Lieutenant Keri Hayden (right) with, from left, outgoing aide-de-camp Lieutenant Holly Swallow, Governor-General Dame Patsy Reddy and new aide-de-camp Flight Lieutenant Nash Alur.
25 July 2017
A Feilding woman who wanted to travel the world as a naval officer is taking on an amazing year as a live-in aide-de-camp to the Governor-General.
Lieutenant Keri Hayden joined the Royal New Zealand Navy (RNZN) in 2008, after “falling in love” with the Navy band, which visited her school, Nga Tawa College. She contacted a Navy recruiter soon after to find out more.
After five years in the RNZN she left to obtain a degree, but kept the door open by staying a Navy reservist. Then last year she saw a job opportunity – for a military officer as aide-de-camp to the Governor-General, Dame Patsy Reddy.
“I always had it in the back of my mind,” she says. “It looked amazing, getting to travel the world, meet impressive people. Last year was the perfect opportunity.”
There are always two aides-de-camp to the Governor-General, both accommodated at Government House in Wellington. Lieutenant Hayden works alongside an Air Force officer, Flight Lieutenant Nash Alur, from Mt Roskill in Auckland.
One aide-de-camp is “in waiting”, primarily on duty, and the other is “out of waiting”, able to defer to the primary aide-de-camp while catching up on other duties and planning longer-term events. The pair swap roles each week.
Aides-de-camp meet the Governor-General 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 also organise her appointments and schedule, keep up with correspondence, and ensure speeches have been written.
The demands on an aide-de-camp’s time are high, with not much time off.
“But it’s only a year,” Lieutenant Hayden says. “You fully commit to it – it’s like living at a modern-day Downton Abbey.”
The travel has been amazing, she says.
“Last week I was in Vanuatu. Two weeks before I was in Belgium and England for the Messines commemoration. At the start of the year, I went to Niue and the Cook Islands for Dame Patsy’s first international travel.
“In just five short months, I’ve got to see a lot and experience a lot.”
You have to be in the right frame of mind to tackle the job, particularly because Government House is also your home life, she says.
“This job, the Governor-General, is 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 before taking on such a role.
“You talk to all sorts of different people, so you need a mature approach. You are representing New Zealand when you travel with the Governor-General overseas,” she says.
“People will look at you because you’re in uniform and they will look to you for guidance, leadership and example.
“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I don’t know why more people don’t apply.”