The nomination of Ms Brianna Fruean, for the “University of Canterbury Young New Zealander of the Year 2021 - Te Mātātahi o te Tau” was a joyful moment for the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP).
Ms Fruean worked very closely with SPREP as the first youth Ambassador for the leading environmental organisation of the Pacific in 2015 at 16 years of age.
Yet her friendship with SPREP started well before that at aged nine when Ms Fruean shared her vision for a resilient Pacific and the steps she was taking to address climate change with a room full of journalists from across the Pacific region. The reporters were in Samoa for a Climate Change Media Workshop coordinated by SPREP.
“We are very proud to know that Brianna was nominated for this prestigious award and congratulate her as well as her family and all those that have supported Brianna on this journey,” said Mr Kosi Latu, Director General of SPREP.
“Brianna is a dedicated young woman that has consistently worked to do what she can – she persevered and inspired many even at a very young age. SPREP is honoured to have worked with Brianna helping to raise the voice of our Pacific island youth encouraging environment protection for our Pacific resilience. She was an admirable SPREP Youth Ambassador.”
Ms Fruean has always encouraged positive action from people of all ages. She was working with other school children at nine to organise tree planting activities, beach clean ups and encouraging car-pooling. She had also worked with students to start their own green projects from composting to planting sustainable vegetable gardens.
At 11 years of age Ms Fruean started a children’s eco-group at her school called Small Voices in 2010, this soon grew to spread across five different schools in Samoa. In 2011 she presented at the very first Pacific Environment Forum coordinated by SPREP and then at aged 14 she was part of the Pacific media team led by SPREP at the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) at aged 14.
In 2015 Ms Fruean became the very first SPREP Youth Ambassador, having also won the Commonwealth Youth Award for her work for the environment.
“It’s such an honor to have received the nomination and to be put on a list with some amazing people. I wasn’t expecting it and definitely didn’t think it was something even within my reach,” said Ms Fruean.
“Being the SPREP Youth Ambassador was such a valuable and important time in my journey. I learnt so much from everyone at SPREP who spared time to mentor and show me the ropes. I often go back to my notebooks I kept during my time in the role because I still use those lessons to this day.”
Ms Fruean is currently studying at Auckland University, and is still very much active towards her passion. She sits on the Council of Elders for the Pacific Climate Warriors, continues to amplify the Pacific voice at the UN Climate Change Conferences and was an organising member of the School Strike 4 Climate in Auckland.
There are six award categories for the New Zealander of the Year Award, the winners of which will be announced on 1 March 2021, those being; New Zealand of the Year, Young New Zealander of the Year, Senior New Zealander of the Year, New Zealand Innovator of the Year, New Zealand Community of the Year and New Zealand Local Hero. In all there are 60 New Zealanders nominated for the awards in full.
“We wish you all the best Brianna, know that we are very proud of your accomplishments to date and we look forward to the amazing achievements we know you have ahead in your journey through life. Onwards and upwards, Brianna,” said Mr Latu.
To learn more about the New Zealander of the Year Awards 2021 please visit https://nzawards.org.nz/