New programme for youth in Invercargill could be just the start


A new programme aimed at helping young people who are excluded and disadvantaged was launched in Invercargill last week.

The Thriving Rangatahi project is the culmination of a six-year investment underwritten by the Vodafone New Zealand Foundation and a partnership with Ngai Tahu.

At least $500,000 of the Vodafone money will be invested in local groups.

The evening event celebrating the new programme followed a hui with local stakeholders at Murihiku marae during the day.

Foundation head Lani Evans says Invercargill was chosen because 30 percent of its young people fit the category of excluded and disadvantaged. This is seven percent higher than the national average.

The city was also facing further disadvantage with the Tiwai Point aluminium smelter’s impending closure.

“What we want to do is take a preventive approach, to come in before things get worse, so they don’t get worse,” Evans says.

The first six-month phase was talking to local groups, schools and runanga to see what was already happening to support the young in the community so they could look at ways they could be further developed or built on, she explains.

Research has already been carried out, during which young people were asked questions about what they want their futures to look like and what are their barriers to achieving them, Evans says.

Massey University Toi Aria (Design for Public Good) director Associate Prof Anna Brown says there had been some open discussions with the city’s young people during research for the project.

The key themes were there was a need for support and trust from adults to help engage with services and employment; a need for holistic health services, including mental health, access to career opportunities; and the need for stability and security in their lives.

“It’s about having opportunities and about having people believing in them,” she says.

Researchers found that while those they spoke to had a great interest in Invercargill, they didn’t necessarily have a lot of pride in it.

High on young Invercargill’s wish list is a free-of-charge place for youth to gather and free Wi-Fi.

One youth in particular had given a poignant quote, Brown says.

“‘We understand that we’re young and don’t know everything and we don’t have a lot of experience but with what experience we do have, we do know what’s going on.'”

Ms Evans says while not all initiatives implemented in Invercargill would be rolled out to other places, it is hoped key parts of the project could be introduced to benefit young people nationwide.


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