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Nanaia Mahuta - Duke of Edinburgh's Awards

Hon. Nanaia Mahuta
Youth Affairs Minister

Address at the opening of the Duke of Edinburgh's Award - Asia Pacific Regionals Event

13 November 2007, 5.30pm, Vaughan Park Anglican Retreat Centre, North Shore

Opening mihi

Good evening and thank you for your invitation to open The Duke of Edinburgh's Award - Asia Pacific Regional Event.

It's my pleasure to be here, and to have the opportunity to acknowledge the guests and delegates who have traveled to Aotearoa/New Zealand from around the diverse Asia Pacific region, not to mention local representatives, who are also an important part of this event.

I hope you will enjoy your stay here and learn more about our experience participating in The Young New Zealanders' Challenge as well as sharing what it is to be part of The Award within the Region.

The Asia Pacific Regional Events:
As Minister of Youth Affairs I am pleased to support the work of The Young New Zealanders' Challenge which offers young people a chance to gain experience and learn through challenging opportunities, develop new skills, gain confidence and learn about the power of self-belief.
The Asia Pacific Regional events, I understand, include the Regional Board Meeting and a Regional Training Workshop. These events offer opportunities to inspire, celebrate successes, share experiences, and create on-going joint relationships within our region.

This fits well with the work of my Ministry and our goal to provide all young people with positive opportunities that can enhance lives, and remove barriers that limit successful outcomes, as well as showing young people that learning and fully participating in their communities can be fun.
I can see from the number of delegates present that there is strong support and enthusiasm for The Award and what it can offer the individual participants. All in all, it's a chance to learn, grow and share experiences that have both an individual and collective benefit.

Volunteers and Aotearoa/New Zealand:
I understand that our country has some 40,000 volunteers helping young people complete The Challenge. I can't imagine how many volunteers this adds up to when we consider the numbers of those countries represented at this event.
Volunteerism in Aotearoa/New Zealand is very important. At the heart of what we value as families and communities is volunteering throughout the world. It is because of this support that 620,437 young people participated in The Award in 2005. I would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge the volunteeers' support for The Award. Without them, events like this would not be as successful.
Aotearoa/New Zealand is a small country compared to many others represented which suggests to me that the commitment to making The Award successful is very important. I am excited by the fact that, after 44 years, Aotearoa/New Zealand still strongly supports The Award and is able to host a growing Asia Pacific Region gathering.
I understand the theme for the Regional Training Workshop is to discuss the concept of being "Knowledge Brokers". We appreciate that knowledge is a powerful tool, especially for young people.
I have a particular interest in seeing young people achieve and develop knowledge and skills that assist them reach their full potential, and help them to pursue their dreams and aspirations. Learning throughout one's life is absolutely critical to achieving this outcome.
This is particularly so for young people who are not achieving well in education, or young people with special needs, or from other ethnic minorities who may need positive experiences to help them learn about themselves and about New Zealand, particularly if it is their new country of choice to live in.
Mäaori and Pacific young people traditionally have not always been high academic achievers. However, they are often skilled in many others areas and fields, and it's crucial that these positive skills are encouraged and developed.

The Challenge focus
The Challenge focus for participating delegates includes;
. SERVICE - learning to give useful service to others and make a real difference.
. ADVENTUROUS JOURNEY which supports the spirit of adventure and discovery.
. SKILLS that encourage the development of personal interests and practical skills
. PHYSICAL RECREATION which promotes participation.
All these, I believe, fosters confidence, new skills and understanding of the power of community service.
Volunteering is a critical part of the success of The Award. Through young people's participation and involvement with the volunteers who support the programme hopefully young people will go on to become future volunteers.
Maaori and Pacific Island young people:
Often Mäori and Pacific young people for example have not normally participated in such opportunities as The Award. This is clearly changing in New Zealand which is heartening to note. I also see that young people with special needs and those from other ethnic communities are also taking up The Challenge.
The Award provides a tangible way for young people to achieve at a pace relevant to the individual and be successful in the different aspects of The Challenge. Individuals are able to become more confident and perhaps develop a desire to aim for bigger goals they may not have considered before their participation.

The Ministry of Youth Affairs:
My Ministry has been funding The Challenge since 2002 and I'm proud of what has been achieved. The Ministry has advised me that the work has grown over the past three years and extended to include those already mentioned, with the addition of:
. Special Needs (disability) schools
. Young people in semi-secure care.
I understand that the demand is growing faster than The Challenge anticipated which suggests to me a very positive organisation with totally committed staff who can clearly articulate the value of The Challenge to the community and young people.
The testimonies I have read have been enlightening, and I particularly noted several parents' comments about their sons and daughters, including a mother who has seen her daughter turn her life around since taking part in The Challenge.
These stories are a source of great encouragement, not only for supporters, but for participants.

Clearly the changes witnessed by those involved in this programme is what continues to motivate the staff, coordinators and the volunteers to support, encourage and be there for young people who are part of The Award.
I would now like to formally open your two Asia Pacific events and wish you all well in your deliberations. I hope that the sharing that takes place will continue to benefit the young people of New Zealand, the Asia Pacific Region as a whole and beyond. Enjoy your stay, the hospitality, the company and the stories you will share during your time in New Zealand.


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