2020 Young New Zealander of the Year Semi-Finalists
14 Dec 2019
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 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 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 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 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
Fraser is a New Zealand
entrepreneur and Edmund Hillary Fellow. His initiatives continue to grow producing
positive outcomes for New Zealanders.
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 15attacks 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.
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
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
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
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 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
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 (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
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 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
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