History of the Award

How The Award Began

The Award was first introduced in the United Kingdom in 1956 as The Duke of Edinburgh's Award, to encourage and motivate young people over the age of 14 to become involved in a balanced programme of voluntary, self‑development activities.

The Award was designed with great care by a small team, whose members included HRH The Duke of Edinburgh; Dr Kurt Hahn, educationalist and founder of Outward Bound and the United World Colleges; Lord Porritt, the New Zealand Olympic athlete, Royal Surgeon and former Governor‑General; and Lord Hunt, the famous adventurer and leader of the team which supported Sir Edmund Hillary in the conquest of Mount Everest.

Almost as soon as it was launched in the UK, the Award was taken up by schools and youth groups in other countries. The unique composition of the Award is ideally suited to easy adaptation and integration into different cultures and societies. The basic content of the Award remains the same throughout the world, but the activities, the application and even the title are all adapted to suit the varying needs of young people in different countries. The Award has developed and grown, touching the lives of young people in more than 140 countries. The Award is continuously evaluated and modified to suit the changing demands of modern society and the needs of young people. Today the Award is a major international programme recognised and used by agencies concerned with youth throughout the world.

In New Zealand, although one or two organisations started taking part in the Award in 1962, it was not until 19th July 1963 that The Governor-General, Sir Bernard Fergusson, held the inaugural meeting of the National Council of The Duke of Edinburgh's Award in New Zealand at Government House in Wellington, when a Constitution of The Award in New Zealand was drawn up. A General Secretary, Brigadier J R Page, was appointed and an Award Office on a part time basis established.

In New Zealand the Award is referred to as The Duke of Edinburgh's Hillary Award. The name draws on one of New Zealand's greatest adventurers, Sir Edmund Hillary. The Award has also previously been called in ‘The Young New Zealanders Challenge of the Duke of Edinburgh’s Hillary Award’. 

On the 27th September 1963, Prince Philip acknowledged the establishment of the Award in New Zealand and sent his formal greetings from Buckingham Palace.


  • The Award is established in more than 140 countries world-wide.                  
  • There are over 530 licensed Award unit's in New Zealand.
  • There are approximately 9,000 registrations to the different Award level annually. 
  • There are currently 18, 516 young people in New Zealand involved in Award activities, assisted by thousands of volunteer helpers.

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