Dr. Anne Perera with New Zealand’s Governor General at the award ceremony.

Dr Anne Doloras Perera living in Auckland New Zealand was recently Honoured with the title Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit (MNZM) in recognition of outstanding service and exceptional achievement in Food Science and Nutrition. The Investiture ceremony was held on May 9 at the Government House in Auckland.

Born in Moratuwa Sri Lanka she lost her father when she was six months. She claims that her life started in the cemetery as she remembers the many visits she made to the cemetery with her mother visiting her father’s grave. Anne was educated at the Convent of Our Lady of Victories (OLV) in Moratuwa and Holy family Convent (HFC) in Wennappuwa and Colombo. She entered the Peradeniya University and completed the BSc Honours Degree in Agriculture (1965-69) and served as an Assistant Lecturer in Agricultural Chemistry.

Anne received a Scholarship to do her MSc at the FAO International Food Technology Training Centre, Mysore India. She was one of the two students from Ceylon to receive the FAO Scholarship in 1970, the other being Conrad Perera, who later became her husband. Both completed their Masters and Anne proceeded to the United States on an International Scholarship to do her PhD in Food and Nutrition at Oregon State University. Conrad left for Mozambique accepting a job offer but soon joined Anne and did his PhD in Food Science & Technology.

Conrad and Anne got married in the US in 1973 and after completing their PhD degrees, went to work as Professors at the State University of Londrina in Brazil. There they were blessed with a baby boy, Conrad Junior. In 1981 they emigrated to New Zealand and made NZ their home. In NZ Anne worked as the Research and Development Manager for Wattie’s, a well-known NZ based food company, Hubbard Foods specializing in cereals, Kiwi Dairies, a predecessor of Fonterra, Hansell’s, Cerebos Greggs, Dilmah and Weight Watchers and Fresh Direct Ltd., all of them dealing in food. While working at Watties, Anne also completed an MBA and later worked at Massey University. In 1994 she won the “Nutrition Writer of the Year” award for her book ‘Nutrition 2000’ published by Longman Paul Ltd.

From 2000 she worked in Singapore as the Nutritionist/Scientific & Regulatory Affairs Manager for Fraser & Neave Foods (F&N) when Conrad was a Professor in Food Science at the Singapore National University. In 2003 whilst in Singapore Anne completed a Diploma in Counseling Psychology.

In 2007 she co-authored the book titled ‘Hot Potatoes & Cool Bananas’. After returning to NZ she was elected the Chair of the Central Branch of the NZ Institute of Food Science & Technology (NZIFST) through which she organised a technical tour for Members of the Singapore Institute of Food Science & Technology (SIFST) to visit NZ. She was a Member of the NZ Food Standards Committee and Editor of the NZ Nutrition Foundation.

After her retirement in 2010, Anne joined the Volunteer Service Abroad (VSA) NZ as Advisor in Food and Nutrition and worked at the Small Industries Development Organization (SIDO) of Tanzania. She helped them to re-brand the Tanzania Association of Food Scientists & Technologists (TAFST). Among many advices, she showed how some plants that were thrown away could be used as nutritious food.

Anne is an elected Fellow of the Institutes of Food, Science & Technology in NZ, in Singapore and the International Academy. In 2022 she was awarded the most prestigious NZIFST award, the J C Andrews Award in recognition of her contributions. Her achievements in Food Technology & Nutrition are many.

She has served in the Prisoner’s Aid and Rehabilitation Service (PARS) providing counseling to inmates. She has been a Member of several Parsh Councils. She served the Sri Lankan community as President of the United Sri Lanka Association (USLA – Auckland Branch) in 1994, and then as the founder Member and President of New Zealand Sri Lanka Foundation (NZSLF). At present she continues her service to SL community in an advisory capacity. She is always available to provide advice & guidance to members of the community.

Recently my wife and I visited Anne & Conrad in Auckland and stayed with them for a few days. When I asked her about the Royal recognition she said, she really feels humbled and honoured to be in this elite list to be recognized as a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit. She said she never expected to receive such high honour for her professional and community work done over past 40 plus years in her adopted land and said that it is an honour for her motherland Sri Lanka.

She was thankful to all those who have contributed towards her receiving this prestigious recognition for her services to the Food Science & Nutrition and to the community. Anne considers these awards as icing on the cake and quoting the late Hon Lakshman Kadiragamar, she said she regarded the New Zealand honour as the icing on a cake baked in Sri Lanka.

She is nurturing a dream in her heart for a project in Mannar in Sri Lanka and God willing, it will come to fruition one day!

Hemal Perera