By Andrew Bonallack
LT Holly Swallow, Governor-General Dame Patsy Reddy, FLTLT Nash Alur and LT Kery Hayden.
You’ve got 12 months to make the most of a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. That’s what lies ahead for Flight Lieutenant Nash Alur, the newest aide-de-camp for Governor-General Dame Patsy Reddy.
In June FLTLT Alur, from Mt Roskill, started at Government House, alongside the Governor-General’s other aide-de-camp, Navy Lieutenant Keri Hayden, and replacing Navy Lieutenant Holly Swallow.
There are always two live-in aides-de-camp to the Governor-General, one “in waiting”, primarily on duty, and one “out of waiting”, who can defer to the primary aide-de-camp while catching up on other duties and planning longer-term events. The pair swap these roles each week. Aides-de-camp meet Dame Patsy daily to discuss her programme and attend events at Government House or elsewhere. They have to liaise with event managers, organise gifts for events, and arrange travel. They organise Dame Patsy’s appointments and schedule, keep up with correspondence, and ensure speeches are written.
FLTLT Alur comes from an engineering background, having returned from university in Australia to join the Royal New Zealand Air Force. He was commissioned in 2013 and had moved up to a senior avionics position at Ohakea when the aide-de-camp job came up. “It was the opportunity of a lifetime. I knew a person who had done it. Since joining the Air Force I had wanted to explore the wider military, so I thought, ‘Why not give it a go’.”
Speaking to Air Force News on day five of his role, he says it’s been “a world apart from anything I have ever done before – a whole different lifestyle. I expect I will be a different person by the time I have finished.” He is interested in seeing styles of leadership and management, and Dame Patsy is a role model. “She’s held such amazing roles. She’s lovely. A bit scary. I wondered, ‘What do I say, how do I behave?’ But she’s done her absolute best to put me at ease.”
He says he is already picking up new skills. “Planning, organisation, leadership, making decisions on the spot – you do that in officer training, but I could be the only one there with the Governor-General and I have to make a decision to meet her interests.” Some of his colleagues are curious about the role. “A couple have said, ‘Depending on how you find it, I might apply. You’re getting New Zealand Government and constitutional experience, something you wouldn’t get in any other role.’”
LT Swallow says international travel is a definite highlight. “It’s VIP treatment, which is always fun.” Another highlight has been working closely with “such a lovely person” and meeting amazing people in the community. “It’s simple things – someone getting invested for service to their community, and with each person she remembers who they are. It’s really cool meeting people who put their heart and soul into a community.”
The job comes first, she says. The Governor-General is the most important person in New Zealand. “At the end of the day, you are in the military, you are serving the Commander-in-Chief, and she comes first. But it helps that there’s two aides-de-camp so you can share the load.”
LT Hayden describes living at Government House like a “Downton Abbey setting”. She says you have to be in the right frame of mind to tackle the job, particularly because Government House is also your home life. “This job, and Dame Patsy, that’s your number one priority – they made that clear from the first moment. So if that’s not the case for you, just wait until it can be.” She recommends a person being reasonably mature and having seen some of the world. “You talk to all sorts of different people, so you need a mature approach. You need to represent the Governor-General and Government House and New Zealand to its high standards.” The demands on an ADC’s time are high, and there is not a lot of time off. “But it’s only a year. You commit fully to it.”
LT Swallow agrees. “It’s not a scary job, and it’s not a bag-carrying job. People will look at you because you’re in uniform and they will look to you for guidance, leadership and example. You gain an insight into how the government works, how other government agencies work. You will work with these agencies on international trips, meeting heads of state, and new and departing heads of missions. You will help plan and co-ordinate the engagement the Governor-General has with New Zealanders and lay the foundation for generations of aides-de-camp and Governor-Generals to come. It’s the opportunity of a lifetime, and you’ll never get it again. So why not give it a go?”