Children and young people with experience of being in care are celebrated the official launch of VOYCE – Whakarongo Mai at the weekend, their independent connection and advocacy service.

“Helping set up VOYCE – Whakarongo Mai and see it turn from an idea and a calling from children and young people, into reality, has been a real journey and a privilege,” says Monique Goodhew, a member of the service’s initial Board, and of the former Youth Advisory Panel to the Minister for Social Development.  “I look forward to seeing how the service grows in the future, to connect and walk alongside children and young people in care to make sure they are listened to.”

VOYCE – Whakarongo Mai means ‘Voice of the Young and Care Experienced – Listen to me’.

More than 200 children, young people, their caregivers and members of the care community are attended a fun and child-focused launch event on Saturday afternoon.  Further special guests include Associate Minister for Children Alfred Ngaro, who is attending on behalf of Minister for Children Anne Tolley, Chief Executive of the new Oranga Tamariki, Gráinne Moss, and Children’s Commissioner Judge Andrew Becroft.

VOYCE – Whakarongo Mai’s four philanthropic partners; The Tindall Foundation, Vodafone Foundation New Zealand, Todd Foundation and Foundation North, will also be represented, together with key NGO partners Dingwall Trust and Ngāpuhi Iwi Social Services.  Young people took a leading role in organising the event, arranging the MC’ing and invitations to speak, fantastic cultural performances, and special presentation to the service’s different partners.

“The launch of VOYCE – Whakarongo Mai marks a milestone that in time will have a huge impact on the care system in New Zealand,” says John McCarthy, The Tindall Foundation Manager and Chair of the VOYCE – Whakarongo Mai Board.  “Partnering with children and young people, and organisations from across philanthropy, the care sector, and government to design and set up this much needed service is an initiative the Tindall Foundation is proud to be part of.”

The service will advocate with children and young people and provide an independent voice to Oranga Tamariki and the wider care system.  As well as its advocacy function, a major part of what the service will do is connection, to create a sense of community and positive identity for children and young people in care by organising engaging and interactive events and activities.

“It is my hope and my belief that VOYCE – Whakarongo Mai will help children and young people to connect to their culture, their roots, and to each other,” says Tupua Urlich, who is also a member of the service’s initial Board, and of the former Youth Advisory Panel.  “Connection and culture is just so vital to children and young people, and is something that a lot of kids in care miss out on growing up, myself included, which is why I am so optimistic about the service and its promise to our tamariki.”

VOYCE – Whakarongo Mai will be starting small and focusing initially on building strong and sustainable connections with children and young people in care, with more formal phone and online advocacy functions established later in 2017.

“Children and young people fundamentally deserve to connect with each other and be listened to, and New Zealand’s care system has been crying out for a service like this for many years.  We are absolutely ecstatic that VOYCE – Whakarongo Mai is now here to stand with young people, to ensure their voices are heard and respected,” says Tracie Shipton, Director of Dingwall Trust and a key member of the team behind VOYCE – Whakarongo Mai.