WillowMoone23122020.JPG Napier Girls' High School graduate Willow Noome won a week with the Ministry of Justice after submitting a video on the issues of white privilege. Photo / Paul Taylor
An award-winning Napier Girls' High School graduate was invited to spend a week with the Ministry of Justice after a passionate speech on the topic of white privilege.
Willow Noome was flown down to Wellington on December 8, spending time picking the brains of New Zealand's top solicitors, lawyers and policy managers.
The 17-year-old submitted a video and won the GirlBoss Edge: Law, Policy & Government Edition 'Justice Challenge'.
"I think white privilege is an issue everywhere - it's really ingrained in our society due to systemic racism and throughout our history in New Zealand," she told Hawke's Bay Today.
Noome was one of 600 young women to take part in the programme and was recognised as one of 11 Justice Challenge winners.
A total of 445 women competed in the real-world problem-solving challenge.
In her submission, Noome said white privilege had massive effects, such as Māori making up 15 per cent of the population but 51 per cent of the prison population.
It was also visible in a more subtle way, like the production of white dolls and band-aids and foundation that match her skin colour.
"I believe that white people have the unconscious advantages in life," she said. "I use the word unconscious because many white people fail to recognise it - there is a gap that we must acknowledge."
The teenager finished her video submission with ways in which New Zealand can implement change in society's imbalance.
"We need to take advantage of the education that surrounds us and engage in conversations," she said.
"Our leaders need to support young people in their efforts to improve race relations and ensure the New Zealand curriculum is promoting diversity and inclusion."
She has her eyes set on being a lawyer – potentially in criminal defence or prosecution - and will be studying law and commerce at the University of Auckland next year.
She said the people she met at the Ministry of Justice gave her some valuable career advice.
"I thought this opportunity would really cement what I wanted to do in law; however I was told I don't need to decide right now exactly what I want to do – which was comforting."
She said meeting with policy manager Caroline Greaney in Wellington – whose team worked on the cannabis referendum, the End of Life Choice Bill and the Abortion Legislation Act was a highlight.
"They really made change on a national level and that's what's really important to me – I love having an impact on my community," she said.
Noome is currently working for Napier City Council as an administration assistant.