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Involve Youth Development Conference

Hon Tariana Turia

Associate Minister of Health

Wednesday 17 November 2010; 1pm Speech

Involve Youth Development Conference: 'Connect - Together we are stronger'

Aotea Centre; Auckland City

I am delighted to be with you today at such a significant event in the youth calendar for Aotearoa.

As I made my way here today, an idea came to me about a text bomb to encourage recruitment to the cause of Involve. All it would take is three symbols – the plus sign; the greater-than sign; and the division sign (+>=).

Essentially the message is we are stronger when we are together; than when we are divided. Ma ratou, ma matou, ma tatou.

The concept of connecting is one that I absolutely and passionately endorse.

The theme of your conference is going to permeate every aspect of your time together over the next three days. As I understand it, the concept ‘Connect, together we are stronger’ will be explored through three central themes:

- Young people are stronger if they are connected to each other, their family and whanau and their community;

- Young people are better supported if the sector is more connected;

- Young people’s needs are better met if the sector and young people are connected to the big picture.

It’s like that classic strategy game – Connect 4 – where you try to get all your pieces together in a row, either up and down or diagonally.

And I want to congratulate the New Zealand Adolescent Health and Development association for getting all your pieces together in a row - along with the Alcohol Advisory Council of New Zealand; the national Youth Workers Network Aotearoa and the Ministry of Youth Development. Thank you for your initiative to come together; to connect; and to celebrate the good ideas and the strategies you can share to improve outcomes for our young people.

As the Connect 4 game demonstrates, connections can happen in many ways and at many different levels.

For many of you, text-based communications such as Facebook, Twitter, instant messaging, discussion boards, and SMS – the mobile phone text messaging language – are ways in which you instantly connect with one another.

I want to acknowledge that for many of you, the capacity to communicate in so many sophisticated ways amongst all the new communication medias, is evidence to me that you have a powerful grasp of the value of social networks.

I think this came home to us all through the recent times of crisis in Christchurch in the wake of the earthquake and thousands of aftershocks over the last few months.

With power down, Twitter and Facebook were used on cellphones to send messages right across the world to let family and friends know that they were safe.

One young man, 23 year old Nick Smith, walked the streets from 6.30am just two hours after the quake hit, armed with a video camera to capture images for You Tube. He had the video online by 5pm that evening and within hours that clip had had more than 1000 views.

It was through free txt services provided by Youthline that we realized the extent of the anxiety and concerns many young people shared.

But one of the most impressive acts of social networking I think I have seen in a long time, was the way in which it was young people who came to the fore, mobilizing large numbers to go into communities such as Kaiapoi to help do their bit in the cleanup efforts so desperately needed after the quake.

These recent efforts in Otautahi were led by young people driving the efforts – giving the nation a vivid picture that ‘together we are stronger’.

So another of my motives in being able to be with you today, is to place on record my appreciation of the incredible leadership that we have within our young people that helps to shape and sustain our communities.

We have the particular privilege of being able to welcome Karen Pitman and Merita Irby from the Forum for Youth Investment in Washington DC. The focus of the Forum is on investing in young people by promoting a big picture approach to planning, research, advocacy and policy development.

Ten years ago the keynote speaker at the very first Involve conference was Karen Pittman, and so it is a great honour to be able to welcome her back to our shores.

Karen has earnt a distinguished international status through her commitment towards youth development and we look forward to the breath of fresh air she will provide.

And while we are thinking about fresh air, who better to revitalize our thinking than Te Rawhitiroa Bosch of Ngapuhi and Ngati Kahu. Te Rawhitiroa will be known to many of you through his utter commitment and powerful investment made as a mentor, instigator, facilitator and leader of the Enviroschools Youth Jam Events in 2007 and 2008; and the ReGeneration Road trip last year.

Te Rawhitiroa is currently part of the Kotuia crew leading a project called Te Aho Tu Roa – inspiring and motivating rangatahi Maori in wharekura and communities across Aotearoa, to protect Papatuanuku and to care for the wellbeing of our land, our future.

The third keynote speaker invited to lead off this hui is Dr Terryann Clark – also of Ngapuhi. Terryann is a member of the Adolescent Health Research Group that has been working with youth health surveys in schools, in alternative education sites and in teen parent units, helping to bring out the voices of young people about the ways in which we all need to focus, if we are to bring out the best in our young people.

While I know these three people will inspire us, encourage us, challenge us, and move us with their korero, I want us all to turn to your neighbour, to look around this room and to marvel with me, at the amazing potential we have here today, for leadership in all areas of life.

It is with great pride that I am aware we have a large Tongan delegation here today, we have kaumatua and kuia from Ngati Whatua, Tuhoe and Te Atiawa who have come today to support their young people.

And we have the amazing Sam Chapman in our midst – who was last year awarded the title of Local Hero in the New Zealander of the Year celebrity event.

We have young leaders who are contributing to Youth Councils in local government; we have young people who have pioneered the Young Enterprise scheme in schools, there are young people who comprised the 2010 Youth Parliament or are members of the Maori Youth Council set up by the Minister of Maori Affairs, Dr Sharples.

There are others here leading the ways in arts events such as the Smokefree Rockquest or Stage Challenge; young people providing guidance and support to each other; young volunteers, all of them heroes and sheroes of the greatest description.

And I have to say I was rapt to hear that the conference is intending to hold a Café Provoke session on Whanau Ora and the Youth Sector to bring about the best of critical thinking from you all about the transformation we are seeking within our whanau.

It all makes a very fitting backdrop for what will undoubtedly be a highlight for this 2010 Conference and that is the launching of the new national youth sector organization.

Finally I want to just commend the literally hundreds of amazing people that have come here today from our whanau, hapu and iwi, from youth health and development providers, from education, from social work, from research, from government, from our world.

I have always been really impressed with the way in which New Zealand Aotearoa Adolescent Health and Development has been able to connect with so many different voices in our national conversation. As I understand it you have a membership of close to 450 organisations, which in itself is outstanding.

Thank you for your vision, your investment in our greatest potential, our leaders of today, our mentors of tomorrow.

I am delighted to formally open Involve 2010: connect: ma ratou, ma matou, ma tatou.


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