The VOYCE Youth National Council has had a busy and productive year. We started by welcoming our new members in July 2018 on a super-busy day which included a meeting with the Minister of Children, Hon Tracey Martin and contributing to the Mental Health and Addiction Inquiry Report. A fantastic outcome from our discussions with the Minister was a regulation change that now has children in care being provided suitcases to hold their belongings when moving homes. Other highlights of the past year include Youth Council members having made submissions on Hamish Walker’s KiwiSaver Bill and hosting the Minister for the announcement of the new Transition Support Service for the young people leaving the state’s care. The whole Youth Council came together for a weekend to develop a strategic plan and run the Round the Bays together in early 2019.

VOYCE National Youth Council team photo at Auckland head office

VOYCE National Youth Council team photo at Auckland head office – Top row: Jessie Hamilton, Jesse Ibell, Setefano Lemusu – Middle row: Isaac Heron, Stanley Baldwin, Saron Bekele, Jacob Batten, Renee Porter – Bottom row: Kiriweti Phillips, Jennifer Thonrithi, Merenia Hudson.

Youth Council members also had the opportunity to attend various other events including a Blue Light event at Rainbow’s End, the Healthy Futures Conference (as presenters), Festival for the Future, and even the reception of Prince Harry and Megan Markle at the Auckland War Memorial Museum. Committing the time to meet every month and work on all of these projects has been a big undertaking but we have all found it to be a very rewarding and valuable experience and are truly proud of our contributions. The term of the 2018-2019 Youth Council recently ended with a very fitting celebration of VOYCE’s second birthday and the opening of a new branch in Christchurch – a promising sign for VOYCE’s expansion to be a truly national service in the future. This day also marked the beginning of a new era for the council both because of the addition of new members and upcoming changes to how the council is run. While many of the current members will not be returning, the hard work they have done has paved the way for those that come after them and I look forward to seeing what the next year has in store.

VOYCE National Youth Council team photo at VOYCE Christchurch opening

VOYCE National Youth Council team photo at VOYCE Christchurch opening – Isaac Heron, Jennifer Thonrithi, Stanley Baldwin, Jacob Batten, Saron Bekele.

On behalf of the outgoing Youth Council, I would like to congratulate Tracie Shipton for being appointed as the new Chief Executive of VOYCE. We all have had the privilege of working with Tracie during her time as interim Chief Executive, in particular, at the start of this year to develop our long-term strategic plan. Throughout this process, she showed a great passion to improve the lives of young people in our care system and always kept the focus on why VOYCE was set up – to be a service which these young people requested, which exists entirely for these young people. In doing so, Tracie always placed central importance on the Youth Council within VOYCE overall, which among other things gave us the ability to speak with confidence that our thoughts were valid and important. Tracie has been part of VOYCE’s development right from the beginning and was the first to provide the Council with a true understanding of the full story of VOYCE and its intended future direction, which assisted us significantly in appreciating how to fulfil our role. This unique understanding of VOYCE is why Tracie will be able to provide a clear vision for how it should continue to develop and grow in the future, and we are excited to see what VOYCE does under her management.

Isaac Heron
VOYCE National Youth Council Deputy Chair

(On behalf of VOYCE National Youth Council [2018-2019] members Jacob Batten, Jennifer Thonrithi, Jesse Ibell, Jessie Hamilton, Kiriweti Phillips, Merenia Hudson, Renee Porter, Saron Bekele, Setefano Lemusu and Stanley Baldwin)