Inspiring Action: An Interview with Injy Johnstone

22 November 2018

Injy Johnstone (22) began life in the UK before moving to the Balclutha region when she was two years of age. She grew up in the small coastal settlement of Taieri Mouth and moved to Dunedin aged 13 years. It was her experiences with coastal flooding and how that had the potential to impact her ability to attend school that ignited her passion for solving environmental issues.

Injy Johnstone

“I grew up in a coastal town and had a two-kilometre walk to meet the school bus every day along a road that cut through a swamp. When we experienced storm surge or heavy rainfall, this sometimes meant facing up to a one-metre wall of water or missing school altogether. So, from a young age, I realised that we are very much at the mercy of nature. Climate change is no exception to this and there are very real and tangible effects for communities and the people that call them home,” says Injy.

Her interest in the environmental was nurtured by a teacher at high school.

“My Year 11 science teacher picked up that I had an interest in environmental issues, and helped me develop my leadership in this area first in the school, then regionally, and nationally. From this I attended United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development Rio+20 in 2012, where I learnt the importance of getting the combination of science, policy and law right in terms of solving environmental issues – hence my degree structure which gives any sensible person a headache!” she says.

Injy has graduated with a BSc in Environmental Science from Otago University, will finish her LLB (Hons) from Victoria University of Wellington in December 2018, and will complete a BA in Public Policy and Development Studies extramurally through Massey University in 2019. No mean feat!

Injy has put her knowledge and expertise to good use. She has been involved in the New Zealand climate change movement, Generation Zero, as National Administrator; is on the Board of the Endangered Species Foundation, a registered charity committed to preserving New Zealand’s indigenous flora and fauna; and has conducted climate research at NIWA as a Sir Peter Blake Trust Ambassador and worked as a Policy Analyst in the Climate Change team at the Ministry for the Environment. She is the New Zealand representative to the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network and sits on the UNESCO Youth Reference Group. She has even found time to launch an online sustainability platform, Envi.

With such an impressive CV, we asked Injy what she thought were her biggest achievements in the environmental space so far. This is what she had to say:

“The biggest thing I have achieved is the ability to translate a concern for an issue into action. This has led to things such as harnessing a great amount of volunteer time, energy and capacity in environmental and social issues. Highlights have included attending two sessions of the UN General Assembly, leading policy delegations to conferences in places like Armenia and Albania, working on the Zero Carbon Act, and being able to give back my time and energy as a mentor to some of the many budding environmental leaders around Aotearoa.”

A former foster child, Injy established the Foster Child Support Network NZ in 2015, which grew into a team of 40 volunteer students who provided resources, mentorship and advocacy for children in care. Despite suffering from an autoimmune disease, she is determined that this won’t stand in the way of her reaching her goals. She has been selected to take part in the Be Accessible – Be. Leadership development programme and is hoping to encourage workplaces to be more willing to kĊrero about accessibility and unique support needs, so that individuals are recognised for their ability, not their disability. She counts herself lucky that she has been able to turn the difficulties she has faced into strengths that she can use for the good of others.

“The challenges I’ve handled have actually made me into a more resilient and compassionate person. I am lucky, that unlike many others that experience disenfranchisement, I have come through now in a position to help advocate, and use my experience as a driver.”

Reading about all of Injy’s achievements so far, you won’t be surprised to learn that she was a recipient of a Leadership Award at the New Zealand Youth Awards 2018, and was ultimately named as the Senior Supreme Award winner.

Minister and Injy

L-R: Minister for Youth Hon Peeni Henare and Injy Johnstone receiving the Leadership Award

Senior Supreme Award

L-R: Minister for Youth Hon Peeni Henare, Injy Johnstone (Senior Supreme Award recipient) and Linn Araboglos – Director MYD

Government House

Injy and the other New Zealand Youth Awards 2018 recipients outside Government House, Wellington

We asked Injy if she had any advice for other young people in terms of having the confidence to ‘give it a go’.

“The classic phrase ‘If not you, then who? If not now, then when?’ comes to mind. Too often, we wait for people to take action on things that concern us, when we all have that capacity in ourselves to drive change around us. With a vision, determination and grit we can manifest change, as well as attract others that want to share in and support the mahi.”

Injy provides us with an inspiring example of just what our rangatahi are capable of achieving, despite facing challenges along the way. She is a true leader and innovator and we’re sure that we’ll be hearing more about her accomplishments in the future.