Bernie Burrell has spent several years working in community-focused careers.

It's something she credits for wanting to make a difference.

Her latest role is as the new general manager of the Whangarei Youth Space.

"I have spent most of my career, to starting out in the early days when I graduated with a New Zealand Diploma in Teaching, with the outcomes of my work needing to make a difference.

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Te Kura Kaupapa Maori O Te Rawhiti Roa's head girl Naiomi Mahanga during the powhiri for new Whangarei Youth Space GM Bernie Burrell. Photo/John Stone
Te Kura Kaupapa Maori O Te Rawhiti Roa's head girl Naiomi Mahanga during the powhiri for new Whangarei Youth Space GM Bernie Burrell. Photo/John Stone

"I thought 'wow, I've got some skills that I could add to this organisation' so I decided to apply. I realise that I'm joining a really fantastic team."

Ms Burrell, who is originally from Wellington, taught in Turangi then spent eight years in London during which she worked for Childline - a 24 hour helpline for children in trouble in danger.

She moved back to New Zealand and worked in Wellington for CareersNZ focusing on helping young people to make good decisions about transitioning into further learning and work.

Whangarei Youth Space's Ryan Donaldson speaking at the welcoming for new general manager Bernie Burrell. Photo/John Stone
Whangarei Youth Space's Ryan Donaldson speaking at the welcoming for new general manager Bernie Burrell. Photo/John Stone

"That connection between education to employment is something I'm really passionate about which sits beautifully coming to work for youth space."

This isn't Ms Burrell's first time working in Northland.

In 2013 she moved to Kerikeri where she worked as the general manager of hospice.

After working for hospice she went to Europe and moved back to Wellington doing some contracting work. When that finished she wanted to move to Northland.

"Beth Cooper, my predecessor, and the team have done some great work building a solid foundation and I'm able to come in and benefit from that and do some further development in that space."

Ms Burrell was welcomed to her new role with a powhiri earlier this month.

When the Advocate spoke to her she had only been on the job for six days and was getting to know the environment.

She said the kaupapa of the organisation focused on youth and adult partnerships. She said this was reflected in the board of trustees - half of whom were under 24.

"I've come in at a time where all that hard work has been done and I've got the opportunity to look at how to build on that to take it to the next level. How do we think about what young people really need and wish to engage with; or how can we help them engage?

"My focus is really getting to know the organisation, the team, and our partners and community. So that with that rich understanding I can begin to do some strategic planning. It would feel a bit wonky coming in and changing everything overnight."

Ms Burrell said the youth space received funding from several sources - including Foundation North - but she would also be exploring additional funding sources.