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Govt supporting youth in Youth Week

Govt supporting youth in Youth Week

Thursday May 8 Speech Notes Government supporting Youth

Manukau Youth Conference, Lakeside Conference Centre, ManukauEmbargoed toll 9.30am, May 8


As you are no doubt already aware, this week is Youth Week, a week that celebrates what it means to be young. Youth Week encourages people to focus on the positive aspects of being young, and encourages them to speak out and participate in our society. It's great to see Youth Week being celebrated around the country in ways that young people enjoy - with events like dance parties, hip hop classes, break-offs, a youth car show and sports events are all part of this year's Youth Week.

It's that sort of positivity that we need more of when thinking about young people. We need to shift the focus from seeing young people as a risk that needs to be managed to acknowledging the hugely important contribution our innovative young people can make to this country.

One area where young people can contribute is small business. Many young people are actively involved in running small businesses - yet they are under the radar of most analysis of the small business sector. Such business and young businesspeople can be a source of the innovation we have identified as crucial to our economic growth, and I intend to ensure Youth Affairs and the Ministry of Economic Development work together to make sure small businesses run by young people get as much support as they can.

And small business is just one area where we should be seeing our young people as an asset, not a liability. Young people have the enthusiasm, innovation and new ideas that will determine the future success of our country and our economy. We should be seeing young people as the potential leaders of the future, not as a problem. Of course, it's not a perfect world, and many young people face considerable challenges. We need to make sure young people have the support they need to cope with those challenges.

My colleague Jim Anderton, who chairs the Government's ministerial committee on drug policy and is responsible for the Youth Suicide Prevention Strategy, recently announced the Government's commitment in next week's Budget to addressing Maori youth health issues. This is a subject of particular concern to me as both Minister of Youth Affairs and Associate Minister of Maori Affairs. Under that commitment, Budget 2003 will provide $2.55 million to run 15 community projects addressing drug and alcohol problems. The budget also contains $2.6 million for programmes to support families and whanau affected by suicide or attempted suicide. And the Budget will provide $400,000 over four years to allow Youthline to expand its telephone crisis service to 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Having that service available to young people around the clock could be crucial in saving lives - currently thousands of crisis calls are going unanswered.

While suicide is a problem facing all ethnic and cultural groups in New Zealand, with About 100 young people's lives lost to suicide each year, male Maori youth are particularly hard hit. While in 2000, the number of suicides among people aged 15-24 was 18.1 per 100,000, the rate among young Maori males was 43.5 per 100,000.

I welcome the fact that working in partnership with Maori to reduce these figures is a priority for the government. But even the suicide rate among young non-Maori males is tragically high at 26.4 deaths per 100,000. It is of course commendable to offer help to minority groups in our society who may be disadvantaged, but there is a danger that young men are being left behind as our society and economy change. It may not be PC flavour of the month, but I want to ensure we bring young men with us.

Some figures on young men make disturbing reading: young men are more likely than their female counterparts to leave school without formal qualifications, they are more likely to be unemployed, to become perpetrators or victims of criminal offending, go to jail, or be injured or killed in car crashes and workplace accidents. I am currently undertaking work to find out what the driving factors behind at-risk behaviour for young men are, whether the issues affecting young men are coming to the attention of those who can help them, and how we can intervene and support young men. I hope this work will lead to practical programmes that ensure that young men get that support. We need to get alongside our young people, support them, listen to them, and celebrate their achievements so that they can participate in our society to their fullest potential.

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