Ministerial Youth Advisory Group

The Ministerial Youth Advisory Group gives young people aged 14-18 the chance to have their say about education in New Zealand.

Purpose of the Youth Advisory Group

The purpose of the Youth Advisory Group is to:

  • provide an opportunity for New Zealand youth to voice their own experiences and perspectives on education
  • inform the Minister of Education on aspects of the education system and how these affect the children and young people who use the system
  • bring your insights to the Ministry of Education and the education sector to help inform how we work.

To be part the Youth Advisory Group you'll need to:

  • be aged between 14 and 18 years on 1 January 2020
  • live in New Zealand 
  • be respectful of other people's opinions
  • get parental, caregiver or legal guardian consent if you are not an independent youth.

Meet the 2020 Youth Advisory Group

 Bella Tran-Lawrence, Taranaki

Bella Tran-Lawrence, 15, Taranaki 

My name is Bella Tran-Lawrence, I am 15 and attend Spotswood College in Taranaki, where I will be a year 12 in 2020.

I'm excited to be working with the Ministry of Education, especially because education is such a large part of my life and I am looking forward to contributing to New Zealand school systems.

I am an advocate of change and a strong feminist, believing in equal rights for all, and hope to help implement some of these ideas.

 Fine Aholelei, Auckland

Fine Aholelei, 17, Auckland

Mālo e lelei, my name is Fine Na’akakala ‘E Moala Aholelei. I’m 17 years of age, of Tongan descent, and was born and raised in the streets of East Auckland. Being a first generation child who grew up in a lower socio-economic community, my villages have been of great influence and help in the moulding of the strong young woman I am today. The ideologies I’ve been brought up with, especially the “village” mentality, are ones which I will carry throughout my livelihood.

In 2020, I’m planning to attend Auckland Girls’ Grammar School and will be acting as Deputy Head Girl, the Board of Trustees representative and a Tongan Group leader. I also have plans to continue my role as the school’s UN Youth Ambassador, the communications lead for Tāmaki Youth Council, and a spoken word poet in the regional high school spoken word competition WORD: The Frontline. I’m also a founding member of an indigenous, mostly South Auckland based, high school initiative 4TK (4 Tha Kulture) where we will be holding educational and inclusive events, attending conferences, and standing in solidarity with more indigenous movements.

Whilst I do have a lot of involvement in various initiatives, I indulge myself according to priority and workload - meaning, I’m more than open to change my schedule and involvement in certain things to get accustomed to roles of utmost importance and priority. In saying this, I thank you for your consideration and am looking forward to hearing from you again!

 Tanin Cain, Auckland

Tanin Cain, 14, Auckland

My name is Tanin Cain. I am a 14 year old male and live in Ihumātao, Auckland. 

I’m open minded, think outside the box and believe I could contribute a great deal because of the varied school settings I have attended - high decile and low decile schools, mainstream and accelerant classes and also withdrawal programmes.

For the past three years, I have been home-schooling along with my two brothers. One brother is a pre-schooler and the other is 10 years old with Autism, ADHD and Tourette's. Through this I have gained much patience and understanding for the needs of others.

I believe all children should have a good opportunity to learn, and be able to learn in a way that suits them.

I hope to use my experience to develop the schooling system and contribute to the Youth Advisory Group in 2020, so that others can find a way that fits them too.

 Tara Shepherd, Westport

Tara Shepherd, 17, Westport

Kia ora, my name is Tara Shepherd, I’m 17 years old. I live in Westport on the West Coast of the South Island. I attend Buller High School where I am Deputy Head Girl for 2020.

I am studying a range of subjects, some by distance learning, (Psychology, Social Studies and History). I have a great passion for the environment and the future of New Zealand. I enjoy learning, I value my education and the opportunities it offers.

I work part-time at Heritage Jewellers in Westport, specializing in engraving. I am looking forward to the future and hope to pursue a career involving politics, governance and environmental issues.

I am honoured to be part of the Youth Advisory Group in 2020 and hope to make valuable contributions to assist all students in Aotearoa.

 Maru Taiaki, Paraparaumu

Maru Taiaki, 15, Paraparaumu

Ko Tokomaru tōku waka
Ko Kapakapanui ko Tararua ōku tūpuna mounga
Ka ngahae ngā pī, ko Waikanae tōku awa
Ko Te Atiawa tōku iwi
Ko Waikanae tōku marae
Ko Whakarongotai tōku whare
Ko Maru Taiaki ahau e mihi ana

Tēnā koutou katoa.

Kia ora, my name is Maru Taiaki, of Te Atiawa, Ngāti Tūwharetoa, Ngāti Kurī, Ngāti Whātua and Te Atihaunui-ā-Pāpārangi descent. 

Born and raised on the Kāpiti Coast, I am a year 12 student at Hato Pāora College. As a graduate of Māori-medium and English-medium education I am passionate about every young person enjoying education and achieving success, especially for Māori.

I enjoy all sports, speaking and learning te reo Māori and performing kapa haka. 

'Whāia Te Tika - Do what is right' - the motto of Hato Pāora College

 Raiyan Azmi, Hamilton

Raiyan Azmi, 17, Hamilton

My name is Raiyan Azmi, I'm 17 years old, born and raised in Hamilton. My family is originally from India, migrating here around 20 years ago. I'm a proud kiwi Muslim; allowing me to be very involved in the communities around me.

Having finished Year 12 at Hillcrest High School, I look forward to what 2020, my last year at high school brings for me. I've been elected as Head Boy of Hillcrest High School for my final year - an achievement and responsibility that I'm very proud of.

I've been a member of the Waikato regional advisory group, WYSTAG- leading me to the national level. I'm also a deputy leader for Waikato Akhi Initiative, a Muslim male youth group based here in Hamilton. I'm a confident, personable leader who enjoys the aspects of leadership and conversing with fellow youth, and adults I meet. I look forward to being a part of the national YAG in hopes to gain new perspectives and learn from the fellow youth.


drienne Hunt, Whanganui

Adrienne Hunt, 15, Whanganui

Kia ora, my name is Adrienne Hunt and I am 15 years old. I was born and bred in the beautiful town Whanganui and attend a course at YMCA, Whanganui.

I joined the YAG to make a difference. I'm a child in Oranga Tamariki's care and my journey especially at school wasn't always easy.

So here I am giving my perspective as a kid in care and the effects it has on your education. I look forward to this year and to be a part of making a difference for a second year. Bring on 2020. 

 Watene Campbell from Wellington

Watene Campbell, 18, Wellington

Tēnā tātau, nei he iti nō Ngāti Porou, nō Ngāti Awa, nō Ngāti Kahungunu, nō Te Aho Matua anō hoki te mihi atu nei.

My name is Watene Moana Campbell, your average long baked Wellingtonian. I'm 18 and a graduate of Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Ngā Mokopuna where I've spent 6 hours a day, 5 days a week, for 40 weeks a year for closing on to 13 of my 18 years around the sun.

I have a deeply found passion for my culture, as well as being an advocate not only my people, but also for my wider peers, and whānau communities.

2020 will be a real testament of my will power, where I'm aiming towards a conjoint degree made up of an LLB and a BA, double majoring in Māori Studies, and Environmental Science at Victoria University. Among many other things, my passions also lie within the performing arts industry, such as Māori Performing Arts, public speaking, and acting. I have aspirations to become the youngest Māori to ever be knighted. Sir Watene Moana Campbell VI... has a ring to it don't you think ;)

Kāti, nei te reo mihi o tō iti, te pūrea atu nei, 
Mauri ora ki a tātau. 

Moeka Koyama, Motueka

Moeka Koyama, 15, Motueka

Kia ora tātou, my name is Moeka Koyama and I'm 15 years old at Motueka High School in Sunny Tasman.

I was born in London and moved to New Zealand from Japan my parents’ motherland at the age of 6.

My passions include making new connections, sharing ideas and speaking up about topics that are important to me.

I bring a perspective of going through various education systems from homeschooling, Steiner schools to a State school.

The experiences that I’ve had makes me appreciate what we already have as akonga in NZ but also what we could improve on to make it more inclusive for everyone regardless of their background.

I feel very fortunate to be involved with the group this year continuing on our work from last year. Together with the role of Student Representative I have at my high school I am looking forward to continuing voicing youth.

Our voices shape the education system for our future and what a privilege to be part of it!

 Kate Morris, Wellington

Kate Morris, 18, Wellington

Kia ora! My name is Kate and I’m 18 years old. My hometown is Darfield, in Canterbury - but in 2020 I’ll be moving up to Wellington (into halls of residence) to study at Victoria University.

I’ll be doing a Bachelor of Science majoring in Science Communication, along with minors in Environmental Studies and New Zealand Sign Language.

The fact that I’m finishing high school and moving away from home is super scary, but I‘m looking forward to discovering a new city, and doing courses that really interest me.

Outside of my studies I love to read, get outdoors, and do music and musical theatre. 2020 will be my third year in the Youth Advisory group. It’s been a wonderful experience so far, and I’ve especially enjoyed seeing changes that we influenced starting to come through in the past year. I can’t wait to see what the year ahead will bring!

Okirano Tilaia, Christchurch

Okirano Tilaia, 17, Christchurch

Talofa lava, my name is Okirano Tilaia, I’m 17 years old and of Samoan decent. 

In 2020, I will be studying as a first-year student at the University of Canterbury. I am currently the deputy-chair of the Pacific Youth Leadership and Transformation Council, a member of SPACPAC, and a community volunteer.

 I have a major passion for positive change and the empowerment of young people; building genuine relationships and connecting with people from all walks of life to share our stories and create a space for all of us to prosper and succeed.

I cherish every part of my Pacific roots, as I believe if a student has a strong sense of belonging, they are more likely to succeed in all aspects of their lives including the education system. I want Pacific youth to have a voice in the New Zealand education system to succeed and have the freedom to express themselves.

Fa’afetai lava!

Nathan Farr, Dunedin

Nathan Farr, 18, Dunedin

Kia ora, I'm Nathan Farr I am 18 and I was born in Tāmaki Makaurau but now live in Ōtepoti.

I have just finished my last year of High school at King’s High School in South Dunedin. Currently hoping to study at Otago Uni and study Communications minoring in Politics!

This is my 3rd and final year on YAG and I am pleased with the progress that has been made in the education sector and the willingness of the Ministry and Minister to listen to us and take what we say on board. I hope to continue advocating for those with disabilities and additional learning needs.

I look forward to bringing a different perspective this year. The perspective of someone with a learning difficulty and finishing NCEA and the perspective of someone with a learning difficulty at University.

I look forward to continuing this work and another great year on the YAG!


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