Y25 Hui 2020

25 Kickass Wāhine Meet For The Y25


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August 07, 2020 Angela Barnett

The 25 young women on this year’s Y25 came from all over the country ranging from stigma smashing artists to socially conscious entrepreneurs to daredevil community leaders to gutsy environmentalists to human rights activists. They’re all doing incredible things in their own worlds so we knew we had to bring together an incredible lineup of speakers at the inaugural hui in Auckland.

Our line up of speakers had to be as diverse as the young wāhine in the room. 

The two day hui was based on the Māori health model, Te Whare Tapa Whā, where speakers and teachers talked about realising potential, trusting intuition, strengthening identity, raising voices and advocating together. We wanted all 25 to feel connected to each other and leave knowing there are 24 other women like them: doing, making, shaking, creating and making changing — and they’re not waiting until the world thinks they’re old enough! 

First off we had Theia, the up and coming musician making ‘socially-conscious and deeply catchy pop music’ (according to the Spinoff and us) and whose single, ‘Roam’, has been streamed more than 13.2 million times on Spotify. Theia’s opened for the Broods and Sia, so we thought it was fitting she opened for us. She shared her story of how challenging it has been in the music industry as femxle & Māori, “where misogyny exists strongly and how I’ve become strong & fearless in my identity.”

"I've just got to a place where I'm going to do my thing!"

Next was a joint interview with Karen Walker and Kathryn Wilson. Karen Walker is Aotearoa New Zealand's most successful, global fashion designer; she is the lead character in her own blockbuster fashion story. And Kathryn Wilson is one of the fastest-growing fashion brands in the country with her shoes being worn by Beyoncé (and Beyoncé's daughter). We asked them both about failures and successes, and one of the 25, Sophia Maltus who lives with a spinal chord injury, had this question for Karen Walker: “Some brands offer free alterations to garments to promote and enable independent dressing - is this something you can offer for people living with a disability?’

This was Karen's response, “You know, this is why I like being involved in initiatives like this as I get to learn too. We don’t offer anything like that and your question made me think ‘why the hell not’ so I’m going to get onto that.” And just like that another small change happened to make the world more open and accepting of all bodies. 

"You will experience failure, every day" ... "Every problem is solvable with creativity, every one of them!" 

"Slow down, what’s the worst that could happen? Surround yourself with people who are smarter than you but put on your own oxygen mask before others."

Chloé Swarbrick then flew in (literally) from Wellington and blew us all away, talking with no notes, and from the heart for 30 minutes. Chloé is an MP for the Green Party and spokesperson for mental health, drug law reform, education, arts and heritage and youth and local government. She’s been a law student, journalist, business owner and a community project leader and is the youngest MP in Aotearoa New Zealand for over 40 years - she entered Parliament at 23. Plus she’s now world famous for ‘OK Boomer!’ She told all 25 "You're all amazing but you all already know that! Nobody ever changes the world alone! We are all part of social change." 


"The thing about inspiration is that we don’t realise it’s like a mirror."  

Next up was Qiane Matata-Sipu. You can't describe Qiane in a sentence. She's a writer, award-winning photographer, one of the founders of SOUL campaigning for families residing in Ihumātao, and creator of NUKU, a social impact story-telling project profiling '100 kickass indigenous wahine' from all over the country. We think Qiane's pretty kickass and we knew the 25 would too. Qiane shared, from a couch in the front of the room, her story and how she was going to prove herself right (and a careers teacher wrong) about what she could do. "I don't care if you don't like me, I don't care about your opinion of me or if you don't like what I'm doing cause I like what I'm doing and I'm going to do it anyway." She also shared some of the stories of the incredible indigenous wāhine she’s been documenting. 

"Stories are what change the world". 

Oriini Kaipara followed Qiane, making time for the Y25 in a busy day of shooting and editing. Oriini Kaipara, TVNZ journalist and news presenter, made history by becoming the first journalist on broadcast television with a moko kauae. West Auckland-based, Oriini was brought up fully immersed in te reo and Māori traditions as a child attending Māori language schools including Hoani Waititi until her late teens. As one of Aotearoa's most well-known Māori reporters, one of Oriini's missions now is to normalise her language and culture with the help of the moko kauae. She shared her authentic story and had the room laughing one minute and blinking away tears the next. "My aim is just to be the best me I can be."

Oriini told the 25 they are “our country’s most gifted, driven, determined and powerful leaders - our rangatahi. He wahine te katoa. You’re each selected for the tremendous work you do to help your hapori (communities) and are changing the game wherever you go.”

"We, as Māori, fundamentally believe in manaakitanga and aroha"

Next was the Y’s very own youth ambassador, Verity Johnson, who shared her authentic story of being thrust into the limelight at 18 with a column in the New Zealand Herald, then at 21 finding herself under a bigger spotlight on the Paul Henry Breakfast show, and how all that attention can “screw you up big time”. Verity is a writer, columnist, TV presenter, social commentator and regular panelist known for her fiery, funny feminist voice on many issues regarding young people. She bought all that fiery fabulousness to the Y25, not only sharing her story, but MC'ing for the whole day. 

Wrapping up the day we finished with a topic everyone relates to: the dreaded imposter syndrome. The team from On The Rag, Michele A’Court, Alex Casey and Leonie Hayden tackled the subject with brutal beautiful honesty sharing their own feelings of imposter syndrome and tactics to deal with it. Michele names her imposter, which can help to “put her in her place”. Leonie advocates for trusting those around you when you feel it lurking. Alex said she tells herself "I will never know less than I do right now, from here on I'm going to know more!" when she feels new at something to relieve her bossy syndrome.

"It's not about your ability, if it doesn't fit your values, don't do it, you'll feel terrible if you succeed or not."

And after all that listening we got down to some serious talking and Feminist Cocktails with the crew form Black Pineapple. 

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The Y25 list and programme is a celebration of the force of our young wāhine toa

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