Simulata Pope

Advocating for Auckland youth
Found in: Stories
Simulata Pope

Simulata Pope is passionate about the rights of rangatahi.

Hailing from South Auckland, Simulata works for VOYCE - an independent NGO that exists to amplify the voices of children in care. About 2,700 people are currently in care in Tāmaki Makaurau, the most condensed ratio of young people in care in Aotearoa. This includes three youth justice centres and 40 group homes. 

A key part of Simualta’s role is to amplify the voices of people aged 0 to 25 in the care system. She believes that experiencing the care system takes a toll on wellbeing and mental health, and it’s important to have people working to validate you and try to make sure you get the same opportunities and care as everyone else. “When you’re in care and you’re still a kid, you’re having to grow up too fast.”

Simulata’s dedication to rangatahi started at an early age. “I have always been passionate about young people. My father is a youth worker and youth pastor and my mum is a social worker, and as a family we’ve been a foster-giving family. At a young age I was exposed to mental health and courageous conversations with young people about not feeling okay - I knew that and grew up with that.” 

In addition to her full-time job at VOYCE, Simulata uses her skills, passion and experience to volunteer with collective advocacy group Manaaki Rangatahi, who work to hold the government accountable for the spaces they create for homeless youth. 

Simulata Pope

“It’s a crazy time. When people age out of mental health youth services they end up on the street.”

“There’s been a small collective of us making a lot of noise in the last few years. I jumped on because I know the young people I see, particularly in South Auckland, the young people that are homeless and the young people in care don’t get the same service from the health system. I wanted to alleviate some of those gaps for my Tongan community.”

Simulata has also played a huge part in getting many young people vaccinated against COVID-19. She has been coordinating a team of people who have encouraged over 35,000 Tongan’s to get vaccinated so far. In December last year, Simulata helped with the set-up and implementation of youth-friendly vaccination centres, which saw 3,000 young people come to get vaccinated, with 60% being first-timers. 

“We had young people greeting and young clinicians. We need our health professionals to acknowledge that young people can lead as well.” 

Despite all her hard work she does for others, Simulata says she feels lucky to be in her position: “I’ve been blessed with being busy - other families didn’t have the opportunities I had to still go out. I’ve also been really privileged and honoured to be in some of the darkest spaces where young people really struggle. So many in Aotearoa have no idea of some of the massive stories these people hold. For me, I have the honour of witnessing that and being part of helping that. I just want to spread that across New Zealand, because I know here in Aotearoa, we have a beautiful ethos of helping people.”

Furthermore, she is keen to emphasise her own gratitude for the people of Aotearoa - especially those in Tāmaki Makaurau. “I want to congratulate everyone for getting through it in some spaces. I want to share all my love.”

It’s clear for Simulata, love is the driving force that powers all that she does. It shines through in the way she talks, laughs, and does her awesome mahi.

“Love is the most powerful part of what we do. It could save a life.”