Isaiah Apiata - Young Leader of the Year in Te Hāpai Hāpori Spirit of Service Awards

Published: November 25, 2021

Youth Justice and Ngāpuhi rangatira, Isaiah Apiata, has been named Young Leader of the Year in Te Hāpai Hāpori Spirit of Service Awards for his contribution to social services, Māori-Crown relations, and the revitalisation of Māori culture.

Te Hapai Hapori
Sam Napia, Chief Executive Ngāpuhi, Doug Hauraki - Pou Tikanga (Oranga Tamariki), Isaiah Apiata, Muritere Apiata, Allan Boreham, Deputy Chief Executive Youth Justice Services.

The awards, organised by the Public Service Commission, celebrate outstanding public sector governance, young leaders, and initiatives across central and local government. “As a successful recipient of the Young Leader’s Award the honour is not mine alone but it’s to be celebrated by the collective and that’s inclusive of all staff.”

Isaiah also spoke of his commitment to tamariki through his mahi at Oranga Tamariki. “The most spoken value within Te Ao Māori is the value of aroha (aroha tētahi ki tētahi). I encourage us to carry on the good work we’re doing collectively with the children at the centre of our focus receiving the majority of the love we have to share.”

A welcome force of change

Oranga Tamariki Chief Executive Chappie Te Kani says the award marks a significant milestone that celebrates Māori leadership in the public sector.

“We are extremely proud of Isaiah – he’s a role model and mentor, who’s passionate about sharing cultural knowledge and indigenous philosophies for the betterment of all people in Aotearoa.

“His mahi, energy and commitment are a welcome force of change in the public sector.”

Isaiah is currently seconded to Te Rūnanga-Ā-Iwi-Ō-Ngāpuhi for the role of Governmental Relationships Manager.

Guiding strength through cultural identity

Isaiah has been a dedicated public servant since he was 18 when he started as a prison guard in Kaikohe. Over his eight years with the Department of Corrections, Isaiah says he learnt that everyone has a story and once you get to the heart of it, that's where you can start to build relationships.

This motivated Isaiah to join Oranga Tamariki in Kaikohe. In his role as Youth Justice Coordinator, he has been committed to improving outcomes for Māori under the Treaty of Waitangi and has excelled as a leader in the public sector and his community.

Aroha Tahere, Te Tai Tokerau Youth Justice Manager, nominated Isaiah for the impact he has made within the public sector and his community to support taitamariki and their whānau, hāpu and iwi.

“He’s guided many young people away from crime towards positive life pathways through strengthening their cultural identity and reconnecting to whakapapa.”

A committment to Te Ao Māori

Isaiah was raised by his kuia and kaumatua and spent much of his early years on marae. He didn't receive tertiary training but learnt exceptional skills in engagement and communication through his immersion in Te Ao Māori.

Outside of his work as a public servant, he is making a significant contribution to culture, arts, religion, and Crown-Māori relations. For example, he led the wero for Jacinda Ardern's powhiri as Prime Minister at Waitangi in 2018, and he is kaikōrero at Te Tii Marae every year for Waitangi Day.

He’s passionate about sharing cultural knowledge and indigenous philosophies with younger generations, and he's regularly involved in youth leadership and mentoring programs.

Isaiah is also part of the Church of Latter-Day Saints and is the Māori advisor to the only te reo Māori speaking ward of the church in the world. He sits on the translation team that has been tasked with translating scriptures that are hundreds of years old into te reo Māori.​​​​​​​

Find out more about Te Hāpai Hāpori Spirit of Service Awards

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