Rangatahi demand change

By D'Angelo Martin

A national youth convention in Auckland has given rangatahi the opportunity to tell the older generation what needs to change and why. It follows a strike this week by hundreds of thousands of youth worldwide who are demanding action on climate change.

Laura O'Connell, who is a director for Action Station, was one of the keynote speakers. "Those young people have a very specific set of demands on what they're asking for. They want to see a zero carbon Aotearoa in their lifetime, they want to make sure that people have jobs, but, while doing that, making sure that they honour indigenous rights and Te Tiriti o Waitangi," she says. 

The convention falls in the same year as the YMCAs 175th birthday, which officially takes place in August. 

The YMCA was founded in 1844, through the vision of a 22-year-old young man. It's become the world's largest and oldest youth movement. Nearly 175 years later, YMCA is operating in 119 countries with 64 million people reached annually around the world.

"Young people want spaces where they can explore themselves and their identity without pressure. They want places where they can connect across generations, they want a return to villages, whānau," says O'Connell.

The convention is part of Youth Week which encourages young people to take on challenges, share ideas and focus on the positive aspects of being young.

Chris Knol, who is the CEO of YMCA Aotearoa, believes youth are the leaders of tomorrow. "In the world now, today there are 1.8 billion young people. That's 25% of the world population under the age of 25. They are our future and young people need to be listened to."

Today's convention is also an opportunity for rangatahi to celebrate the talents, passion and success of local young people. "The Y's really committed to find avenues and spaces and abilities for young people to thrive and come forward," says Knol.

The YMCA's 175th-anniversary celebration will be held in London from 4-8 August.