VNYC Jan 2020 Retreat

Back: Michelle Barry (VOYCE team), Fatima Abdallah, Alexandra Murphy (VOYCE team), Jamie-Lee Evans (Foster Youth Museum), Saron Bekele, Isaac Heron, Alchimae Prasad-Khan Front: Jay Coupe, Amanda Faauga, Katarina Padlie

The VOYCE National Youth Council (VNYC) kicked off 2020 with their fifth leadership retreat at Ferndale Lodge in West Auckland, over January 11-12.  In what is now an allocated time for discussion with Tracie Shipton, the CEO of VOYCE – Whakarongo Mai, the VNYC retreat began with an update on the many exciting ways VOYCE has developed and expanded over the past year. This led to an in-depth discussion about the inaugural NZ summit for youth in care, which VOYCE currently plans to hold within the next year, and how the VNYC, in particular, could contribute to its design. These sessions with Tracie provide an opportunity for the VNYC to become strongly connected with the rest of the organisation by being well-informed about its activities and maintaining an open communication channel, which is particularly important given its advisory role.

On this retreat, the VNYC continued to build its skillset, this time with a focus on communication. Beginning with a youth-led discussion about the principles of professionalism and finer communication skills that can be used to represent the council best, the retreat work continued with ways to use and organise information effectively, in particular by using different approaches to notetaking and brainstorming. Finally, VNYC members applied a variety of different public speaking techniques to deliver short introductory speeches.

Each retreat now has a time allocated for policy feedback on Sunday mornings. At this meeting, Simon Harger-Forde, a consultant from Pātai, spent the morning discussing with us a project he is supporting to increase the number of young people with care experience engaged in VOYCE through employment. This exciting conversation resulted in the VNYC forming a smaller group to participate in upcoming co-design workshops which begin in February. To continue the process of fulfilling its advisory role, the VNYC then had an open discussion about their high-level aspirations for changes to the New Zealand care system, before narrowing down to four priority areas to focus on over the coming year. The VNYC will present these policy recommendations to the CEO at the next meeting.

It is now the halfway point in the year-long VNYC leadership programme, one in which a diverse range of youth have been able to come together to form a cohesive group of developing leaders. This has been through formal learning of a variety of key skills and simply due to the extended time spent together which provides valuable opportunities to engage in group discussion and share experiences to form a group identity, as well as to bond during more informal activities.

The next leadership retreat will substantially contribute to this learning process as the VNYC focuses on a significant skill which will take up three of the upcoming five retreats – curriculum development.  It will once again take place at Ferndale Lodge in early February 2020.