2020 Young New Zealander of the Year Semi-Finalists

14 Dec 2019

Young New Zealander of the Year
Young New Zealander of the Year

This award honours a person aged 15 to 30 with passion and potential who strives to improve themselves, their communities and their nation. Meet our 10 semi-finalists.

Tabby Besley

Tabby Besley

Tabby Besley is the founder and Managing Director of InsideOUT, which helps rainbow youth to develop a sense of safety and belonging in their schools and communities.

In 2012, Tabby saw that hundreds of thousands of people around New Zealand were suffering isolation, discrimination and inequality due to their sexual orientation or gender identity.

InsideOUT creates queer-straight alliances within schools which brings together youth of all genders and orientations. The alliances normalise rainbow causes and build a community of united people. InsideOUT continues to expand its impact, recently launching a social enterprise arm that delivers rainbow inclusion training to schools, workplaces, community organisations and government agencies with income going back into supporting their youth programmes and resources for schools including radio shows, community events, resource packs, meetups and workshops.

Tabby’s impact on young people meant that, in 2015, she was the first New Zealander to receive a Queen’s Young Leader Award. She has also received a 2017 Vodafone Foundation World of Difference Award and has been a finalist for NEXT Woman of the Year (2017) and the Impact Awards, inclusion category (2019).

Tabby’s efforts to fight for equality, safety and community for rainbow youth touches thousands of people around the country. Through InsideOUT, she is creating a generation of youth who are empowered to reach their full potential.

Georgia Hale

Georgia Hale

Georgia Hale is a champion sportsperson who has represented New Zealand in four separate sports. She has used her sporting profile as a platform to a create huge community impact around New Zealand.

 Georgia is one of the youngest-ever captains in New Zealand sport, captaining the wWomen’s Warriors Rugby League team when she was only 24. She has represented New Zealand in touch, tag, league nines and league thirteens.

 Georgia has dedicated herself to supporting communities. She influences thousands of children by visiting schools around the country and teaching students how to live a healthy lifestyle. She has set up a number of community initiatives with the Warrirors, including the Great Charity Day which raised more than $120,000 in its first two years. She has also set up a number of initiatives through her platform to help young children, rural communities, the intellectually disabled, and a wide range of other charities.

A role model to many, Georgia epitomises a Young New Zealander who is striving to better herself and the communities around her.

 Sophie Handford

Sophie Handford

Sophie Handford is a leader in the fight against climate change and a key instigator of the 20,000+ strong student strikes around New Zealand.

Sophie has been a long-time advocate for social issues. She has been involved in a wide range of causes through Girl Up (supporting girls in developing countries), World Vision (fighting poverty) and the Eco Action group (environmental conservation).

As a young person, Sophie’s generation will be most affected by climate change. Alarmed by the lack of climate action in New Zealand, Sophie decided to take responsibility herself. She connected with other secondary students and used the power of social media to mobilise New Zealand youth.

The result was a march of 20,000+ students around New Zealand. This was a school strike to spark a public conversation, and ultimately action. The student strike managed to break into the mainstream media and stimulate a national climate change discussion.

Sophie is continuing to raise awareness as a speaker, in the Future Leaders programme, with Enviro Schools, GO Club, and Forest and Bird Youth.

Fraser McConnell

Fraser McConnell 

Fraser McConnell is the co-founder of Squawk Squad, a social enterprise that protects thousands of New Zealand native birds every year.

As an avid outdoorsman, Fraser was horrified to learn that 80 per cent of New Zealand’s bird species are threatened with extinction, largely due to introduced predators. Fraser asked the question, ‘How could we save as many birds as possible, while engaging as many New Zealanders as possible?’ Through this question, Squawk Squad was born.

Squawk Squad allows all New Zealanders to sponsor high-tech traps for conservation projects and sends them live notifications every time they trap a pest. Over 1000 New Zealanders are now involved and supporting conservation projects across New Zealand. Together, they have trapped more than 4,500 pests.

In a bid to raise further awareness of the environmental issues, Squawk Squad created a Digital Environmental Education Programme that is free for New Zealand students. To date, more than 45,000 students have participated in the programme, significantly raising awareness of the environmental issues across New Zealand as allowing students to take action in their local environment (eg planting trees, cleaning up beaches and reducing plastic in their lunch boxes).

Fraser is also a co-founder of Choice, a payments app addressing the issue that New Zealand merchants are paying $750 million in transaction fees every year. Paying with Choice instead of one’s bank card reduces this fee and redirects half of it to a charity of one’s choice.

Fraser is a New Zealand entrepreneur and Edmund Hillary Fellow. His initiatives continue to grow producing positive outcomes for New Zealanders.

Bilal Nasier    

Bilal Nasier

Bilal arrived in Aotearoa as a four-year-old asylum seeker after his family fled a civil war in Afghanistan. Upon completing his schooling, Bilal went on to study for a bachelor’s degree in Psychology which he used to inform his work as a behaviour therapist for children with autism spectrum disorder as well as his youth worker role with young people from refugee backgrounds.

Outside of his work, alongside a group of other young people, Bilal helped to establish Empower Youth Trust. Through peer-to-peer mentoring and regular skills workshops, Bilal and the team of other youth volunteers at Empower are seeking to address the under-representation of former refugees in tertiary education.

His passion and commitment to the youth sector saw him appointed to the Ministry of Youth Development’s Partnership Fund Board in 2018. In the beginning of this year, Bilal returned to university to further his studies embarking on another journey to complete a Doctorate in Clinical Psychology which he hopes to utilise to serve the ever-growing mental health needs of young people in Aotearoa, especially those from refugee and migrant backgrounds.

Following the March 15 attacks in Christchurch, Bilal and a team of Muslim psychologist have since been supporting the victims and other affected Muslim youth across the country through mental health workshops.

Pania Newton

Pania Newton

In 2015, the year she graduated with a conjoint degree in Law and Health Sciences from the University of Auckland, Pania gave up her career in law to establish the peaceful movement at Ihumaatao, for the protection and preservation of a rare cultural heritage landscape in Auckland City. Since Pania and the group SOUL have rewritten the book on how to protest, as kaitiaki, or guardians. 

Ihumaatao became a national symbol in 2019, after running a successful global media campaign that raised ground-swelling support and public awareness around the globe under the guise of #protectihumatao. This resulted in the Prime Minister putting a halt to development at Ihumaatao. Over the past few months tens of thousands of people, from around the globe, have travelled to Ihumaatao, to learn about social justice and to support the indigenous movement. 

Pania continues to raise public awareness and support for Ihumaatao both nationally and internationally. In 2017 and 2018, Pania travelled to the United Nations three times to present in New York and Switzerland. In addition, she has been nominated for Young New Zealander of the year three years in a row, and was recently named the ninth most influential person in Auckland. Pania has presented at the United Nations in New York three times (2017) and was a speaker at TedX Auckland (2018). Inspirational and uncompromising, Pania is an excellent role model for women, youth, and Indigenous people. 

Ezekiel Raui

Ezekiel Raui 

Ezekiel Raui is fighting to prevent suicide in Aotearoa. Ezekiel experienced the effects of mental illness when his community lost five young people to suicide in the space of one month. This was the same year that 14 others in Northland committed suicide. To Ezekiel, this highlighted the critical need for mental health support services.

Ezekiel realised that people weren’t listening to youth, youth didn’t feel supported to speak out, and there was a general lack of help when issues were raised. This is where TuKotahi was born.

TuKotahi connects young people, who experience mental health issues, with a support network. This includes students talking to students, peer counsellors and youth workshops. In 2017, TuKotahi was supported by the Ministries of Health and Education in a million-dollar pilot across New Zealand schools.

Ezekiel’s advocacy has taken him to the 2015 White House Tribal Leaders Conference, hosted by President Barack Obama. He was awarded the Matariki Young Achievers Award in 2016. He was named on the 100 Maori Leaders List in 2017. In 2018, he went to Buckingham Palace and received the Queen’s Young Leader Award and in 2019 he was named on the Forbes 30 under 30 Asia/Pacific Social Entrepreneurs List. 

Eliette Roslin

Eliette Roslin 

Eliette Roslin has experienced the healing power of music first-hand. She was diagnosed with Guillain Barre syndrome and at aged 16 was fighting for her life. Music helped Eliette through personal difficulties as a tool to channel emotions in a healthy way.

Eliette has grown her own music school with 450 members and used this experience to launch the New Zealand Girls Choir.

In 2018, Eliette launched The Green Room Charitable Trust, which encourages children aged eight to 17 to play music to reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression and cope with bullying.

Edward Uini

Eddie Uini

Edward (Eddie) Uini is a youth worker who loves helping others. He established Orange Sky NZ, which provides free laundry, warm showers and genuine conversation to people experiencing homelessness in New Zealand.

Impressed with the work of Orange Sky Australia, Eddie decided to set up a similar service for the 41,000 homeless people in New Zealand. Eddie became the key driver of Orange Sky NZ’s success, spending time with homeless, training volunteers, and raising awareness. There are now more than 50 volunteers who drive the mobile laundry van and shower units. This has meant New Zealanders doing it tough can have access to simple human needs and, most importantly, a genuine human connection that improves lives.

Eddie has the support of the Hugo Charitable Trust and the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development, which funds the project. In addition to his management role, Eddie speaks at events to raise awareness and spends time helping his homeless friends.

Shay Wright

Shay Wright

Shay is the co-founder of Te Whare Hukahuka, a social enterprise that supports local Maori leaders and community organisations that create change in their communities and grow self-sustaining enterprises.

Shay Wright grew up in the Far North and attended Kaitaia College. He is driven by the idea of empowering Māori business leaders to pursue opportunities that will bring pride, employment and improved wellbeing to Māori communities.

Shay joined Auckland’s largest business growth organisation, The Icehouse, and developed The Icehouse Māori unit. Over seven years at Te Whare Hukakua they have supported and grown more than 1000 Māori leaders; 100 Māori organisations have directly engaged with their programmes whose reach serves more than 300,000 Māori people. Te Whare Hukahuka has also helped Māori Trusts raise $1.6 million towards strengthening their organisations and community enterprise initiatives.

For the past four years Shay has served on several Government advisory boards, holding a Ministerial appointment for the Māori Economic Development Advisory Board. He was named in the 2016 Forbes Asia 30 Under 30 list of Social Entrepreneurs and was a finalist for the 2016 Young Enterprise Alumni Award, and the 2017 Young NZ Innovator Award and Matariki Young Achiever Award. He is a current Obama Foundation and Edmund Hillary fellow.

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