Talei Bryant is a 22 year old, Nelson born, half Fijian living in Waimana. She is a mental health ambassador in the Bay of Plenty region. She founded the ‘Find your Fish Movement’ to help young people find their passions and equip them to face the ups & downs of millennial life. Talei also dedicates much of her time to volunteering and has big dreams for transforming her community.
Living in the heart of Waimana Gorge, the river flows at her doorstep, and her backyard is the Te Urewera National Forest. Talei’s love for her community and Aotearoa comes from being exposed to this natural beauty and having such a strong, supportive family. Talei’s grandmother was a big inspiration to her, as she was the first woman in Fiji to go to dentistry school and the first woman speaker of the house in Fiji. Talei is passionate about helping others help themselves and creating a more vibrant, sustainable future for generations to come.
As a catalyst for the Whakatane Future Leaders programme, Talei is deeply involved in the Future Leaders project development and acts as a representative on behalf of their team, attending three national huis and leading from within the group. Catalysts also get the chance to access one-on-one support through mentoring and coaching.
Talei has always been passionate about advocacy, participating in leadership groups at high school, specifically the World Vision youth advocacy group and Interact Club, although she has certainly had her ups and downs throughout her young adult years. In her final year of school, her father was diagnosed with terminal cancer. Whilst still processing the implications for her family, Talei was named Head Girl of her school, a responsibility she was very proud of but she became nervous that if the school found out about what was going on at home they’d revoke the title. So Talei kept her dad’s diagnosis to herself. She had been planning to go and study after she finished school, but she put those plans on hold to support her mother and younger siblings. After she finished school, Talei worked locally and then moved to Melbourne after her father passed away. She struggled to find her feet in Melbourne, working jobs she didn’t enjoy so she moved to Perth where she had family. After a year of living in Australia and working to support her family back home, Talei decided to return home to Waimana and find some work she was more interested in. She stumbled across the Future Leaders group in Whakatane whilst doing some work for the electoral roll.
Talei admits when she first heard about the Future Leaders group, she thought that those involved would be well off, trying to advance their CV, but she was quickly taken with this little community of people from all walks of life who come together to learn, grow, and give back to the community.
A big challenge Talei faced before becoming a part of the Future Leaders program was loneliness and feeling isolated in her passion to create meaningful change. As soon as she attended her first Future Leaders hui, she could see that this was a programme where youth can make a difference, they have a voice and, with the help of the Future Leaders program, could mobilize young people to make a positive impact on the community.
In the first 3 months of being part of the Future Leaders programme, Talei made life-long friends who she regards like family. Future Leaders are given the opportunity to attend Festival for the Future as part of their year long programme. Future Leaders are able to attend on a scholarship that covers food, transport, accommodation and their ticket to Festival. This is always a highlight of the Future Leaders programme and extremely motivating for New Zealand’s young regional leaders. Festival for the Future brought together thousands of people from across New Zealand who want to make a difference and are already making a difference. Thanks to the incredibly inspiring speakers at Festival for the Future, Talei’s whole mindset has shifted,
After attending Festival for the Future for the first time in 2018, Talei became inspired to work with youth in the space of motivation and equipping and importantly, mental health. Making some powerful connections with fellow Future Leaders, Talei founded the Find your Fish Movement.
Through the Find for your Fish Movement, Talei is working on setting up a whole lot of community led programs and workshops for young people to help them find their passions. Only a year after being blown away by the stories shared at Festival for the Future, she was a keynote speaker on opening night at Festival for the Future 2019, sharing some of her big ideas for her community through the lens of the Find your Fish Movement.
Talei’s vision is always set firmly toward the future, with many ambitious goals and community future proofing projects, spearheading her work.
The dream for her is to see Whakatane District work together to create a thriving community. Talei values collaboration as she acknowledges all these projects can’t come together without input from others,
All the youth currently participating in the Find your Fish Movement struggle or have struggled with mental health. Since being formed, these young people have been able to feel a sense of community and of belonging, where big ideas are loved and nurtured.
Workshops have already started, but Talei isn’t stopping there. She is seeking out a space in her local district to run free weekly workshops, led by local experts to promote mental health awareness, suicide prevention, climate education and to bring communities closer together. The potential of these workshops? the sky’s the limit as far as Talei is concerned! She expects other young people will ‘find their fish’ and develop their own social enterprises and localised solutions to the issues they see. With a strong network across regional New Zealand, thanks to the Future Leaders programme, Talei expects to the Find your Fish Movement to develop chapters across New Zealand. Along with coordinating the Find your Fish Movement, Talei is a member of the Bay of Plenty Youth Council, a volunteer facilitator for ‘iCoach4kids’, and is running for local council in October 2019!