Tell us a bit about yourself. How did you get to be where you are today?
I left my hometown of Porirua for the UK on a 4-year Ancestry Visa in 2005 with every intention of heading back home in 2009. It’s 2020, I am still in the UK and my family and I became dual citizens last year.
With a career in catering and events I continued in this work when arriving in London, finding myself working in hotels selling meeting and event space and organising catering services for events at the British Museum. Since 2012 I have been a freelancer working on my own projects which included colouring books for adults and other projects such as a research assistant for broadcast series Dream Catchers, a membership manager for an Australian and New Zealand Festival of Literature and Arts, even working for Kiwi owned butchery group Provenance. Outside of work I have enjoyed connecting with the NZ Community in London. Since discovering the diverse range of networks available for Kiwis in the UK, I have volunteered with the New Zealand Business Women’s Network, Kiwi House during the London 2012 Olympics and New Zealand Society UK.
In 2015 I commenced my role with Kea New Zealand as the UK/Europe Regional Director. I work to support the aspirations of our nation through our connection service, celebrate the success of Kiwis around the globe with the World Class network, and bring people together with our Inspire events. Kea encompasses all my passions of events, people, networking, providing connections to enable success, and the celebration of New Zealanders achievements around the globe.
What does it mean to you to be named the Air New Zealand UK New Zealander of the Year for 2020?
Being named a finalist alongside Jarred Christmas was a great honour. It is very humbling to have been announced as the winner. My sincere thanks to Air New Zealand, the New Zealand Society (UK) and the kind person who took the time to nominate me.
My nomination recognises the peace vigil which was held at Trafalgar Square a week on from the Christchurch Mosque Shootings in March 2019. It was important to the New Zealand community groups here in London that we show our support and love to the Muslim Community, people of Ōtautahi, Christchurch and our home nation Aotearoa, New Zealand. I will be forever grateful for the trust that our community put in me to lead from among us and bring this event together.
The vigil was supported by so many people, with guidance provided by leaders in our community, and made all the more possible because of the example being led by the people of New Zealand. This resulted in a truly special evening of love, peace and unity. The memory of hearing The Adhan being called out over Trafalgar Square shortly followed by the Haka, with thousands of citizens of the world in attendance will be with me forever.
To those whose lives have been changed forever. Never forgotten. Forever in our hearts. They are us.
What are the perks and challenges of living so far away from New Zealand?
The opportunity to travel to places of interest with ease is a definite perk. Our UK friends have become family, and we have established a life that we enjoy in our adoptive home.
The challenge continues to be that we miss our loved ones in the Southern Hemisphere. No one really warns you that once you leave and create a new home, you will be forever missing someone somewhere. We are forever faced with the challenging question of ‘when are we going home’ and the answer seems to change with the seasons. I’m still waiting for that day when you apparently wake up and decide it's time to head home. This being said, I am grateful to be an expat at a time when we have technology which allows us to speak with loved ones around the globe at the click of an icon.
What are your experiences of the Kiwi community in London?
We had lived here for six years before I sought out the Kiwi community. In January 2011 we returned to the UK after a glorious month-long holiday in New Zealand. I missed home, but knew I wasn’t ready to move back. It was a British friend who introduced me to the New Zealand Business Womens Network. Joining this network led me to meeting new people but also opened a broader view as to what New Zealanders were achieving here. Volunteering at one of the fundraising efforts after the Christchurch February 22nd Earthquake gave me a sense of the different community groups in London who are all focused on the connection between NZ and the UK. It wasn’t long before I joined the New Zealand Society (UK) committee and was President from 2013 to 2015. Since joining Kea in 2015 I have had the privilege of working closely with many of those who lead the way in supporting our nation and expats in the UK.
To me the Kiwi Community is made up of New Zealand Inc government agencies, New Zealand community groups, university alumni, business owners and individuals. Many of the community groups are led by volunteers, and offer opportunities to connect with home across diverse subjects such as arts and culture, social gatherings, industry specific learning, sport and business networking. The beauty of the community is that it wants you to get on with creating your own great experience and life here in the UK but is here for you when needed.
London is not unique in having opportunities to connect with home. There are well established communities in places such as Scotland, Ireland, The Netherlands, Germany, France, Luxembourg, Belgium to name a few, where Kiwis get together for social gatherings, to celebrate special times of year such as Waitangi and ANZAC Day, and to support each other in their endeavours. Kea NZ was born out of this inherent willingness to help each other. Last but not least, I don’t think I am alone in being grateful to all of the Kiwis who have led the way in changing the coffee and brunch scene in the UK and Europe!
Why is it still relevant to you and other Kiwis to commemorate Waitangi Day while living out of New Zealand?
The signing of Te Tiriti o Waitangi - The Treaty of Waitangi is an incredibly significant event in Aotearoa New Zealand’s history, with Waitangi Day being a time of year when expats come together and acknowledge our home nation and its history.
I understand that this is so much more than a national day, but it does present a chance for me to draw attention to our nation through sharing stories of our history, culture, traditions, food and beverage with my non-Kiwi friends and colleagues.
For example I have been attending the NZ Society Waitangi Day Charity ball in London since 2012, and over the years have had friends from Austria, Australia, England and Gran Canaria attend. Only a few of them have travelled to New Zealand, and have loved the taste of our nation through Kapa Haka, wine, food and warm hospitality.