UC Young New Zealander of the Year semi-finalists announced

December 8, 2021

Ten leaders of tomorrow brimming with the potential to build a bright future for Aotearoa have been named in the young people’s category of the Kiwibank New Zealander of the Year Awards for 2022.

The 10 semi-finalists for the University of Canterbury Young New Zealander of the Year Te Mātātahi o te Tau Award are striving to improve themselves, their communities and their nation. Two UC graduates among the 10 inspiring young kiwis.

The semi-finalists are:

  • Abbas Nazari graduated from the University of Canterbury with a Bachelor of Arts with Honours degree in 2016. Nazari’s journey with his family as a child refugee from Afghanistan to New Zealand is harrowing, and the success he’s achieved since is exceptional.
  • Ezra Hirawani started his own power company to provide electricity to the many New Zealanders living in energy hardship, and against the odds, he has compelled the industry to make systemic change.
  • Jacinta Gulasekharam is a social entrepreneur who is using candour and positivity to end period poverty. Her work has helped provide thousands of free period products to young people in need and secured free products for school students.
  • Josiah Tualamali’i has recently completed his Bachelor of Arts Honours degree at UC. Tualamali’i is a young mental health activist and leader, he works hard and speaks up to ensure Pacific perspectives and needs are met.
  • Pania Newton became the face of a new generation of activists during the occupation at Ihumātao, her unwavering commitment to protect her whenua ignited complex conversations and raised awareness of the land’s rich history.
  • Rangipo Takuira-Mita is a young innovator working with a group of environmental leaders to inspire the restoration of tupuna mātauranga, encouraging caring communities that nurture nature.
  • Sophie Pascoe is a top athlete, winning 11 Paralympic gold medals and four Commonwealth gold medals. She has shown New Zealanders that any set back is surmountable.
  • Stan Walker is a New Zealand musician who aims to use his voice to keep te reo Māori alive and promote all the gifts of te ao Māori.
  • Tayla Nasmith started a charity for mothers to be at just 12 years old. Partnering with Police and midwives, Tayla works to provide essentials for those in greatest need.
  • Zak Devey, whose mahi is helping young prisoners be creative and self-reflective with writing. The university student runs creative writing workshops at Mt Eden Prison to support the hauora of young men.

Read more about these extraordinary young people>