Police, candlemaker Downlights, and MBIE among winners of diversity awards

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) has won the top prize at the 2020 Diversity Awards with its internship programme designed to “grow the tide” of Pacific peoples in public policy.

MBIE’s Tupu Tai intern initiative, a paid 11-week summer internship for Pasifika tertiary students and recent graduates, was given the Supreme Award on Wednesday night.

The internship was established in 2015 when Pacific peoples made up just 1 per cent of the total policy workforce, despite making up 8 per cent of the total public sector workforce.

That grew to 8.2 per cent of the policy workforce last year.

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MBIE wins the top prize at the Diversity Awards with its Tupu Tai intern programme.


MBIE wins the top prize at the Diversity Awards with its Tupu Tai intern programme.

“As well as providing opportunities for the interns, many of whom shared amazing stories, it’s amplifying Pacific voices and creating tūākana (mentor) roles for many Pasifika peoples in the public sector,” said judging convener Kirstin Te Wao.

The programme started with a single policy intern placement within MBIE, and has grown to 41 placements across 21 public sector agencies.

“New Zealand’s Pacific community is one of the youngest and fastest growing ethnic population groups in New Zealand and is going to play an increasingly important role in shaping our future, yet Pacific representation in policy roles across government is low,” said MBIE chief executive Carolyn Tremain.

Police won the Emerging Diversity and Inclusion award.

A police programme for Year 13 high school students helped demystify police roles, said Kawerau sergeant Shane Tailby. Offered to 61 North Island schools, it led to an increase in young Maori and Pacific applicants to join the police.

Police win the Emerging Diversity and Inclusion award.


Police win the Emerging Diversity and Inclusion award.

“During the implementation of the programme within Tarawera High School, police noticed the challenges many students faced,” he said.

“These including family harm, friends being seriously injured in road accidents and community members in prison. Through the programme, students also begin to see staff in a different light, thus developing a positive bond.”

Participants in the programme worked with local police staff. Their experiences range from mock breath-test stops and station tours to physical fitness days.

Handmade soy candlemaker Downlights won the Breaking Barriers award.

When Emma Sykes, who has Down syndrome, couldn’t find work after finishing school, she and her father Tony decided to start a candlemaking business.

Emma and Nicki Sykes with some of the Moxie crew.


Emma and Nicki Sykes with some of the Moxie crew.

In its first year, Downlights had a turnover of $120,000, and what started as a hobby grew into a social enterprise providing pathways into work for young people with disabilities.

Emma was joined at Downlights by her sister Nicki, who also has Down syndrome, and both are shareholders.

Downlights offered work experience to people with disabilities through Moxie (Meaningful Opportunities X-ing Into Employment), and earlier this year offered its first work experience graduate a part-time position.