Maori and ethnic minority youth face discrimination: Report


Young people in Aotearoa feel they are facing an uncertain future (Photo courtesy: Graham Crumb/Imagicity.com)

Venu Menon
Wellington, July 25,2023

A report prepared by the Mental Health and Wellbeing Commission says young people, as a group, experience more inequity and compromised wellbeing compared to others.

It says young people need to have their voices, perspectives and expertise heard and heeded for improved wellbeing.

The Mental Health and Wellbeing Commission, set up in February 2021, works under the Mental Health and Wellbeing Commission Act, 2020.

“Our purpose is to contribute to better and equitable mental health and wellbeing outcomes for people in Aotearoa New Zealand,” the Commission says.

The report, released in May 2023 and titled ‘Young people speak out about Wellbeing: An insights report into the Wellbeing of Rangatahi Maori and other Young People in Aotearoa’, identifies the drivers of youth wellbeing and reflects the concerns expressed by young people surveyed between 2018 and 2021.

The concerns span a broad cross-section of youth drawn from rangatahi (young) Māori, Pasifika, Rainbow, disabled, state care, addiction and those who experience distress.

The report notes young people in Aotearoa today feel they are facing an uncertain future, with social, economic and environmental challenges inherited from older generations.

“I think there’s future fears, also the fear of no future, that there’s no point to anything, the day-to-day mundane things. What’s the point when the world’s basically gone to s*** and is getting worse every day,” a youth is quoted as saying at a Hui (ceremonial gathering) for Rainbow young people.

The report enumerates key measures to address the concerns of young people in Aotearoa. They include ensuring government agencies involve rangatahi Māori and young people in decision-making about their futures; include them in climate change actions since they “are the future generations that will inherit it”; restructure the education curriculum to include civic engagement, life skills, mental health awareness, financial literacy, household management and critical thinking for young people “transitioning into adulthood.”

It says wrap-around services, including mental health and education services, need to expand “across all localities.”

Service providers need to gather feedback from young people across a range of sectors and provide “fair supports and services” based on that feedback.

Racism and discrimination

Young people, especially rangatahi Māori and the ethnic minority groups, face discrimination and seek protection from discriminatory and racist content in media and social media platforms.

The report says young people with disabilities face exclusion from the workforce.

“Give us opportunities that everyone gets, like open days or internships. I want to be pushed,” says a member of Yes Disability.

Social media and safety online

Social media and digital spaces are integral to the lives of many young people, the report notes and warns of both “benefits and harms.” Young people need to have better access to the internet and digital tools, especially in  rural areas and low-income households. They also need to be guided on online safety by caregivers, family and whanau who themselves need to be supported in their roles.

Social media content needs to be monitored and managed to keep young people safe online.

Whanau wellbeing and intergenerational connections

The report stresses the need for young people to stay connected to whanau and culture.

To foster this, the report recommends increased autonomy for iwi, hapu and whanau to run their own lives in line with the Treaty of Waitangi.

Where young people have no direct contact with whanau, the report recommends developing “mechanisms and pathways” for rangatahi Māori to “grow connections to whenua and whakapapa in the absence of direct whanau contact.”

The report says parents, caregivers and “responsible adults of young people experiencing mental distress or addiction” need to be provided support tailored to the needs of young people.

Finally, the report urges the government, communities and individuals to take up “these calls to action to uphold the mana of rangatahi Maori and young people’s wellbeing.”

“People with power aren’t listening to the people of the land. We just can’t keep going the way we are, consumption, diet, tools, the way we live – it’s embedded,” a Maori youth rues.

Venu Menon is an Indian Newslink reporter based in Wellington

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