2021 NEW ZEALANDER OF THE YEAR FINALISTS

1 Mar 2021

New Zealander of the Year - Te Pou Whakarae o Aotearoa
New Zealander of the Year - Te Pou Whakarae o Aotearoa

The Kiwibank New Zealander of the Year Award – Te Pou Whakarae o Aotearoa honours the achievements and contributions of an inspirational Kiwi who has made a big, positive contribution to our country this year. Their pursuit of excellence can be in any area; science, business, the arts, cultural or community involvement, te Ao Māori, sport, education, and health. Their achievements have positive effects on how we feel about our nation and ourselves.

Meet our 3 finalists.

Farid Ahmed

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In the hours that followed his wife’s death in the Christchurch mosque attacks in March 2019, Farid Ahmed’s faith led him to make an important decision. He knew that the massacre and his community’s response to it would have implications for Christchurch, New Zealand, and for Muslims around the world, and that he personally would respond to the act of hate with only love and forgiveness. Farid and his wife Husna had been praying at the Al Noor Mosque on the day of the attack and Husna had already helped several people to safety when she was fatally shot in the back while looking for her husband, who uses a wheelchair. Farid’s remarkable messages of love and forgiveness have captured the hearts of people around the world and in December 2019 he travelled to Abu Dhabi to speak at the Forum for Promoting Peace in Muslim Societies where he received an award for promoting peace. In addition, he’s travelled to the Netherlands and the USA to speak about the massacre, forgiveness, and the incredible response from New Zealanders afterwards. In the year following the massacre, as Farid learned how to navigate life without his wife, he wrote a book about his experience. The book, Husna’s Story, is a tribute to her life and carries Farid’s enduring message of forgiveness. During Lockdown, he wrote a second book which he plans to gift to the traumatised youths of Christchurch. He continues to speak in mosques and community gatherings to promote peace and spread the message of love.

Ranjna Patel, QSM, JP

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When CM Police were concerned about the increase in Family Violence in the South Asian community in 2013, they asked Ranjna, an experienced health worker in high needs community and community leader for assistance. Research to Ranjna is identifying the root cause of a problem and gaps. As in health, access was the main barrier for men to get help. In order to keep women and children safe and lessen the trauma of being removed from the home, men are removed and offered emergency accommodation, counselling and behavioural therapy (while also providing wraparound support to the whānau at home, as we know only 20% of women ask for help). Despite all the research to support it, the concept was a challenging one to get off the ground, as people are less willing to invest in support services for men who are physically and emotionally abusive to their families. But 90% of women take the men back. In 2014 Ranjna established the first Gandhi Nivas home for perpetrators for rehabilitation in Otahuhu, partnering with NZ Police and Sahaayta Counselling services and now there are now three permanent Gandhi Nivas homes in Auckland, all staffed 24/7 by counsellors, social workers and Alcohol and Drug counsellors. Massey University released a 5-year longitudinal study (looking at men 5 years before entering Gandhi Nivas and after) and found 60% of men did not re-offend. 60% non-recidivism is amazing and will make a difference in NZ shameful Family Violence statistics.

Dr Siouxsie Wiles, MNZM

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Dr Siouxsie Wiles is an award-winning scientist who has made a career of manipulating microbes. She heads up the Bioluminescent Superbugs Lab at the University of Auckland where she and her team make bacteria glow in the dark to understand how infectious microbes make us sick and to find new antibiotics. Siouxsie is also passionate about demystifying science and has won numerous prizes for her efforts, including the Prime Minister’s Science Media Communication Prize in 2013. In 2017 she published her first book, ‘Antibiotic resistance: the end of modern medicine?’ and in 2019 was appointed a member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to microbiology and science communication. During COVID-19 Siouxsie joined forces with Spinoff cartoonist Toby Morris to make the science of the pandemic clear and understandable. Releasing their work under a Creative Commons licence, their graphics have been seen by millions and even used by governments and organisations as part of their official pandemic communications.

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