Shaneel Lal

Young New Zealander of the Year


University of Canterbury

Young New Zealander of the Year

Te Mātātahi o te Tau

University of Canterbury


The leaders of tomorrow who are brimming with the potential to build a bright future for Aotearoa. They are the ones who are striving to improve themselves, their communities and their nation.

To be eligible for this award, the nominee must be aged between 15-30 years.

Nominators should consider talking about the following areas in their nomination:

  • THE NOMINEE: Describe the person you are nominating and what they’ve done to inspire you over the past year to nominate them as 2024 University of Canterbury Young New Zealander of the Year Te Mātātahi o te Tau.
  • PURPOSE: Who benefits from this person’s work, contribution, or influence – and how?
  • LEADERSHIP: How does this person set a positive example for other young people and showing them the potential for change.
  • COMMITMENT: Describe the commitment of time, risks, and challenges overcome to create an impact to this point (this may still be ongoing). What have they done that has gone above and beyond to show leadership, create change, and give back?
  • PROVEN IMPACT: How has this person clearly demonstrated a positive impact in their area of influence? How has this been measured?
  • LONG-TERM IMPACT: If known, how does the nominee plan to grow and/or adapt their work, contribution, or influence in the future? How would winning this award impact this person and the work that they are doing?


Conditions of Entry

Shaneel Lal

Shaneel Lal is many things − an LGBTQIA+ activist, a writer and journalist, a political commentator and a University student. Through it all, they have been a consistent and courageous voice for thousands of people across Aotearoa, calling out injustice and empowering others to stand up for what they believe in. As a survivor of conversion therapy, Lal founded the Conversion Therapy Action Group. Lal spearheaded the movement to end conversion therapy in Aotearoa New Zealand, successfully passing legislation in 2022 after a five-year campaign. Lal is advocating to protect queer people under hate speech laws and change the blood donation policies to ease the process for gay and bisexual men to donate blood. Lal has served as an executive board member of Rainbow Youth and Auckland Pride Festival and is a trustee of Adhikaar Aotearoa. In the face of racism, criticism and bigotry, Shaneel has continued to raise their voice for queer and indigenous communities across Aotearoa.



Simran Kaur


Shaneel Lal


Ezra Hirawani


Jazz Thornton


Georgia Hale


Kendall Flutey


David Cameron


Rez Gardi


Lydia Ko


Guy Ryan


Parris Goebel



Young New Zealander of the Year

Professor Cheryl De La Rey

University of Canterbury Vice-Chancellor Tumu Whakarae

“We purposefully support the development, growth and success of young people in Aotearoa New Zealand. We are committed to empowering young New Zealanders to make a difference as the world continues to face complex challenges. UC is pleased to celebrate these young leaders and support their success as they make a positive impact in their communities."