Young Leaders emerge as the Kiwisaver Amendment Bill is discussed

Their intention was clear – to speak to the idea of equity for care experienced individuals in Aotearoa New Zealand.

With the guidance of VOYCE Whakarongo Mai National Operations Manager Tracie Shipton, National Youth Councillors Jacob Batten and Jen Thonrithi delivered heartfelt and resonating messages to the Select Committee Hearing on the KiwiSaver (Foster Parents Opting in for Children in their Care) Amendment Bill.

The verbal submissions were heard last week in Parliament.

“As a young care experienced person, I have dealt with the issue of not being heard, ignored and pushed to the side countless of times. It has become a goal in my life to take every opportunity available to me, no matter how small the advantage and/or award. I promised myself to devote every bit of energy that I have to ensure that my pain has not been in vain as well as remember that in every moment that I am able to walk through the door,” Jen said.

Jen said being part of creating change for other care experienced people is a spectacular feeling.

“There is a huge difference between the submissions of others and mine and Jacob’s submissions because and that is our experience as foster children. That is not to diminish the submissions of others, in fact I am grateful, but when you are talking from experience it is so much more powerful.”

Jacob echoed how empowering the process was.

“Presenting a submission to the Social Services Select Committee has made me feel like my voice can be heard on a national level…The honor of presenting to many MPs has continued to make me feel reassured and happy with the work I am doing in my community and has continued to prove to myself and many other young people who have been through difficult situations that nothing can hold you back or stop you from achieving your goals and having a positive future.”

Both young leaders encourage other young people to stand up for change and to be part of the movement.

“It is important for other young people to know that they are capable of change. Contributing to change doesn’t start at a certain age, it starts the moment you are born,” Jen said.

“You’re voice is important. In fact it is needed. You are change, we are change. I am forever thankful for my VOYCE – Whakarongo Mai family for the continuous support. They have made so many things possible for me and are the few people who have acknowledged my potential and hard work. Mark my words, this is only the start. I, Jennifer Thonrithi alongside VOYCE will only continue to stand together for others.”