New plan looks at better youth representation


Praneeta Mahajan
Hamilton, August 16, 2023

The voices and leadership of young New Zealanders are key drivers behind a refreshed Youth Plan ‘Voice, Leadership, Action’ released recently by Minister for Youth, Willow-Jean Prime.

The Youth Plan provides a framework, supported with tools and resources, to help agencies, youth sector organisations, and beyond, realise this vision.

The Youth Plan drives change as part of the Child and Youth Wellbeing Strategy (CYWS), under the outcome area, “Children and young people are involved and empowered”.  It seeks to achieve this outcome by embedding youth voice and leadership into government and community decision-making and action, particularly in the issues that matter most to young people.

“Young people represent 17% of the population and are 100% of our future. Young New Zealanders have consistently told the government they want their voices heard in decisions which impact them and their futures,” Ms Prime said.

“I am proud the refreshed Youth Plan answers that challenge, and demonstrates this Government’s ongoing commitment to all young people. We all know how effective and powerful change can be when young people lead it for themselves and their families (whanau), their schools, businesses, and communities.”

The refreshed Youth Plan aims to amplify the youth voice in government policy and decision-making and ensure processes are in place for young people to have meaningful input. It will also increase opportunities for young people to lead their own lives and have their identities seen, valued and respected.

The refreshed plan has been driven by engagement with young people. Just over 1,400 young people told the Ministry of Youth Development what they thought and what they wanted to see in the plan.

“I want to thank the many young people who contributed their views and expertise that helped craft the Youth Plan,” Ms Prime said. “It is particularly special to announce the plan alongside members of the Youth Advisory Group who have advocated so strongly for the youth.”

More about the plan

The Youth Plan is a collaborative plan working across government and the wider sector and is designed for all young people aged 12-24 years. This wider cohort can be divided into two groups based on common development stages: young people aged 12-17 years, and young people aged 18-24 years.

That is approximately 850,000 young people, making up 17% of the population, as per government estimates. Although the Youth Plan is for all young people, it acknowledges that some groups of young people experience higher threats to wellbeing, based on factors such as their ethnicity, sexuality, gender identity, disability, and geographic location.

Many of these young people also struggle to access support services, for example, services that are culturally appropriate, accessible, accepting, and gender-affirming. The Youth Plan will focus particularly on seven priority cohorts, namely, rangatahi Māori, pacific young people, rainbow young people, disabled young people, young women, young people from ethnic communities (in particular, former refugees and recent migrants), and young people living in the regions.

Focus areas of the plan

As part of the Youth Plan’s refresh, the Ministry of Youth Development engaged with over 1,400 young people across the motu to find out what youth voice and leadership meant to them which helped to define the two focus areas.

Voice

Voice is about opportunities for young people to speak and be heard. This may come in many forms e.g., an eligible young person voting, signing a petition, vocalising their views at a protest, or asking questions of a member of Parliament. It can be through formal engagement opportunities or more informal channels, sharing their views on social media, or advocating for an issue among peers.

Decision-makers listening is essential to young people sharing their voices. The impact of youth voice is determined by the quality of listening that happens as part of the process. Quality listening includes information-sharing, closing feedback loops, and decision-makers taking action after hearing from young people.

Leadership

Leadership looks different for every young person. For some, leadership is about self-determination. For others, it is about influencing their communities and decision-making processes. For many, it is about supporting and caring for others through collective action.

Young people want to have more influence over issues that impact them. Decision-makers should invest in opportunities that foster the leadership of young people while also creating increasing space for young people to advise, influence, and collectively lead.

Praneeta Mahajan is an Indian Newslink reporter based in Hamilton.

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