by Maori party co-leader Tariana Turia - WHAT does the future hold for our rangatahi?
On the weekend we held our annual general meeting for the Maori Party. While much of the attention in the media was given over to the plans Pita and I have, the key theme to emerge from the hui was about the future of our young people; the leaders of tomorrow.
We often talk about the wellbeing of our tamariki, and there are many initiatives in place to ensure the next generation has a greater quality of life than the last. You would think that by now we would have the support structures in place to keep our young people well.
By and large we have seen that our children are becoming more confident in themselves, they are proud of who they are and where they come from and they are growing up to become happy, healthy and successful adults.
Some rangatahi, however, are struggling. At our hui on the weekend, one of the key issues raised was how are we going to address the devastating and heart-breaking issue of youth suicide?
It is an emotional issue for us all. When these things happen, we are left with many questions. We have seen far too many Maori and other youth suicides over the last year, and the clock is ticking to ensure this does not happen again. We are dealing with children who have been damaged by their experiences in life, and for many of them so have their families.
Our children are our greatest symbol of hope. It devastates me that our tamariki and mokopuna who are harming themselves appear to have lost all hope.
How do we instil a sense of hope for the future in our kids? This was the biggest question to confront us at our hui, and it is a question that I pose to our community here.
We can come up with many ideas, such as keeping our children actively engaged in education, establishing youth support networks, and developing various programmes — but hope is something our young people have a right to.
Are we doing enough to support them to see the potential that they have? Are we providing enough of the right kind of support to these children and to their whanau to hold on to their future?
I am extremely concerned that we are not doing enough. There is no one answer, and so we must all be vigilant in keeping an eye on our children.
Every child has a right to grow up in the most loving, caring family free from abuse, free from neglect. They have a right to play, to dream about their future.Our job is to see that they have a future.
When they enter the education system through early childhood, in primary, intermediate and secondary school they have a right to be in an environment that protects their mana, understands the essence of who they are, knows their cultural norms and respects them. There is understanding of their tribal stories and histories. There is respect for their tupuna names by pronouncing them correctly. Not a big ask of families or the first system of the State that these children encounter.
There is a saying that “it takes a village to raise a child”. This is so true. As communities and whanau, we can keep an eye on our children and nurture positive experiences and relationships. I also believe that the government must provide the right kind of support to our communities through every arm and every avenue that it has.
There is no one reason why these things happen. The only thing we do know is that we need to work hard to make sure it doesn’t happen again. We need to restore hope in our kids, they are our future and we must protect them as our greatest gift.