It has been a long journey from living in state care to receiving a national award for young Dunedin woman Kered Taylor.
Miss Taylor (18) was among 20 young people presented with the Prime Minister’s Oranga Tamariki Award (formerly the William Wallace Award) at Parliament on Tuesday.
The awards recognise exceptional young people who have overcome a challenging start in life to demonstrate huge potential.
They were presented by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Minister for Children Tracey Martin.
Miss Taylor’s award in the tertiary category comes with $3000 which will help fund further youth work studies.
She graduated with a youth work certificate from Wellington training organisation Praxis this year, and plans to complete a diploma next year.
“My aim is to be able to work with young people who have alcohol or drug addiction, or who are in the youth justice system,” Miss Taylor said.
“Looking back, I just want to give back to young me, and help a young person before they get to the point I was then.”
Having the “cool” opportunity to meet Ms Ardern, and receiving such a prestigious award, shows how far Miss Taylor has come in the five years since she went into state care.
“After a family breakdown, I didn’t want to be at home, so I started running away,” she said.
Miss Taylor went in to care at the age of 13 years and remained there on and off until she was 17.
Along the way, she experienced alcohol and drug problems, as well as mental health issues which resulted in two admissions to Wakari Hospital.
Miss Taylor appreciates the support she received over that time, and acknowledges the efforts of many people who worked with her.
She believes it is important when working with young people to “let them paint their own canvas, don’t paint it for them”.
“There is not ‘one glove that fits all’ when it comes to young people.”
Miss Taylor is doing the youth worker training alongside working with young people at Presbyterian Support Otago’s Youth Grow plant nursery and Stepping Stones community service for adults with long-term mental health issues.
She also volunteers with Rock Solid youth group, working with youngsters in years 9 and 10.
Miss Taylor has also shared her experiences as a speaker at conferences in Dunedin and at Massey University.
Dunedin-based social worker Karen McPike said Miss Taylor was a very deserving recipient of the award.
“She has worked really hard and come a long way,” Ms McPike said.