Royal honour just the start

Otago anti-bullying campaigner Ashleigh Smith has just received an international award from the Queen - but has signalled there are more big things to come.

Ms Smith (19), an Otago Polytechnic nursing student, was among 60 people presented with a Queen's Young Leaders Award at a ceremony at Buckingham Palace in London on Friday.

She was the sole New Zealand recipient of the award, which recognised her role as a leader of the Central Otago anti-cyber-bullying group Sticks 'n Stones.

Ashleigh Smith.
Ashleigh Smith.

Miss Smith, who grew up in Naseby and attended Maniototo Area School, has spent the past fortnight in the United Kingdom attending the Queen's Young Leader Award residential programme, which included a suite of workshops designed to enhance recipients' work areas and projects in their home countries.

The programme also included meeting senior government officials at 10 Downing St and the Commonwealth Secretariat.

Miss Smith was yesterday still travelling back from her trip, but said on social media the award represented ''every young New Zealander that gets up and fights for positive change every day''.

She said she was ''honoured and humbled'' by the support she had received, but ''now it's time to return home and back to reality ... the reality that the way we view and educate around mental health needs to change - watch this space, there are big things to come''.

Brad Olsen, executive director of Commonwealth Youth New Zealand and New Zealand's Queen's Young Leader for 2016, said Miss Smith's work with Sticks 'n Stones was inspirational ''and perfectly reflects her compassion and drive to make New Zealand and the world a better place to live in''.

''Her work stands out for its ability to directly change young New Zealanders' lives through addressing a major issue facing everyday Kiwis. Her dedication to working with others makes Ashleigh a role model for others throughout the Commonwealth to engage with their communities and work towards shared solutions.''

Miss Smith is also working with the New Zealand Government to help inform its policy-making on bullying and social media.

Sticks 'n Stones director Karla Sanders, of Alexandra, said Ms Smith had said she was excited about being able to share the ideas, expertise and insight she had gained in the United Kingdom once back in New Zealand.

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