RainbowYOUTH’s new Executive Director Frances Arns sees a bright future for our communities and she’s already well on her way to making a meaningful impact – not to mention, making scrumptious vegan pies while she’s at it!

When did you first start getting involved in advocacy for sex, sexuality and gender minority communities? 

It was a couple of years ago now that I really started doing work for the community. I joined ASB as a graduate who was very unsure about talking about their sexuality in the workplace until I discovered the LGBTI staff group that existed. Just the existence of that group made me feel safe to talk about my girlfriend at work and not tiptoe around conversations about plans for the weekend or whatever it was. I had always been very guarded, since coming out when I was 17, so it was a really refreshing change. I wanted to make sure that other people had that safe experience at work too, and also that customers could access services without fear of judgement or discrimination. So I was really passionate about it and I ended up leading the staff network group and that’s how I became involved with RainbowYOUTH. ASB supports a number of RY initiatives, so in 2016 I was part of ‘Team Rainbow’ with RY at Lifewise’s Big Sleep Out. After that, I joined the Board in late 2016, and now here we are I suppose!

What do you love about working for RainbowYOUTH?


That I am lucky to be paid to do work that I’m passionate about and is making Aotearoa better for our young people. I say that especially because this sector and our community is stacked with people who volunteer their time. Which is another great thing, I get to meet so many incredible people in the community! Everyone is so talented and inspiring and welcoming. The RY staff and volunteers especially have been so supportive. It has been a great three months.

What would you like to see for the future of rainbow communities in Aotearoa?

Wow. What wouldn’t I like to see? Firstly, more intersectionality in our services, our spaces, and our resources. Many of our young people have multiple identities. How are we making our spaces, our services, and our resources safer and more inclusive and meeting their different needs? I would like to see our community organisations collaborating and working together, leveraging one another’s skills and expertise. I would like to see a strong alignment between RainbowYOUTH and kaupapa Māori organisations, and organisations supporting the Pacific community. I would like to see mainstream Aotearoa respond better to our needs and be understanding and accepting of the rainbow community and the different identities that exist. I would like to see better health statistics and outcomes for our community, and for the government to really invest in that.

How can older people in the community support our youth?

By allowing them their own space, and by listening to them. RainbowYOUTH’s whole kaupapa is around being youth-run, youth-led, because our young people are resilient, capable, entrepreneurial, and they know what they want. We just need to give them a safe space to be in, and for them to have agency over that space (to a degree…). I think also by providing support and guidance to youth organisations themselves, RainbowYOUTH relies hugely on our elders in the community to make sure our organisation is successful and sustainable and aligned with the community.

On top of the work you do for RY, you make and sell vegan pies – what’s is your ultimate vegan pie filling?

WELL. To toot my own horn, my favourite Frankenpie is the Principessi. It’s essentially lasagna in pastry. My whole thing is around using non-meat non-dairy fillings to re-create that comforting experience of a pie. The Principessi has vegan mince in a homemade bolognese with a vegan cheese sauce. Try one today!