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Clark: Launch of 274 Youth Worker Project

Friday 1 September 2006

Rt Hon Helen Clark
Prime Minister

Address at
Launch of 274 Youth Worker Project
Looking Ahead – Improving Outcomes For Young People

Unit 8, 28 Lovegrove Crescent, Otara

10.30 am

Friday 1 September 2006

We are here today to launch the 274 Youth Worker Project.

Let me first acknowledge Len Brown, chair of 274, formerly known as the Otara Youth Action Group, for his hard work and commitment to the community of Otara.

Len never misses an opportunity to advocate for the young people of this area. When our paths crossed recently at the opening of the new bus and train interchange in Manurewa, Len asked me to come to Otara to launch this new body, "274."

Len’s efforts have been strongly backed by local Labour MP, Ross Robertson, who has kept me in touch with the developments on youth gang issues here over a long period of time.

274 is familiar to anyone phoning anywhere in Otara – it is the first three digits of the phone number.

The establishment of this youth worker project is due to Len’s advocacy, to the support of youth workers Sully Paea, Alan Va’a, Seutiaimaie Fa’asua Suemai, Saipele Neal Nili, Jelena Kani and Alipate Mafileo, and to the goodwill of central government, local government, and community organisations.

The six youth workers started work under the "274" umbrella around Christmas Eve last year.

The project got off the ground after Len Brown put together a successful proposal for $135,000 in government funding for the Crosspower Ministries Trust, to employ people to work in Otara in response to youth gang problems.

When that funding expired, another contract worth $200,000 was approved, which enabled the employment of a number of youth workers.

Now, for the first time, you have the certainty of a four-year funding contract, compared to the previous six-monthly funding arrangement.

This will be a key factor in developing long-term strategies. It has been described as something of a financial lifeline for the project.

Like a lot of good community initiatives in South Auckland, Crosspower started in a garage, the garage of its founder, Sully Paea.

I have previously visited the premises of a fantastic early childhood centre in Papatoetoe which started life in exactly the same way!

It is a testament to the dedication and commitment of this community to find its own solutions to local problems.

That sort of community backing sends an important message, and it is why the government is convinced that this is a project worth supporting.

All of us here today want to improve the outcomes for young people in New Zealand. We need not only a whole-of-government approach for this but a whole-of-community move towards implementing and supporting effective initiatives.

There are other very good things already happening in the community.

The Otara Youth Action Group, with help from the Ministry of Social Development, has been a strong and efficient provider of youth services in South Auckland through the Crosspower Ministries.

And providing better options, choices, and activities for young people is a vital element in turning them away from gangs. Activities ranging from sport and game afternoons to youth festivals are decent and constructive uses of young people’s time.

It’s also important to celebrate our young people, and encourage them to reach their full potential, and feel good about themselves. Young people are the leaders of tomorrow. That’s why a big part of the Cross Power Ministries' programmes is in encouraging young people to take on leadership roles in their community.

Government agencies have been talking to many groups and organisations about the issues around youth gangs in the Counties Manukau and Otahuhu areas.

Ministry of Social Development research has told us more about the factors which drive youth gang membership. They can be related to economic, parenting, motivation, and peer pressure issues.

One thing is clear: we need to intervene early with a range of strategies which take into account the different needs of the young people concerned.

We need to support families and communities with programmes and services which deal with the challenging and difficult behaviour of some young people.

Our Labour-led government is committed to services for young people. This year’s budget has allocated $10 million over four years for the government to invest in youth workers and wrap around family services in Auckland’s southern suburbs.

This is over and above the funding available to community agencies to provide a range of services, including youth transition services, and training and employment programmes.

But there is always more to do.

The government will soon be releasing a Plan of Action for young people in Counties-Manukau.

This is a significant commitment by both government agencies and non-government organisations (NGOs) to improve outcomes for youth in Counties-Manukau and other key areas across Auckland.

This Plan will provide integrated and targeted services to young people, families, and communities in Counties Manukau and Otahuhu.

We know that if government works with NGOs and local government, then we will all achieve better results than we would through separate and unco-ordinated initiatives.

The Plan will identify 26 clear actions, building on initiatives already underway. The aim is to better support at-risk young people and intervene more effectively with youth offenders. Details will be released in the next few weeks.

This Plan will be an important step in addressing the underlying factors behind youth gangs and offending in this area.

It now gives me great pleasure to launch 274 and wish the project well.


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