Championing Rangatahi – An Interview with Stevie Davis-Tana

25 October 2018

Stevie Davis-Tana (23) is a youth worker and spoken word poet, born and raised in Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland. She’s passionate about “creativity and self-expression, education, indigeneity and culture, young people, community, and connection.”

Stevie  Davis-Tana

Serving others has always been a huge part of Stevie’s life and the importance of giving back was instilled in her by her mum at a young age.

“When I was 14 years old, I started volunteering for Youthline as a member of the Waitemata District Health Board Youth Advisory Group. That really opened my eyes, not only to how much I really loved contributing to my community, but also the responsibility that I had in that position to make sure the voices and experiences of other young people could be heard. Volunteering, whether that has been in school, work, community, church, or other spaces, has also given me a sense of purpose and grounding,” she says.

Stevie’s enthusiasm for Te Ao Māori and for people led her to study towards a Bachelor of Arts - Māori Development and Social Sciences. She then went on to achieve a Masters in Human Rights at AUT.

“I have always been passionate about fighting for equality and justice, and advocating for those who are vulnerable or have been denied their fundamental human rights. I love being able to work in the youth development field, and hope to continue to do a lot more work in our Māori communities, and in other indigenous communities around the world,” says Stevie.

MC Stevie

Stevie as Master of Ceremonies at the Prime Minister’s Youth Programme 2018

She has used her strong self-belief and self-confidence to pursue her dreams and strives to improve her skills and abilities so she might better serve her community. She’s currently serving as a member of the Ministry of Youth Development Partnership Fund Board. Applying for the position was out of her comfort zone but she didn’t let that stand in her way. She wants young people to have a voice and strongly encourages other rangatahi to get involved in governance.

“Young people – our voices are so necessary and so powerful, I really can’t stress this enough. The world and especially those in power need to hear what we have to say, so it’s important that you are at the table. If you feel like young people aren’t being given a seat then kick the door down and bring your own. Even if you feel under qualified or out of your depth, please just give it a try. I promise you will learn so much along the way, but you have to be willing to get out of your comfort zone and try something that may be new and scary,” says Stevie.

“Before the MYD Partnership Fund Board, I had never sat on a board or had governance experience, but I went for it anyway. Even though I have no experience and a lot to learn, I also have a lot to give and contribute, and so do you.”


Stevie as Master of Ceremonies at the New Zealand Youth Awards 2018

She is very passionate about mental health and wellbeing, “especially for our Māori and Pasifika young people, who often make up so many of the negative statistics in Aotearoa.”

For Stevie, the key to wellbeing is connection.

“I want young people to be engaged and connected; to each other, to themselves, to the whenua and environment, to safe spaces and communities, and to whatever they’re passionate about. I want young people to feel supported, cared for and loved, and to know that they belong,” she says.

Stevie is an ardent champion for rangatahi and believes strongly in the value of their contributions to society.

“I think young people today are incredible. They are resilient change makers. They are educating themselves, and making huge moves in breaking down systemic issues. They are open, understanding, compassionate, and supportive. They are on the front lines; organising marches and protests, creating movements, speaking to issues, taking up positions of power, and making real change. They are challenging toxic behaviours and societal norms, and holding people accountable. They are communicating across communities, stepping up, and forging new paths. I think the challenge for the rest of society is to stop underestimating our young people,” she says.

With Stevie as their champion, you get the impression it won’t be too long before the rest of society cottons on to the power, potential and impact our rangatahi hold.