East Coast role models inspiring, listening to youth

By Te Kuru o te Marama Dewes

Labour MP Kiritapu Allan (Ngāti Ranginui, Ngāi Te Rangi, Tūwharetoa) says that youth on the East Coast battle with geographical isolation and have some of the worst socio-economic statistics in NZ.

A community collaboration between local mentors and youth in Gisborne aims to find out what they need to help them realise their potential.

16-year-old attendee Materoa Rewiri says, “I’ve seen some of the problems that we have here, I want to fix those problems, to find ways to address those issues."

Participating in the program, 16-year-old Kiana Ria Renata Kokiri says, “I'm looking at a career in law, maybe not the criminal justice system but working for indigenous peoples around the world as well as Māori.”

The initiative connects youth with local mentors to show them what's possible and provide support systems.

Allan says, “Whatever we can do, whether that's in our capacity as lawyers or politicians or just as tuakana, to achieve their dreams, aspirations but also to acknowledge that there are a lot of challenges that they face.”

Founded by Dr. Apirana Mahuika of Ngāti Porou in 2013, the Atawhai Charitable Trust initiative nurtures youth by instilling values and investing in their potential early.

Julia Whaipooti (Ngāti Porou) is a member of Safe and Effective Justice Advisory Group and Senior Advisor at the Office of the Children's Commissioner, she says it's about “engaging with rangatahi because rangatahi often get said, they're the leaders of āpōpō, but actually they're leaders now and we've got some listening to do.”

Business entrepreneur Cain Kerehoma (Ngāti Porou, Raukawa) says, “My role is in business and there a number of opportunities around the world so my role is to show them the types of pathways that are available to them.”

The program is having a positive impact and has been well received by youth.

Kokiri says, “I really want to follow in some of their footsteps and provide benefit to Māori.”

“Hopefully they hear our difficulties and find a way to address them,” says Rewiri.

Participants are being encouraged to partake in follow-up leadership programs to show them what's outside the region.