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Turia: ‘Models of Positive Youth Development’

ComVoices Parliamentary Breakfast event

‘Models of Positive Youth Development’

Hon Tariana Turia, Co-leader of the Maori Party

Tuesday 29 July 2008

I want to commend the courage of the organisations in the tangata whenua, community and voluntary sector, for inviting Members of Parliament to an event which promotes models of positive youth development.

If one listened to the debate within the Parliamentary Chamber, one would think that the coupling of ‘positive’ with ‘young people’ would be almost unheard of.

And yet here we have the collaborative voice across communities placing it very firmly on the agenda.

I use the word courage deliberately.

To demonstrate courage is to have faith to act on one’s beliefs, in the face of fear or disapproval.

To act with courage is to make the effort, to take the risk, to say out loud the principles and positions we believe in.

It is a great honour this morning to welcome Dr Larry Brendtro to Aotearoa, someone whose reputation is all out being loud and proud of his vision for youth.

I am greatly interested in the concept that Dr Brendtro will be sharing with us, known as the Circle of Courage.

From what I have read, Dr Brendtro’s model is greatly influenced by the inspiration he believes was established by the way in which Native American communities reared courageous, respectful children without resorting to harsh, coercive controls.

The Circle of Courage grew out of the sophisticated philosophical context anthropologists have studies in the child-rearing practices of Native American communities.

These communities lived by traditional values which treated children with respect, and shaped environments for young people to grow and flourish.

It is an opportune time for such exciting ideas to be shared.

Just last week national media featured the work of new PhD research being undertaken by Ngati Porou grandfather, Amster Reedy.

The research focus is motivated by Amster’s desire to revise Maori birth rites, rituals and practices in his mother tongue, te reo Maori.

He will be concentrated on the tradition of oriori – the practice of what other cultures may describe as lullabies – which were recited while the child was in the womb, during birth and as the child grows.

These oriori and traditional karakia or prayers, opened the world of learning for that child, giving them access to ancestral journeys and achievements in a way which would guide them in their own life-path forward.

It is based on the premise that if our minds can conceive it, and our heart can believe it, then we know we can indeed achieve it.

It is such a wonderful and positive focus for us to consider, as all reflect on what we can do, to encourage our young people to get engaged in a lifelong pursuit of learning; to inspire a hunger to seek out knowledge.

And if anyone has any doubt that these ‘in-utero’ affirmations work, I’ll share a story told by singer-songwriter, Hareruia Ruia Aperehama, about the music that inspired him and his twin brother, Ranea, on to be Tui award winners; and indeed to have a huge following amongst Maori youth.

When their mother was hapu with the twins, apparently she used to carry a radio around with her, holding it to her puku, caressing her children to be with a love of music.

And to this day, both Ruia and Ranea have a distinctive reaction to Englebert Humpledinks’ ‘It’s not unusual’; and the 1970s classic, ‘I can see clearly now the rain has gone’.

Circles of courage will help us all to see clearly now, to see all the obstacles in our way.

The obstacles, indeed, are essential in focusing on the challenges that face our children and young people who are in conflict with family, school and the community.

Courage doesn’t always have to roar to be effective. Sometimes the greatest courage is in the quiet acceptance to try again, to learn a different way, to continue on in less than perfect conditions.

It would be wonderful if this morning we could all leave this event, having the commitment to take new steps to approach the ever challenging circumstances that we know confront our young people.

The world of 2008 is a completely different world than that which many of us in this room knew. There is access to so many more opportunities and challenges through avenues like Facebook, Youtube, myspace, Ipods, and the like.

Our young people are now connecting, literally to hundreds of people on their Bebo pages. Their texting techniques are astounding, their technological literacy bewildering.

And yet with all of the emphasis on connectivity, still it appears that doors are being slammed shut, conversations closed, relationships broken down.

We all need new ways to connect, if we are committed to truly seeing clearly now to the blue skies ahead.

Larry Brendtro, a youth worker, teacher, principal, psychologist and founder of Reclaiming Youth International is someone who has written over 200 publications and some dozen books to help us focus on the promise of the future for our young.

I know that the message of inspiration that Dr Brendtro brings today will be of huge interest to this audience and I have the greatest pleasure in welcoming him to this day.


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