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A mixture of icons and iconoclasts

Montage of biography images

Clockwise from top left, Matiu Rata, Diana Mason, Kelly Tarlton and Dorothy Butler, four of the 11 entries just added to the DNZB.

This month’s 11 new Dictionary of New Zealand Biography entries are a mixture of icons and iconoclasts, advocates and adventurers, artists and politicians.

Explorer and entrepreneur Kelly Tarlton dived on many of New Zealand’s most significant shipwrecks, and died at 47 just a few weeks after his Underwater World opened on Auckland’s waterfront.

Matiu Rata was an influential Minister of Māori Affairs and launched the Mana Motuhake party in 1980, while Bruce Beetham’s Social Credit party challenged the dominance of the National and Labour parties in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

Parents Centre co-founder Helen Brew campaigned for natural childbirth, while Elwyn Richardson’s educational philosophies helped change the practice of teaching and learning in New Zealand schools in the second half of the twentieth century. Dorothy Butler’s ground-breaking studies of childhood literature and literacy became internationally recognised reference books.

This round also showcases two campaigners in the most politically-charged public issues of the 1970s, anti-abortion advocate Diana Mason and race relations commentator and polemicist Hilda Phillips.

Chemist Robert Gant’s photographs provide a vivid glimpse into the mind of a homosexual man in late Victorian New Zealand, while John O’Shea established a place for the independent filmmaker in the local film industry in the middle decades of the twentieth century. Hungarian-born George Haydn was an important figure in the Auckland arts and literary scene. 

Read all the new entries now in the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography:

Updated on 8th December 2020