Injy Johnstone, who has been working at the Ministry for the Environment as a climate change policy analyst, has taken out the supreme award in the New Zealand Youth Awards 2018 for 12-22 year olds.
Injy achieved the title for her leadership in environmental work, advocacy for foster children and disability matters and being the New Zealand representative on two United Nations groups.
The Minister for Youth Peeni Henare presented the awards at a celebration event in Parliament.
At the age of 14, having immigrated to Dunedin as a young child, Injy was fostered out and learnt first-hand the challenges of that label.
“What was special for me was trying to challenge the stigma of what foster children can do. Most foster children have a deep distrust of government. People are surprised to find out I’ve been in foster care because people presume that if you’re in foster care you’ve done something wrong, but it’s actually the situation you’ve been put in.”
Her environmental work, too, is nothing short of inspirational. This list is not exhaustive, but in 2016 she set up Envi.nz, an online sustainability portal, held a leadership role in Enviroschools, and she was also the climate ambassador for the Sir Peter Blake Trust in 2016/17, having completed the Youth EnviroLeaders’ Forum in 2012.
Injy had clearly impressed those at the trust when the time came for a group to be selected for the Kermadec Voyage.
“I said to them: ‘Everyone’s so amazing here – don’t send me’. They said you are not going to the Kermadecs, you are going to Brazil. As fortune would have it, that was my journey - my friends were going to the Kermadecs and I was going to Brazil.”
Injy, who does all of what she does despite also having an invisible disability, hopes that her efforts and tireless work will mean that those grassroots people have a voice, and are supported to feel heard.
"It is hugely important to acknowledge the mahi that Aotearoa's youth put into the present and future of our nation. The New Zealand Youth Awards recognises the hours, commitment, and perseverance that goes into affecting positive change. For me personally, this award recognises the strength of diversity and inclusivity in leadership particularly for youth with access needs and that come from disadvantaged backgrounds.”