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Queen to honour NZ lgbti youth worker

Posted in: New Zealand Daily News
By Daily News staff - 13th January 2015

UPDATED: New Zealander Tabby Besley is to be personally honoured by The Queen for her work with lgbti youth in schools.

The 22-year-old Wellington resident is one of 60 people aged between 18 and 29 who are being recognised as exceptional leaders in their community, in the first ever Queen’s Young Leaders Award.

Besley will be presented with her honour by The Queen in London in June. She is the only New Zealander selected, and has been chosen in recognition of her work to ensure that young people of diverse sexual orientations and genders feel supported at school.

The news comes just weeks after Besley was named a semi-finalist for Young New Zealand of the Year.

In 2011 she founded InsideOUT (formerly Queer Straight Alliance Network Aotearoa) which uses peer mentoring and training to ensure that all lgbti young people feel supported at school.

“The most exciting thing about receiving this award is having the work of our organisation, InsideOUT, recognised at such a high level and for it to be talked about in the mainstream media,” Besley says.

“I'm excited for people - both in our country and the rest of the world - to know that there are awesome young people in New Zealand making change for the better of sexuality and gender diverse youth.”

When she came out at 15, she had the backing of a school support group for both queer and straight students, in dealing with some of the prejudice she experienced. She eventually became the leader of the group and opened it up to members of the wider community.

Besley went on to set up similar organisations in other schools and when she left high school worked for Nelson’s Q-Youth drop-in centre. She then moved to Wellington and founded InsideOut and is making progress in her dream of expanding that work nationally.

“I couldn't have possibly imagined where we would get to when I first decided I wanted to take the work I had been doing in Nelson to a national level and there have been lots of times where I think maybe I'm completely ridiculous for trying,” Besley says. “So it's awesome to see where lots of hard work, wonderful support and passion can get you. I hope it can be inspiring for other young people wanting to make a difference and follow their dreams.”

Besley’s long-term aim is to help young people to set up lgbt support groups in their own schools and to run national awareness campaigns, something she has already begin with the Day of Silence. She also wants to provide professional development training and create inclusive safe environments in which everyone feels free to be who they are.

“The most powerful thing is just having a school supporting the group. It sends out a really strong message that it is okay to be out and it is a safe environment,” she says.

InsideOUT is already making great strides, with Besley saying: “I’ve had young people tell me they didn’t dream they would be able to be open about their sexuality until university, but this allows people to be true to themselves.”

The Queen’s Young Leaders Programme celebrates the achievements of young people who are taking the lead to transform the lives of others and make a lasting difference in their communities.

It’s a new initiative established by The Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust in partnership with Comic Relief and the Royal Commonwealth Society in recognition of The Queen’s lifetime of service to the Commonwealth.

Over the next four years the programme will support thousands of young people. In addition to the Queen’s Young Leaders Awards, it will provide grants to support organisations in selected countries across the Commonwealth that work with young people to transform their lives.

“The leadership of talented young people in all spheres of life can transform communities and societies for the better,” says Chief Executive of The Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust Dr Astrid Bonfield.

“What the 60 young people announced today have achieved is remarkable and their plans for the future are truly inspiring."

"She works tirelessly"

Congratulations have been quick to flow for Besley from lgbti groups around the country, including Q-Topia and RainbowYOUTH.

“On behalf of RainbowYOUTH, myself and the staff and board would like to say a huge, warm and fuzzy congratulations to Tabby,” says the Auckland-based group’s Communications Manager Toni Duder.

“She works tirelessly and utterly deserves this accolade. We're proud to work alongside her in various projects and can attest to her hard work, passion and leadership.

“Once again, congratulations Tabby from your friends at RY.”


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