [6] – the Monarchist League stated that these comments were "overstepping the mark" for a representative of the Queen, [7] while Green Party MP Sue Bradford welcomed the comments. [8]

On 12 August 2002, in a speech at the opening of the Specialised Applied Research Centre of the Victoria University of Wellington, Cartwright questioned whether longer sentences would reduce criminal reoffending rates. This was after the Sentencing Act 2002 and the Parole Act 2002 were passed – Acts for which Cartwright granted Royal Assent on 12 July 2002. The Acts introduced mandatory sentences for criminal convictions, and reduced the likelihood of parole. [9] ACT New Zealand MP Stephen Franks was critical of the remarks, stating "I don't think she was regarded as one of the most weighty judges and she's putting herself into a difficult constitutional position by weighing in this area", [10] as was the Sensible Sentencing Trust. However, Prime Minister Helen Clark defended the Governor-General, stating "One of the challenges for us is we clearly are no longer a dominion of Britain where the Governor-General is exactly like the Queen". [11]

On Waitangi Day 2004, following National leader Don Brash's controversial Orewa Speech on race relations, Cartwright controversially gave a different interpretation of the phrase "He iwi tahi tatou". [12]

Following the 2005 general election, former National deputy leader Gerry Brownlee stated that Cartwright had not allowed National the chance at forming a government. Brownlee said "I have to publicly say that I have lost respect for the Governor-General and I think it is time we sat down now and started to look at a much more formal constitution for New Zealand". In response, Helen Clark said that the Governor-General followed a "very, very proper process". [13]

Cambodian War Crimes Tribunal

Cartwright was appointed to sit as one of two international judges in the Trial Chamber of the Cambodia Tribunal by Cambodia's Supreme Council of Magistracy. [14]

Multiple Defence requests that she stand down from this position have been consistently rejected by both the Trial Chamber and Supreme Court Chambers on their merits. [15]

The Khmer Rouge was responsible for the deaths of 1.2 to 2 million people between 1975 and 1979; one in four Cambodians were killed and whole families were wiped out.

Styles and honours

She was made a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 1989. Upon her retirement from the High Court, she was granted the use of the style "The Honourable" for life. In 1993, Cartwright was awarded the New Zealand Suffrage Centennial Medal. [16] She was made a Principal Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit in 2001, and she was awarded the QSO at the State luncheon at Parliament to farewell her on 2 August 2006.

Cartwright is an Honorary Member of The International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation and a fellow of the Hastings Center, a bioethics research institution in the United States.[ citation needed ]

Personal life

Cartwright was married to Peter John Cartwright CNZM QSO , who died on 17 April 2019. [17]

Related Research Articles

The Right Honourable is an honorific style traditionally applied to certain persons and collective bodies in the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, some other Commonwealth realms, the English-speaking Caribbean, Mauritius, Zimbabwe, and occasionally elsewhere. The term is predominantly used today as a style associated with the holding of certain senior public offices in the United Kingdom, Canada, and New Zealand.

Sian Elias New Zealand judge

Dame Sian Seerpoohi Elias was the 12th Chief Justice of New Zealand, and was therefore the most senior member of the country's judiciary. She was the presiding judge of the Supreme Court of New Zealand and on several occasions acted as Administrator of the Government.

The Order of precedence in New Zealand is a guide to the relative seniority of constitutional office holders and certain others, to be followed, as appropriate at State and official functions. The previous order of precedence is revoked and Her Majesty The Queen approved the following Order of Precedence in New Zealand effective 20 September 2018:

  1. The Queen of New Zealand.
  2. The Governor-General or, while acting in the place of the Governor-General, the officer administering the Government
  3. The Prime Minister.
  4. The Speaker of the House of Representatives
  5. The Chief Justice
  6. The Dean of the Diplomatic Corps
  7. The Deputy Prime Minister
  8. Ministers of the Crown
  9. Former Governors-General
  10. Ambassadors and High Commissioners in New Zealand and Chargés d’Affaires accredited to New Zealand.
  11. The Leader of the Opposition in the House of Representatives
  12. Leaders, including co-leaders and joint leaders, of political parties represented in the House of Representatives, other than Ministers of the Crown.
  13. Members of the House of Representatives. There is no established order of precedence over members of parliament in general, although each party has its internal ranking.
  14. Judges of the Supreme Court of New Zealand, the Court of Appeal and the High Court of New Zealand.
  15. Former Prime Ministers, former Speakers of the House of Representatives, former Chief Justices, and members of the Privy Council.
  16. Mayors of territorial authorities and chairpersons of regional councils, while in their own cities, districts and regions. In 1989, boroughs and counties were amalgamated into district councils. District mayors, and the Chatham Islands mayor could expect to be accorded this same precedence.
  17. The State Services Commissioner, Chief of Defence Force, Commissioner of Police, and Officers of Parliament .
  18. The Solicitor-General, Clerk of the House of Representatives, and Clerk of the Executive Council when attending a function involving the exercise of the position’s specific responsibilities.
  19. Chief executives of public service and non-public service departments.
  20. The Vice Chief of Defence Force, and Chiefs of Navy, Army and Air Force, and other statutory office holders.
  21. Consuls-General and Consuls of countries without diplomatic representation in New Zealand.
  22. Members of New Zealand and British orders, and holders of decorations and medals in accordance with the Order of Wear in New Zealand.
Queens Service Order an order awarded by the monarch of New Zealand

The Queen's Service Order, established by royal warrant of Queen Elizabeth II on 13 March 1975, is used to recognise "valuable voluntary service to the community or meritorious and faithful services to the Crown or similar services within the public sector, whether in elected or appointed office". This order was created after a review of New Zealand's honours system in 1974. The Queen's Service Order replaced the Imperial Service Order in New Zealand.

Mary Cartwright 20th-century British mathematician

Dame Mary Lucy Cartwright, was a British mathematician.

The following lists events that happened during 2003 in New Zealand.

Ieng Thirith Cambodian politician

Ieng Thirith was an influential figure in the Khmer Rouge, although she was neither a member of the Khmer Rouge Standing Committee nor of the Central Committee. Ieng Thirith was the wife of Ieng Sary, who was Minister of Foreign Affairs of Democratic Kampuchea's Khmer Rouge regime. She served as Minister of Social Affairs from October 1975 until the fall of the Khmer Rouge in 1979.

Malvina Major singer

Dame Malvina Lorraine Major is a New Zealand opera singer.

The following lists events that happened during 2001 in New Zealand.

Anand Satyanand Governor General of New Zealand

Sir Anand Satyanand is a former lawyer, judge and ombudsman who served as the 19th Governor-General of New Zealand from 2006 to 2011. He was chair of the Commonwealth Foundation for two 2-year terms, ending December 2016. He then chaired the Commonwealth Observation Group of the National Elections of the Independent State of Papua New Guinea in 2017. In 2018, the New Zealand Government appointed him to lead the Royal Commission into Historical Abuse in State Institutions and Faith-based Institutions, which is scheduled to continue until 2020.

Dame Ann Marian Ebsworth, DBE was an English barrister and judge. In 1992, she became the sixth female High Court judge, and the first to be assigned to the Queen's Bench Division.

Dame Alice Joan Metge, is a New Zealand social anthropologist, educator, lecturer and writer.

Caroline Swift British judge

Dame Caroline Jane Swift, Lady Openshaw, styled The Hon. Mrs Justice Swift, was leading counsel to the Inquiry in the Shipman Inquiry, which began in 2001.

Khmer Rouge Tribunal national court established to try senior members of the Khmer Rouge for violations of international law; established as part of an agreement between the Government of Cambodia and the UN; its members include both local and foreign judges

The Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, commonly known as the Cambodia Tribunal or Khmer Rouge Tribunal (សាលាក្ដីខ្មែរក្រហម), is a court established to try the most senior responsible members of the Khmer Rouge for alleged violations of international law and serious crimes perpetrated during the Cambodian genocide. Although it is a national court, it was established as part of an agreement between the Royal Government of Cambodia and the United Nations, and its members include both local and foreign judges. It is considered a hybrid court, as the ECCC was created by the government in conjunction with the UN, but remains independent of them, with trials held in Cambodia using Cambodian and international staff. The Cambodian court invites international participation in order to apply international standards.

June Blundell Companion of the Queens Service Order; Dame Grand Cross of the Order of St John; Member of the Order of New Zealand

June Daphne Blundell, Lady Blundell was the wife of Sir Denis Blundell, former Governor-General of New Zealand. She was known in her own right for her extensive community activism and welfare work.

The Special Honours List 2009 was announced in August 2009 as a result of the reinstatement of the appellation of "Sir" and "Dame" to the New Zealand Royal Honours System by passing Special Regulation 2009/90 "Additional Statutes of The New Zealand Order of Merit", a legally binding regulation with the force of law in New Zealand.

The Right Honourable Dame Vivien Judith Rose, DBE is a British judge of the Court of Appeal of England and Wales. She has the judicial title The Rt Hon Lady Justice Rose.

Patsy Reddy

Dame Patricia Lee Reddy is a New Zealand lawyer and businesswoman serving as the 21st and current Governor-General of New Zealand, in office since 2016. She is the third woman to be appointed to the position, after Dame Catherine Tizard and Dame Silvia Cartwright.

Florence Ndepele Mwachande Mumba, commonly referred to as Florence Mumba, is a Zambian judge at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, also known as the Khmer Rouge Tribunal or the Cambodia Tribunal. She has also previously served in the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda and as well as a Supreme Court Judge in Zambia.


  1. 1 2 "PM welcomes Governor-General-designate" (Press release). New Zealand Government. 24 August 2000. Retrieved 7 August 2010.
  2. "The Optional Protocol to the Women's Convention: Enabling Women to Claim their Rights at the International Level". Amnesty International. 1997. Retrieved 7 August 2010.
  3. Silvia Cartwright (1998). "Rights and Remedies: The Drafting of an Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women". Otago Law Review. 9: 239.
  4. Auckland District Law Society – Law News (6 July 2007). "Dame Silvia – making a difference to our world". Archived from the original on 27 September 2007. Retrieved 11 July 2007.
  5. Dame Silvia Cartwright (16 June 2002). "Speech to Save the Children AGM". Archived from the original on 28 September 2007. Retrieved 23 July 2007.
  6. "GG's Views On Smacking Kids Attack Family". 18 June 2002. Retrieved 7 August 2010.
  7. Monarchist League of New Zealand (November 2002). "Monarchy New Zealand, November 2002". Archived from the original on 26 October 2009. Retrieved 7 August 2010.
  8. "Violence against children shaping up as election issue". 17 June 2002. Retrieved 27 May 2015.
  9. Dame Silvia Cartwright (12 August 2002). "Speech at the Opening of the Specialised Applied Research Centre Victoria University Wellington". Archived from the original on 28 September 2007. Retrieved 23 July 2007.
  10. Television New Zealand (13 August 2002). "Dame Silvia joins sentencing debate" . Retrieved 7 August 2010.
  11. "Clark foresees president role". The New Zealand Herald . NZPA. 15 August 2002. Retrieved 7 August 2010.
  12. "Governor-General expected to give different interpretation of Brash's treaty quote". 6 February 2004. Retrieved 23 July 2007.
  13. "Brownlee outburst backfires". The New Zealand Herald. 9 November 2005. Retrieved 23 July 2007.
  14. Government House. "Cartwright appointed Cambodian War Crimes Tribunal trial judge". Archived from the original on 27 September 2007. Retrieved 11 July 2007.
  15. See amongst others Decision on Motions for Disqualification of Judge Silvia CARTWRIGHT, E137/5, 2 December 2011 (ECCC Trial Chamber) (, Decision on IENG Sary’s Appeal Against the Trial Chamber’s Decision on Motions for Disqualification of Judge Silvia CARTWRIGHT, E137/5/1/3, 17 April 2012 (ECCC Supreme Court Chamber) ( and Decision on IENG Sary's Application for Disqualification of Judge Cartwright, E191/2, 4 June 2012 (ECCC Trial Chamber) (
  16. "The New Zealand Suffrage Centennial Medal 1993 – register of recipients". Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. 26 July 2018. Retrieved 18 September 2018.
  17. "Peter Cartwright death notice". New Zealand Herald. 18 April 2019. Retrieved 18 April 2019.
Government offices
Preceded by
Sian Elias
Governor-General of New Zealand
Succeeded by
Sian Elias