For three decades Rotorua's Sonia Wilson has been the friendly and calming face for Rotorua's young people and victims of crime.

Now the work she does along with the thousands of hours Victim Support volunteer service has been recognised with The Queen's Service Medal for services to victim support and the community.

Wilson has contributed more than 35 years of service to supporting children and families in Rotorua.

Sonia Wilson is a friendly and calming face for victims in the face of tragedy. Photo / Stephen Parker
Sonia Wilson is a friendly and calming face for victims in the face of tragedy. Photo / Stephen Parker

She worked at the Princess of Wales Children's Health Camp between 1983 and 2009 to provide support to vulnerable families holding many roles, including as a kitchen hand when she started there as a teenager to eventually being the manager.


She joined Oranga Tamariki in 2009 as a care and protection social worker, eventually becoming a supervisor and then manager of the Rotorua Youth Justice team.

She is well-respected by the police and judiciary and has built a large network of community leaders to affect positive change for young people in her community.

She is New Zealand's longest-serving Victim Support volunteer having served at least 27 years.

She has specialised in supporting those bereaved by suicide, sudden death and homicide, and working with families who have children who are victims of, or have witnessed, trauma or accidents.

In 2004 she was awarded the New Zealand Police Commissioner's Commendation for her support work for victims in the Pourshad Arvand case, a sex case involving an Iranian man being jailed for 13 years for drugging and sexually assaulting Asian women.

Wilson is a true community worker who has acknowledged her recognition by saying she couldn't achieve what she has done without the support of those around her, including her family and work colleagues.

She said she volunteered for Victim Support because if she were in the victims' shoes, she would hope there was someone like her who knew the system who could offer help.

"I have met some incredibly wonderful people and I meet them in different times in their lives. It is very satisfying seeing them down the track and speaking to them about how life is for them now and knowing that I have helped get them through it."


She said there was not one type of crime harder to deal with than others. Her experience means she is often dealing with high-end crime and trauma and is called out on average a couple of times a week.

One of her recent tasks was going to Christchurch to help following the Mosque shootings where she supported bereaved families, witnesses to the shootings and those left injured. She is also in touch with Muslim residents locally dealing with the aftermath.

"It's difficult dealing with families who have been bereaved because it is a very sad day in their lives and I just have to do the best to support them in their days ahead."

She said she's built a strong coping mechanism.

"The way I try to work through that is it is a terrible tragedy but it is not my tragedy. I am there to make it easier for them and I need to be strong to do what I do. When I go home, I do reflect on it but if I'm upset and a blithering mess, it is not likely to be helpful."

She said she still had plenty of years volunteering left in her.

"I'll be around for several years. I'll just keep on keeping on."