Government funds Award for young Maori community

Published: 5 Aug 2013

Young men, from Kawerau in New Zealand, stood on the top of a hill

The Ministry of Youth Development in New Zealand has announced funding to support 15 vulnerable young people from Kawerau to do the Award.

The new Ministry funding will extend an International Special Project which focuses on at risk young people from the town’s Maori community.

The initiative is using the Award to build life skills that will transform the outlook and outcomes of these young people. It aims to increase the young people’s sense of well-being and social inclusion. This in turn may inspire a wider peer group to believe that transformation and hope is possible.

Waves of job losses

Kawerau, on New Zealand’s North Island, was once a thriving industrial town. Founded in the 50s to house workers at a new papermill, the town reached peak population and employment levels in the early 80s.

Since then, however, waves of job losses have left it grappling with high unemployment and a range of related social problems. Crime and anti-social behaviour have crept up, and the town has one of the highest rates of dependency on state benefits in the country.

Young people, perceived by some as a symptom of the town’s increasing economic problems, are seeing local services cut and are struggling to find jobs. The desperation of some, particularly young Maori men, is evidenced by Kawerau’s having the highest youth suicide rate in New Zealand.

Positive opportunities

Youth Affairs Minister Nikki Kaye says, “Kawerau is an area of focus for the government and we want to see better outcomes for young people who live there.

“There have been difficulties for young people in this community and it is important to be able to give them positive opportunities to contribute to their community and show leadership.

“The aim of getting young people from the town involved in an internationally recognised programme like the Award is to see reduced criminal offending, truancy, and alcohol and other drug use. We also want to see an increase in the numbers of young people in Kawerau in education, training or employment.”

The Award in New Zealand already has a three year contract with the Ministry to support 250 children from low socio-economic backgrounds to do the Award.

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