Their Royal Highnesses, Prince Harry, and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, recently visited New Zealand. In honour of their visit, the Prime Minister Rt Hon Jacinda Ardern hosted a reception on 30 October 2018 at the Auckland War Memorial Museum, supported by the Office of Ethnic Communities. The Office of Ethnic Communities recommended a group of young leaders from the Chinese, Ethiopian, Filipino, Indian, Japanese, and Pakistani communities to participate in the event.

The Prime Minister opened the event with an address, where she said that although young leaders felt like they were there to meet their Royal Highnesses, in fact it was the royals who were there to meet young leaders as a result of their community work and achievements.

Nardos Tilhan, a sitting member of the Albert-Eden Youth Board of Auckland Council and one of the Office of Ethnic Communities Young Leader’s alumni, described the reception as a moment to celebrate the advancements young people have made in advocating for their respective causes and taking leadership roles within their communities. According to Nardos, the reception was an “acknowledgement of young people’s voice from adults in places of power and influence”. She explained that she felt there was “openness to diverse thinking and curiosity about the challenges we had faced as young ethnic leaders.” The highlights of the event for Nardos were the opportunity to network with other young leaders and learn more about their work, leadership achievements and challenges.

Tara Handa, Head Girl of Rangitoto College, said that the reception “brought attention to the influential power of youth leadership” and its potential. She explained that the Duke of Sussex, Prince Harry, delivered an inspiring speech about the powerful effect young and forward thinking leaders have on the path towards positive change in the world. Tara explained that she was moved during Prince Harry’s speech, especially when he said “your generation is quite literally energising the world and don't ever stop fighting for what you believe in”. She stated that “it was remarkably moving to hear the Duke of Sussex expressing his recognition of the work of young leaders around me in the room”.

After the formal speeches there was an opportunity for the young leaders to meet the Duchess of Sussex. They discussed with her the challenges of leadership specific to those from ethnic minorities. The Duchess commented on the importance of fighting to overcome barriers that limit the potential of ethnic communities, and the significance of utilising the resources that the younger generation has.

The young leaders present at the reception enjoyed the event and described the atmosphere of the night as motivational and inspirational. One of the focus areas that guide the work of the Office of Ethnic Communities is valuing the diverse cultures and ethnicities within communities, wider society and the nation. The visit to New Zealand by the Duke and Duchess of Sussex provided a great opportunity for the Office of Ethnic Communities to connect and celebrate the contributions that young ethnic leaders make to New Zealand.

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