Silvia Cartwright becomes governor-general

4 April 2001

The swearing in of Dame Silvia Cartwright as New Zealand’s governor-general (the local representative of the British monarch) completed a remarkable female clean sweep of the country’s most powerful political and legal positions.

Present at the ceremony were Prime Minister Helen Clark, Opposition leader Jenny Shipley, Chief Justice Sian Elias and Attorney-General Margaret Wilson.

The first female governor-general of New Zealand was the former Mayor of Auckland, Dame Catherine Tizard, who held the post between 1990 and 1996. 

Dame Silvia came to prominence when she headed an inquiry into the treatment of women with cervical cancer at National Women’s Hospital, Auckland. In 1993 she became New Zealand’s first female High Court judge.

Her term as governor-general ended in 2006 when she was succeeded by Anand Satyanand. Dame Silvia was subsequently appointed to the Cambodia Tribunal investigating war crimes in that country.