Leading from the Front: An Interview with Victoria Rhodes-Carlin

03 July 2018

Leadership opportunities presented themselves to 20-year old Victoria Rhodes-Carlin at a young age. As an inaugural Papamoa College student and the inaugural Head Girl, she was always one of the eldest in her high school and so made the decision early on to step up whenever required.


Victoria has had a keen interest in environmental protection and sustainability and some of the leadership roles she embraced in school were becoming involved in the Tauranga Carbon Reduction Group, running environmental initiatives in her school and community, and helping the Gourmet Night Markets become waste-free. She is currently in her third year at Victoria University of Wellington where she’s studying Environmental Studies, Development Studies and International Relations.

She is passionate about young people being encouraged and enabled to participate in making decisions that affect them now and in the future.

“Young people will experience the decisions made now for the future, more than those making the decisions. I believe it is essential that rangatahi are involved in these processes in meaningful ways, where their views and ideas are valued, respected and legitimised in the same way that adults are,” says Victoria.

Her commitment to young people having a strong voice led to her involvement in the Aotearoa Youth Declaration, UN Youth’s flagship civics education conference. The conference aims to equip participating youth from all across Aotearoa New Zealand with a deeper understanding of their place within their community and the ways they can actively contribute to it. As a 2015 conference participant, Victoria experienced first-hand the value of meeting like-minded people, being challenged and learning from others. This led to her being involved again in 2017, and ultimately coordinating the event in 2018 and 2019.

“The conference is not just about creating a policy document for decision-makers to use as a reference point for youth views; it is four days of exploring challenges in our society, creating innovative solutions to them, understanding civics in Aotearoa, Tikanga Māori, and learning about others and yourself. It was really important to me that rangatahi left with the skills, tools, understanding and confidence to address challenges and support collaborative solutions to them.”


Victoria recognised the importance of engaging with as many young people as possible from all around Aotearoa New Zealand so Regional Hui were added to the programme and ran in various regions prior to the main Conference. The whole experience was deeply motivating for her.

“Meeting the participants at the conference was incredibly inspiring; hearing about their aspirations, vision for Aotearoa, the work they do in their communities, and the passion and drive they have for helping others. Hearing how life-changing the hui and conference was for many participants motivates me to continue creating opportunities like this and engaging with as many rangatahi as possible.”

You can download the Aotearoa Youth Declaration 2018 here.

She urges rangatahi to consider getting involved in civics and to contribute their valuable insights and experiences.

“Having an understanding of how our democracy works, how to engage with decision-makers, local government, MPs, and community leaders, are essential to contributing to the development of our communities. Young people have really important insights, ideas, experiences, and opinions that need to be engaged with, whether that is through formal civic processes, or through grassroots organisations and initiatives.”

She counts herself lucky for all of the development opportunities that have come her way and is determined to pay it forward through her voluntary work.

“I would not be who I am today if not for the opportunities and challenges I have been fortunate enough to experience and am motivated in providing these opportunities to as many young people as I can. Most of the voluntary work I have done has focused on giving rangatahi the tools and skills to be active citizens in their communities, to understand civic and democratic processes in Aotearoa and how to engage in them, and how being young is not a limitation to achieving what you want.”

Victoria is a young woman going places and she’s determined to bring as many other rangatahi as possible with her on the journey.