The opening of the new office in Kaikohe was an inspiring occasion for VOYCE – Whakarongo Mai and the region of Te Tai Tokerau. This marked a significant milestone that enables our team in Kaikohe to have their own space, but more importantly, also serving as a hub with easy access for the young people in the region.

(L-R) Zhyneishya Harris, Diane Heta, Hunia Mackay, Te Hiwi Preston, Mahina-Bell Preston, Tanisha Batten, Jamaya Stewart-Hayes, Tracie Shipton, Briarley Birch and Tara Lee

The event saw just under 60 people attend from various stakeholders, iwi provider, government agencies and community. The team was honoured to host Liz Marsden, General Manager of Ngapuhi Iwi Social Services and member of the Governance Board of VOYCE.

(L-R) Michelle Thompson, Liz Marsden and Te Hiwi Preston

Liz, supported by her team from Ngapuhi Iwi Social Services, brought the house down with their beautiful voices – singing Te Tai Tokerau anthems and reminding attendees why Kaikohe is known as the pito of Ngapuhi.

Jamaya Stewart-Hayes our Masters of Ceremony

One of the highlights was having several young people involved in the planning and delivery of the opening event. Those who played key roles were:

  • Jamaya Stewart-Hayes – was one of several young people who travelled to Melbourne in 2019 with a small contingent of VOYCE kaimahi to attend the CREATE Conference. On the evening, Jamaya was our Master of Ceremonies and led the program to perfection. She also spoke on Whakatairanga which is to promote the collective voice of young people with care experience.
  • Zhyneishya Harris – a quiet achiever, was acknowledged for her sporting achievements as a current representative with the Te Tai Tokerau Women’s Rugby League team. With the support of her Kaiwhakamana Diane Heta, they together spoke about Tuhono, which is about connecting young people in care with each other.
  • Tanisha Batten – a recipient of a Prime Ministers Oranga Tamariki Award, was the host and welcomed all of our manuhiri and VIP guests with finesse. She spoke about Whakamana (advocating with children and young people in care) and Whai Pukenga (helping to equip children and young people for the future).

Tracie Shipton, Chief Executive of VOYCE, attended alongside the Kaihautū – Kaupapa Māori of VOYCE, Hunia Mackay. On the evening, all were captivated as Tracie recounted the history of VOYCE – the back story of taking young people to parliament, wananga up and down the country and the incredible support from iwi and stakeholders. Her speech centred on the importance of advocacy, leadership, equipping, connection, and the power of a strong collective voice.

Tracie Shipton, Chief Executive of VOYCE – Whakarongo Mai

The event also welcomed several young people, their caregivers, supportive whanau and networks. It was an important reminder of why VOYCE exists and the impact of strong, inclusive, and robust advocacy with children, young people and their whanau. The event was wrapped up with an official welcome by the landlord and his wife, who gifted the young people a basket full of treats.