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Heather Roy's Diary

Heather Roy's Diary

Finding Deliverance In Youth Policy Duelling Banjos Promises of a vision for New Zealand were noticeably absent from the speeches of both Prime Minister Helen Clark and Opposition Leader John Key in their State of the Nation addresses this week.

While Mr Key and Miss Clark have both targeted an issue that is at the forefront of many Kiwi minds, both are largely unworkable without the inclusion of commonsense approaches to delivery that ACT promotes.

The fact is that while neither the Defence Force nor the Education Ministry currently have the resources or focus to address youth offending or National and Labour's proposed 'solutions', they certainly have a role to play. The NZDF, however, is a security agency - not a youth services provider or welfare agency - and it would be folly to push more outputs on to an already over-committed and under-funded defence force without fundamental changes to the way that they would be applied.

Likewise, the Education Ministry cannot cope with current truancy issues and the British approach that Labour has copied was a dismal failure.

I have eight suggestions for how best to implement the concepts outlined in this week's two State of the Nation speeches. These are:

1) Rather than focus on 'Army Boot Camps' bring together all youth providers that offer disciplined, challenging experiences (eg Outward Bound) into one solution under the Defence Force Reserves, overseen by an all-party Parliamentary Reserve Forces Group along the lines of the successful British initiative.

2) Fund the NZDF Reserves as a separate output class from operational NZDF functions using existing, unsuccessful youth vote monies - especially from Social Development Ministry funding.

3) Staff the programmes with recently retired service personnel - who still have active reserve liability - along with suitably qualified civilian instructors.

4) Include an educational/trade training component, as was the case with the now-closed Regular Force Cadet School.

5) Change the rules around Police diversion and youth sentencing, to allow successful attendance on the programmes to be an option available to Police and Courts up to age 18.

6) Allow successful graduates of the schemes to have their minor youth convictions overlooked if applying to move through into the armed forces. At present, many on the Limited Service Volunteer (LSV) scheme strike the hurdle of a conviction when wanting to transition to full time military service. A clean slate for those who succeed in the programme recognises that the scheme can change people, their attitudes and behaviours and reduces the tendency to revert back to their old groups and behaviours. 7) Introduce Voluntary National Service for 18-25-year-olds for all core arms of State (defence and police with possible extensions to areas such as customs, teaching, health etc), with a set number of years of full or part-time service to New Zealand allowing for a write-down or write-off of student loans - rather than an interest-free ride for all and a planned off-shore destination upon graduation, as is currently the case.

8) Increased, separate funding to the NZ Cadet Forces - who currently provide an ambulance at 'the top of the cliff' for thousands of teenagers using exactly the techniques being espoused for troubled youths, but who receive only a tiny slice of Vote: Defence. Other successful youth programmes, like Scouting, could be included in this approach.

These 'hands-on' approaches would spell the difference between election year 'duelling banjos' amongst the two old Parties and result in real change for thousands of young Kiwis. It would see a greatly enhanced NZDF with its reserve operating at a size and ratio similar to that of our allies without limiting operational undertakings. Defence has some, but not all, of the solutions for youth development. A programme of this sort removes the current limits on the Courts and Police to use what is available, and brings in the many talented Kiwi mountain climbers, kayakers, trampers, hunters and fishermen who also have something to offer kids. It is likely that the male teachers who do not choose to teach in our conventional schools would see a role for themselves going back to teaching in this environment. Most importantly, ACT promotes opportunity for all young people - not the select few Labour and National are focusing on. Vision for our nation affects all Kiwis.

Lest We Forget 1901 - William Hardham Wins The Victoria Cross A Wellington blacksmith who served in South Africa with the fourth contingent, William Hardham was the only New Zealander to win the Victoria Cross in the South African War.

The London Gazette (October 4 1901) published the citation for his award, saying: 'On January 28, 1901, near Naauwpoort, South Africa, this non-commissioned officer was with a section which was extended and hotly engaged with a party of about 20 Boers.

'Just before the force began to retire, Trooper McCrae was wounded and his horse killed. Farrier Sergeant Major Hardham at once went under a heavy fire to his assistance, dismounted and placed him on his own horse, and ran alongside until he had guided him to a place of safety.'

During WWI, Hardham served as a Captain in the Wellington Mounted Rifles Regiment of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force in Egypt and at Gallipoli, where he was severely wounded in 1915.

Hardham was a keen and respected rugby player who played for the Petone and Wellington clubs, well-known for his total commitment to every game. He later became heavily involved in rugby administration and the Wellington senior rugby club Hardham Cup competition is named in his honour. William Hardham died in Wellington on April 13 1928 and is buried at the Karori Soldiers' Cemetery.

Ends

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