Foundation gives southerners a second chance

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Norman Jones' daughters (from left) Bronwyn Jones, of Blenheim, Beverley O'Connor, of Geraldine, and Brenda Webb, of Christchurch, at the the 30th anniversary of the Norman Jones Foundation. Photo: Janette Gellatly

THREE of former Southland MP Norman Jones’ daughters made the pilgrimage home to honour the foundation which was established in their father’s name.

The Norman Jones Foundation (NJF) was set up to provide support for New Zealand citizens over the age of 25 years, who resided in Southland, Queenstown, Arrowtown, Glenorchy and Tapanui who were studying full-time at an NZQA institution to have a ‘second chance’ at education by helping with study grants.

Some of the NJF’s milestones were celebrated during the 30th anniversary of its first annual meeting last month, including helping about 1172 mature-aged people, with $705,227 of grants towards their education.

As well as his daughters, Bronwyn Jones, of Blenheim, Beverley O’Connor, of Geraldine, and Brenda Webb, of Christchurch, past and current trustees also spoke about the history of the foundation, highlighting some of its successes.

Chairman Ailsa Smaill, and niece of Mr Jones, presented the annual report highlighting 45 full-time students were given $40,600 in grants during the past year.

“Those students we have supported are studying a great range of subjects that are available mainly at SIT (Southern Institute of Technology) or Otago Off-Campus classes at SIT.”

Acknowledging the Community Trust South, she said “this has only been possible with the incredible support of CTS.

“Our grants fill a very special niche need within our broad community. There are many grants and scholarships available particularly for school leavers, so our criteria was formulated to not target that area.”

Former Southland MP Norman Jones. Photo: Southland Express files

Trustee Graham Sycamore spoke of Mr Jones’ early life, saying he was the “best English

teacher we ever had (at Southland Technical College) even though he was minus a leg and an ear.

“He told us some great things… and was adamant in encouraging us ‘to work for yourself’.”

A controversial politician in his day, Mr Jones represented Southland in the late 1970s and 80s.

A son of a tram driver, he joined the New Zealand Army in 1941 just before his 17th birthday, after lying about his age, saying he was 21, and fought during World War 2. Wounded three times in action, he was finally sent home after his right leg was shot off by a German shell – he was 19 years old.

After returning from the war, with no formal qualifications, training or job, he became a lift operator in a Dunedin retail store. Realising he needed ‘proper’ qualifications, he eventually went to teacher’s training college as a mature-aged student, becoming a secondary school teacher.

Over time, he became a city councillor for Invercargill, and a New Zealand National Party politician, representing the Invercargill electorate in Parliament in 1975, and remained in Parliament until shortly before his death in 1987.

“He never hesitated to say what he thought,” Mr Sycamore said, describing Mr Jones as a “great mouth for the south”.

However, he was also a “classic example of the value of second chance” education, having trained as a mature-aged student after the war to become a teacher, then an MP, Mr Sycamore said.

Inaugural chairman, and trustee for more than 30 years, Colin Ballantyne explained how the foundation was launched in 1988 and its evolution.

Following Mr Jones’ death, a meeting was held in February 1988 where ideas were suggested to consider ways in which a suitable foundation might be established to commemorate his life, which would embody his determination, positiveness and zest for life.

Later that year, the foundation was established.

“In doing so, foundation members believed that not only would the recipients benefit, but the community would as a whole.”

Although the foundation began with financial donations from community-minded people and Mr Jones’ former colleagues, it was now funded by CTS.

Angela Newell, who received the first Suffrage Scholarship on the centennial of women getting the vote in New Zealand in 1993, thanked the foundation for its support, saying how it had helped her during her theatre and drama studies in Dunedin in 1993.

Others spoke of the foundation’s support in helping them attend Outward Bound, as well as its “second chance” philosophy.

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