Pasifika semi-finalists up for 2021 New Zealander of the Year Awards
With the semi-finalist announcements for the 2021 Kiwibank New Zealander of the Year Awards comes an exciting lineup of Pasifika creatives, activists and community heroes.
Nominated for Young New Zealander of the Year, Samoan climate change activist Brianna Fruean said her “heart was feeling very mafanafana” upon hearing of her selection. Since the age of 11, Fruean has championed climate change issues at an international level, founding the Samoan chapter of global climate organisation 360.org and winning the Commonwealth Youth Award for her environmental activism at the age of 16.
The former Sunpix Emerging Leadership Award winner and member of the Council of Elders for the Pacific Climate Warriors took to social media to share the news with her followers, saying she was “honoured to be on the list with these community giants.”
Indigenous Rights activist Arizona Leger also joins Fruean in the running for the Young New Zealander of the Year. Despite feeling “major imposter syndrome”, Leger was “in awe of the semi-finalist line up and very grateful to be considered.”
“Also want to highlight that there are so many cool young people out there doing the most and I know if any of the kids from the village in this lineup win then we all win,” enthuses Leger. A member of Auckland Council’s youth advisory panel, a trustee and board member of Inspiring Stories, Leger has spent much of her years championing Māori and Pasifika youth.
With years of experience supporting youth in her South Auckland community, 24-year-old Sarah Colcord was elected to Auckland Council when she was just 20. When the Alert Level 4 Lockdown dried up opportunities for her event and project management business, and wanting to promote smaller businesses during that time, Colcord launched a Facebook group called New Zealand Made Products.
With over 500,000 members in two months, the Young New Zealander of the Year nominee has transformed New Zealand Made Products into an online marketplace called Chooice that has already generated more than $1,000,000 in sales for small New Zealand businesses in just 4 months. Alongside her Young New Zealander of the Year nomination, Colcord is also a semi-finalist for the Innovator of the Year Award.
The semi-finalists for the Local Community Hero Award also includes several familiar Pacific faces. As the mother of a child with a disability, Tulimaiau has turned her own experience into a career as the Pasifika Liaison for Lifewise’s Health and Disability Service in Auckland. Tulimaiau’s experiences have often endeared her to parents living through similar circumstances. With the underwhelming representation of Pacific people in health services, Tulimaiau has worked hard to make vital services more accessible for those living with disabilities.
My Father’s Barber founder Mataio (Matt) Brown opened a chain of barbershops that double as places of hair grooming and safe spaces for men to speak, connect and unload without judgement. Brown has worked together with the Ministry of Social Development for the ‘It’s not OK Campaign’, and founded the ‘She is Not Your Rehab’ movement together with his wife Sarah. The campaign aims to change the culture around abusive relationships, domestic violence and unhealthy ideals of masculinity.
At just 17 years old, Aigagalefili Fepulea’i-Tapua’i has already won a slew of awards for her work as a climate change and youth activist. The Aorere College Head Girl is a co-founder of indigenous environmentalist youth group 4 Tha Kulture and helped organise the South Auckland Students March against Inter-School Violence in 2020. During the Alert Level 4 lockdown, Fepulea’i-Tapua’i helped to raise awareness on the large number of early school leavers abandoning their studies to help provide for their struggling families.
Co-founder and director of ARK Health Discovery Dr. Canaan Aumua has been nominated for the Trade Me New Zealand Innovator of the Year. In response to the spread of anti-vaxxers and misinformation regarding the 2019 Measles epidemic, Aumua led the creation of the first public health chatbot, Mītara, an online resource delivering reliable and factual information and also connecting communities directly with medical practitioners.
As the COVID-19 pandemic took hold last year, Aumua devised a similar chatbot, Āmio, to combat the growing Coronavirus ‘misinfodemic’. Offering free self-assessments, self-referrals to testing centres and access to medical practitioners, Āmio become the Pacific’s first COVID-19 chatbot and only bilingual health tool.
Through Baby Loss NZ, Sarah Numan and Josie Apelu have worked tirelessly to support grieving parents who have lost children through pregnancy, birth or childhood. Baby Loss provides emotional support, practical guidance, and then guide the family through a memory-making service that creates hand and foot castings of the baby/child, hand and footprints, photos, bathing and dressing baby.
The New Zealander of the Year Awards will take place on March 31.
Check out the full list of New Zealander of the Year semi-finalists at here.