E ngā iwi, e ngā reo, e ngā karangatanga maha o ngā hau e wha, tēnei te mihi atu ki a koutou katoa! Ngā mihi mahana ki a koutou i runga i te kaupapa nei: Aroha Mai, Aroha Atu!
Talofa lava, ni hao, fakalofa lahi atu, namaste and warm greetings from Ara Taiohi, the peak body for youth development in Aotearoa. We’re a small organisation with a big job – we’re working to connect our sector, raise standards among our members, champion youth development and promote sustainability.
Youth Week is one way we connect our sector around a common theme, and from May 21 to 29 this year we are celebrating the theme “Aroha Mai, Aroha Atu: giving back is giving forward”. We’re shining a light on all the many and various ways young people are challenging stereotypes of youth in Aotearoa as passive consumers and apathetic bystanders. We’re amplifying the stories of young people who are taking up hopeful positions and thriving. We’re focusing on their real and new contributions to our communities, economy, and democracy. We’re opening up spaces for young people to speak up and be understood as agents of change, leaders right now, as assets and resources, rather than as risks or potential costs to the state.
Another part of our job is to link our members with our international youth development whānau. RecentIy I had the opportunity to listen and participate in the telling of global stories of youth development in action at the Commonwealth Conference on Youth Work, in South Africa. The theme for the conference was “Engaging Young People in Nation Building – The Youth Workers’ Role”. I was invited to present on the work that we at Ara Taiohi are doing in 2016 to establish a professional body for youth workers in New Zealand, as part of our wider strategic priority of raising standards across the youth sector.
Why are stories from other Commonwealth nations relevant in Aotearoa New Zealand, and why was it important to represent Ara Taiohi in this forum? Over time, the Commonwealth has developed a powerful voice in international forums, in particular as a champion of the participation of young people in development agenda. The Commonwealth Youth Programme is a vibrant and purposeful branch of the Commonwealth, working hard to promote, enable and uphold the principles of youth development, and creating spaces for deep conversations about the ongoing effects of our colonial past across diverse Commonwealth contexts. The Commonwealth has rightly identified that youth work can be a key lever in the transformation of economic, labour, and power relations, and has made professionalisation of youth work a strategic priority.
In Aotearoa New Zealand, our changing demographic profile often gets reduced to a soundbite about our ageing population. New Zealanders aged 12-24 make up 20% of our total population, and in projections made by the Commonwealth and Statistics NZ they will continue to represent a similar proportion over the next 20 years. However, the inexorable incline of the median age of New Zealanders tends to overshadow the complexity and promise represented by “the 20%”. But if as a nation we are to rise to the task of taking care of our elders in a way that upholds the principles of manaakitanga, we must also support our young people to find their own voice and place to stand, in the belief that they in their turn will take up thriving and hopeful positions in our world. We must consider all our people in terms of their rights, strengths and gifts, and not in terms of the risks or problems they present. This is the embodiment of the thinking behind “Aroha Mai, Aroha Atu: giving back is giving forward”.
The Commonwealth Conference on Youth Work opened an opportunity for Ara Taiohi to demonstrate “Aroha Mai, Aroha Atu”. We’re contributing our perspective and hard work to a steering committee that is working (often in the middle of the night via Skype, Dropbox and Googledocs) to establish an international alliance of professional associations. Alongside similar organisations from Jamaica, Sierra Leone, India, England, Zambia, Australia, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, we aspire to create an alliance that will raise the standard and status of youth work by connecting, strengthening and championing professionalisation. By working on this project, Ara Taiohi are actively giving back to people and organisations around the world who are doing youth development, and in doing so, are giving forward to future generations so that they may take up hopeful and thriving positions in a more equitable world.
This blog has been contributed by a member of ComVoices
ComVoices actively promotes the value that community sector organisations and their people, both paid and unpaid, add to New Zealand’s economic and social wellbeing through information, and political advocacy and dialogue.
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