Who is NEXT's Woman of the Year?


The country’s most inspirational women were honoured on Thursday night for the outstanding contribution they have made to New Zealand. The six winners in the NEXT Woman of the Year Awards in association with Pandora are all high achievers who have broken new ground in their quest to succeed. And the standout finalist, who has been crowned supreme Woman of the Year 2014, is Sita Selupe – founder and principal of Rise UP Academy and CEO of Rise UP Trust.

The 39-year-old has been recognised for improving the lives of our Maori and Pasifika children and breaking the poverty cycle through education, one family at a time.
She could have been an education casualty herself after becoming a teen mum. Instead, she has gone on to university education and founded a ground breaking school, transforming the lives of those who attend.

Selupe won the Education category, as well as the overall NEXT Woman of the Year Award.

Miranda Harcourt, one of New Zealand’s most celebrated actresses, won the Arts and Culture award, while Olympic Gold medallist, Lisa Carrington - who represents New Zealand in flat water canoeing - took out the Sport category.

Psychologist Sally Merry, who has designed a computer game to help teens fight depression, was named Health and Science winner. The Community award was presented to Joy Clark, who has dedicated three decades of her life to volunteering as a grandparent at Starship Children’s Hospital. The Business category was won by Cecilia Robinson, founder of Au Pair Link and home-delivery food service My Food Bag.

Previous NEXT Woman of the Year Supreme Award-winners - Julie Chapman, Julie Bartlett, Lesley Elliott and Dr Emma Parry - joined NEXT Magazine editor Sarah Henry on the judging panel to mark the fifth anniversary of the awards, and say they were overwhelmed by the calibre of this year’s entries.

“It’s hard not to feel extreme pride in the incredibly talented, dedicated and passionate women we have right here in New Zealand,” Henry said. “These six women have achieved so much and are an example of everything that is right with the world. They are an example to us all.”

“Our overall winner SitaSelupe has overcome her own hurdles and worked hard to get to where she is today, making a real difference in some of our most troubled communities.”

Selupe, while on maternity leave from her primary school teaching job, started home-school style lessons for under-privileged children in her South Auckland community, from her garage in 2004. That led to her founding one of New Zealand’s first charter schools, Rise UP Academy.

“We’re a work in progress but there are so many good things happening for these children and their parents,” said Selupe. “It’s not just about educational achievements, it’s about community  transformation.

“Someone helped me when I was down and out and it’s awesome to be able to help others when they need a helping hand. There is so much I want to do so I reckon I’ll need to live to 91 to get it all
done,” she added.

The six winners received their NEXT Woman of the Year Awards tonight at a star-studded ceremony held in Auckland.

The full list of category winners:
Community: Joy Clark – longest serving volunteer of the Grandparents scheme at Auckland’s
Starship children’s hospital.
Health and Science: Dr Sally Merry – Associate professor and head of department of Psychological
Medicine at the University of Auckland.
Sport: Lisa Carrington – Olympic gold-medallist in flatwater canoeing.
Education: Sita Selupe – Founder and principal of Rise UP Academy and CEO of the Rise UP Trust.
Arts and Culture: Miranda Harcourt – actress, playwright and acting coach.
Business: Cecilia Robinson - My Food Bag and Au Pair Link founder.

The awards are run by NEXT magazine and are now in their fifth year. They are the first of their kind to recognise New Zealand women in six distinct fields: Health and Science, Arts and Culture, Sport,Business, Education, and Community. The awards are sponsored by Pandora Jewellery and are held annually.