Your Ryman Healthcare Senior New Zealander of the Year 2023 Te Mātāpuputu o te Tau is Sir Mark Dunajtschik.
Having received a Knighthood and numerous other business awards throughout his long career, Mark is a humble yet driven man whose goal has been to help others and give back.
We were lucky enough to sit down with him and chat about winning the honour, what it is to be a successful senior in New Zealand, and to get a brief insight into the man and his amazing life.
Has winning the Senior New Zealander of the Year sunk in yet?
Naturally, it’s overwhelming and I didn't know who I was up against of course. I appreciate Ryman sponsoring this award because having a category for older people is good, but some of my mates have me on, winning the senior one. But that’s life, you can’t change it, and to have the opportunity to have some glory at this stage - it’s nice.
Why is Wellington so special to you?
I came by boat from Australia on the Wanganella in 1958 and settled down here in this attractive village, as it was then. During the first lockdown I drove along Jervois Quay, and it reminded me of how Wellington was when I first arrived. I parked the car, sat there, and had a little cry. Wellington has been very good to me.
Has being an empathetic person helped in your success?
Yes, absolutely. If you believe and your heart and soul are in it, you are more productive than if you do it under duress. When I’m sitting in traffic my mind is doing the job already, so that I have already gone through it emotionally rather than completely cold.
What advice can you share with other senior Kiwis?
What you do has to be from the heart and with your own free will. You should not be pressured by society, politics, or anything else. Do it because you want to do it. That’s where the satisfaction is. All I can say to people is, you can't take wealth with you. You want to give some to your family but don't overload them. Give them a starting point, and then the rest - give it back to society.
What do you still want to achieve?
I have the Mental Health Centre we’re funding, and I’m involved with Victoria University in some building for the School of Engineering. People often ask me when I’ll retire, and I say I know exactly when - three days before my funeral. It’s because of time. I feel more fulfilled doing something than just waking up in the morning and not knowing what to do. Retirement in the conventional sense is not for me. I’m pleased to say that my ability for logical thinking has not suffered. Although I am looking to downsize in the future.
Mark is the deserved winner of the 2023 Senior New Zealander of the Year and Ryman Healthcare is proud to be associated with honouring a special person like him each year. We will continue to support senior New Zealanders who volunteer, advocate, and offer their valuable wisdom and experience to help society create a better future for the generations who come next. These trailblazers are why we fully support the recognition this award brings and the inspiration it gives other senior Kiwis to show that age is no barrier.