Tabby Besley first New Zealander to receive a Queen's Young Leader Award

10 August 2015

Young New Zealander, Tabby Besley, was one of 60 Commonwealth citizens named as inaugural winners of The Queen's Young Leaders Award. These awards celebrate the achievements of exceptional young individuals from across the Commonwealth who have proved themselves to be inspiring leaders in their communities. Below, Tabby tells us her story of what it meant to receive this Award and being presented with her Award from the Queen at Buckingham Palace!

I was privileged to be the first and only New Zealander to receive a Queen's Young Leader Award this year, for my work with InsideOUT supporting young LGBTQIA+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transexual, Queer, Intersex and Asexual) people, especially to be safe at school. The awards were given to young people from Commonwealth countries who are doing outstanding work leading change and transforming their communities and included a year-long online course with the University of Cambridge, a personal mentor and a trip to England where we met the Queen. The Award meant a lot to me as work in the LGBTQIA+ community is not recognised very often, despite the numerous young people working hard to make a difference in this area, usually while facing their own challenges.

Meeting the Queen was quite a surreal experience! She said well done and asked what kind of work I do when she gave me my medal. I said that I work with the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender community in New Zealand and she said ‘Oh how wonderful!’ and then it was onto the next person. It was hard to tell from her expression what she really thought about it, but it felt pretty cool to have said those words to the Queen – I don’t expect many (any?) others have done that.

The real highlight for me was meeting all these other young leaders and activists from around the Commonwealth – hearing about the work they are doing and the challenges many of them have overcome to be doing it was really inspiring. We got to spend two days in Cambridge as part of our course and got to see lots of beautiful and interesting places like the BT Tower, where we had a 360 degree view all over London and the Twitter HQ where they made us special cupcakes and t-shirts! Coming back to New Zealand I'm full of energy to keep on working with InsideOUT to improve the experiences of LGBTQIA+ young people both in school and their wider communities, and I hope the awareness the award has created will see lots more people passionate about supporting us to make this happen.

The Queen's Young Leader Awards are now open until September 7th for 2016 nominations and applications - so if you or someone you know is doing incredible work to make a difference, apply! It's a wonderful opportunity to gain lots of tools and knowledge to help your work and leadership, have your organisation's work publicised,and to be part of an international network of young leaders. To find out more or to nominate someone click here.

Story written by Tabby Besley

The photo below shows the Queen presenting Tabby with her award at Buckingham Palace

The Queen presents Tabby Besley, of Wellington, with a Queen's Young Leader Award at Buckingham Palace on Monday night.