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‘Young people who offend - Who is to blame?’

Media Release
The National Youth Workers Network Aotearoa

‘Young people who offend - Who is to blame?’

Following on the recent focus on problems within our nation’s youth population, Youth Workers around New Zealand are sending a strong message to politicians.

Youth Workers have potential to be a major part of an effective solution to the problem of youth crime in our country, however they are currently under resourced, which is a situation that must change in order for this potential to be realised.

John Harrington, Director of the National Youth Workers Network Aotearoa (NYWNA), is concerned at the recent focus on young people that offend, and the general emphasis through the media on young people being identified as problems. He believes that a sustained focus on issues that exist within a small proportion of our nation’s youth population can distort the public’s views of young people and the view young people have of themselves.

“A minority of young people are committing serious crimes, while the majority of young people wouldn’t even consider engaging in behaviour of this nature. While it is tragic that some young people in our nation have committed murder, it is also tragic that some adults are appearing to condone the killing of a young person by a 50 year old man”.

“Currently, through the media, our country is labelling young people as problems. Collectively should we not be asking the question “how have we let our young people end up in these situations?” instead of blaming others, including young people who are still moving through physical and mental stages of development. What can we as a nation do together to bring about solutions and move away from blame? The solution is far more complex than sending young people to programs to try and sort them out or cure them through some kind of quick fix. The solution has to involve all New Zealanders working together collectively, with an emphasis on the value of Young People”.

“Youth Workers play a vital role in supporting young people, through youth services that are provided both in and out of a school setting. Young people need to have a sense of connection and belonging with adults that care for them. This is especially important for young people who are not well connected to the four main social environments of their life – their family or whanau, a school, education or training programme, their peers, and their community”.

“New Zealanders need to stop “bagging” young people who offend or have the potential to offend, become pregnant or leave school early, all of these young people have the ability to love and receive love and have strengths and talents that are waiting to be unleashed, for instance within academia, sport, performing arts and any other given vocational and recreational area of interest.

“NYWNA supports many Youth Workers who are working with young people who are offending or who are potential offenders. It is important that the role of Youth Workers in the lives of these young people is recognised as vital and resourced accordingly.

Youth Workers are currently under resourced in our country, which is a situation that must change in order for Youth Workers to fulfil their potential to be a major part of an effective solution to the problem of youth crime”.

John Harrington,


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