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Pacific voice recognised for prestigious NZ award

23 February 2024

The 2024 University of Canterbury Young New Zealander of the Year Award Te Mātātahi o te Tau finalists have been announced as part of the Kiwibank New Zealander of the Year Awards. 


These young finalists are trailblazers in their diverse areas of influence, each striving to make a positive impact, and improve Aotearoa.  

Josiah Tualamali’i

UC postgraduate student Josiah Tualamali’i is a finalist for the Young New Zealander of the Year Award for his work towards mental health and systemic change in the community.

After earning his BA (in Political Science and International Relations, and History),  Tualamali’i began studying for his Master of Arts degree (in New Zealand and Pacific History) at Te Whare Wānanga o Waitaha | University of Canterbury (UC).  Tualamali’i, who has Samoan and Pākehā ancestry, describes himself as totolua (in his words, blessed with two bloods). Tualamali’i drives social justice as a wellbeing governance professional who champions children’s rights, advises the government, and advocates for positive community change.

"It is special to me that UC is sponsoring this award. When I was 14 and applied to be in the PYLAT Pacific Youth Parliament our two training days were here UC's MacMillan Brown Centre for Pacific studies in March 2010. UC Pacific staff and students were crucial supporters of our community to dream of and encourage the leadership of young people in this programme,” Tualamali’i says.

At 14, Tualamali’i participated in the Pacific Youth Parliament, which led him to co-establish the Pacific Youth Leadership and Transformation Trust. Following the Ōtautahi earthquakes, Tualamali’i was part of the network who founded Youth Voice Canterbury, a network supporting young people to have a voice and get involved in decision-making. He has also been a panel member of the Government Inquiry into Mental Health and Addiction and volunteered with UNICEF and the World Health Organisation.

“My family and our UC Pacific community is a very precious part of what encourages me, and all the allies that are here and have served here. Thank you to every member of the Pacific Development Team who has supported me in my study and community work for 10 years - also happy 20th Birthday Pacific Development Team!”

As an influential voice for Pacific people, Josiah co-wrote a chapter in the University’s 150th anniversary book A New History: The University of Canterbury 1873-2023. The then 28-year-old contributed to the chapter, “The Ocean in Us: The Pacific and the University of Canterbury” considering the University’s Pacific history. Read more about his influence here.

Ihorangi Reweti Peters (Ngāti Tūwharetoa, Ngāti Kahungunu, Ngāti Tahu-Ngāti Whaoa)

With an upbringing in state care, Reweti Peters draws on his personal experiences as a passionate advocate for young people. Reweti Peters co-chairs Te Hiringa Mahara – Mental Health and Wellbeing Commission’s Expert Advisory Group, advising on how to improve the mental health and wellbeing of young New Zealanders.

Simran Kaur

Simran Kaur is the founder of Girls That Invest, a social media platform that aims to close the gender gap in investing. Kaur helps women unapologetically generate wealth. Her podcast’s popularity transcends offshore with over 6 million downloads worldwide. She is a 2023 Forbes under 30 Honouree (Asia), a University of Auckland 40 under 40 and has been featured in TEDx US, Vogue, Business Insider and Oxford Women in Business.

“I would like to recognise the dedication and mahi of all New Zealander of the Year Award category finalists and offer a special congratulations to our University of Canterbury Young New Zealander of the Year finalists, as well as our UC community and alumni finalists in other award categories, UC Amokapua | Assistant Vice-Chancellor Brett Berquist says.

“At UC, we’re proud to sponsor the Young New Zealander of the Year Award Te Mātātahi o te Tau and honour the outstanding contributions made by young Kiwis to the wellbeing of New Zealand.

Members of the UC community have also been recognised in other 2024 Award categories”.

Kiwibank New Zealand Local Hero of the Year Te Pou Toko o te Tau finalist

Dr Olive Webb ONZM

Dr Webb has dedicated her life to advocating for people with learning disabilities. She works tirelessly to support not only New Zealanders with intellectual impairments, but their whānau and support networks. Dr Webb is a respected advisor who has transformed service providers by offering her invaluable guidance. As a UC graduate with a Master of Arts in Psychology, Dr Webb is a valued member of our community.

Mitre 10 New Zealand Community of the Year 2024 award Ngā Pou Whirinaki o te Tau finalist


Supporting over 1,700 people across Ōtautahi Canterbury every year to overcome the harms of violence, Aviva is trusted in the community for helping at-risk whānau and communities to live in safer homes and a violence-free life. Aviva is part of the UC community through their ongoing support for UC research projects, educational presentations, and student placements for work-integrated learning.

“We strongly value our relationship with UC and the ability to share knowledge and collectively make positive social impact” – Nicki O'Donnell, Co-Leader and General Manager – Corporate at Aviva

Spark New Zealand Innovator of the Year Te Pou Whakairo o te Tau finalists

Stefan & James Powell

After founding Dawn Aerospace in 2017, Stefan and James Powell (a UC graduate in Engineering) have developed the next-generation space economy within Aotearoa New Zealand. They launched reliable green propulsion technology that moves satellites in space, deorbiting them at the end of their lifetime. Striving to make space more accessible and sustainable, Dawn Aerospace continues to have close ties with the UC in Ōtautahi Christchurch.

Brianne West

UC Bachelor of Science graduate Brianne West is the founder and former CEO of Ethique. West has changed the way we think about beauty through launching the world’s most sustainable beauty brand. Ethique has prevented the disposal of over 25 million plastic bottles worldwide. West’s newest enterprise ‘Incrediballs’ aims to create a drinks industry free of plastic bottles. She is also back at UC studying science.

Congratulations to all finalists who have been acknowledged for their dedication to the community. We wish them all the best for the New Zealander of the Year Awards Gala on March 27 in Auckland where the winners of all categories will be announced. 

Josiah speaking to a group of people

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