Tackling the Big Issues - An Interview with Kii Small

16 March 2017

When it comes to taking on a challenge, Kii Small has never been one to take a back seat. The 19 year old, Bermudian-born Barbadian is currently studying for a Bachelor of Commerce degree majoring in international business and political science at Victoria University in Wellington.


Kii Small

He’s had an interesting life so far. His family moved to Kaitaia from Hamilton, Bermuda in 2010, after his father secured a teaching job. While studying at Kaitaia College, Kii served as student representative on the Board of Trustees, was a member of the Senior Council, captained the 1st XI soccer team, and represented the school in lawn bowls and indoor soccer.

Moving halfway round the world at 12 years of age, and undertaking the necessary steps to become established in a small Northland town, was instrumental in building the capability and resilience he needed to thrive. He credits his parents with providing him with the necessary skills.

“My mother and father instilled this ‘never give up’ attitude in me as a young kid. I realised that I should never give up on anything, but I also became prepared to give 100% in any environment. I became resilient in any format because I understood that not everything goes to plan, but that doesn’t mean I should crumble when the circumstances change.”

In late 2015, his interest in politics saw him apply to become a Youth MP for Youth Parliament 2016. His essay on lifting voter turnout among Kiwi youth won him a place representing Northland MP Rt Hon Winston Peters.

After noticing that many young people and adults in Kaitaia didn’t appear to take pride in their community, he felt compelled to act. During his six-month Youth Parliament tenure, he partnered with another young person, Shaun Hammond, from Kaitaia to establish a campaign (#rebuildkaitaia) aimed at lifting the town’s image and self-esteem. They produced t-shirts carrying the hash tag in order to demonstrate to people that the wearer was proud of where they came from.

His experience of Youth Parliament was positive and he valued the opportunity to interact with both his MP and with fellow Youth MPs from around the country.

“I learned a lot from my MP, Rt Hon Winston Peters, as well as a lot from the youth in New Zealand and how they are disengaged in politics and civic knowledge. I made many positive networks around New Zealand, and found youth who challenged my way of thinking; which was the most exciting and prosperous experience from the event.”

Kii received a standing ovation from other Youth MPs following his speech on the need to include lessons in the school curriculum on how society works and what democracy means.

International Leadership Award Recipients at Huawei

International Leadership Award recipients including Kii Small, NZ Embassy staff members, and Robyn Scott – Director MYD at Huawei’s Research and Development Centre in Beijing

In September 2016, Kii was one of ten young people selected as a recipient of the Minister for Youth’s International Leadership Award. The award supported outstanding young New Zealanders to access an international opportunity to further develop their leadership skills and the recipients travelled to China where they attended the second-ever New Zealand China Young Leaders Forum.

An important element of the award was a commitment by the recipients to use their international experience to inspire, mentor and foster ongoing leadership opportunities for other young New Zealanders in their community upon their return home. Kii has been busy developing an initiative designed to utilise video and audio narratives aimed at normalising mental health issues for men – the #Sayso Project is now nearing launch.

Kii’s determination to make a difference has helped him to develop clear ideas on how best to become a change maker and he has some advice for other young people who are keen to do the same.

“From the moment you doubt yourself, you have lost. If you want to make a change and are scared or worried about giving it a go, you don’t want it bad enough. Having the drive and ambition to actually commit to something, shows that you want it.”

With his dedication to tackling the big social issues, and his obvious resilience and capability, we’re looking forward to seeing what else Kii achieves in the future!