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Posts Tagged ‘youth politics’

Are you ready? Stand up and be counted!

Monday, November 3rd, 2008

By Hannah Robson

megaphoneHere in Aotearoa New Zealand and beyond, we have strong opinions and are becoming more knowledgeable about politics, showing that we do indeed care. As the future generation, we are exercising our democratic rights and breaking out — trying to be heard!

People power
In the dictionary, democracy is “a government by the people in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised directly by them or by their elected agents under a free electoral system.” In the words of Abraham Lincoln, democracy is a government “of the people, by the people, and for the people.” Did you know that young people make up nearly half of the entire population of the world? So WE are “the people” and WE have the power to make change globally.

In democracies like NZ our key democratic right is to elect our government - majority rules. Our voting age is 18, but around the world different countries have different voting ages.

  • Austria 16
  • Sudan 17
  • Japan 20
  • Uzbekistan 25

Taking a stand
FrigateYoung New Zealanders are becoming more politically aware. This could be because as a country we are known for not following the crowd on certain issues — we create strong opinions, and can usually back them up. Like the nuclear energy debate — although it is environmentally viable, New Zealand has maintained its nuclear free stance and is protecting the people from the potentially dangerous consequences. The New Zealand government has remained staunch on this issue, even under pressure from other nations, such as the USA, Australia and Britain. But young people have also realised that we can’t always wait for the government to lead the way. We have to stand up for what we believe in — we have to make changes, because in a lot of cases, the politicians have ignored the major issues.

Why now?
It is us, the young, who are going to be directly affected by such issues as global warming in the coming decades, so we need to make a stand now, for the future generations. Groups set up by young people all over the world are making that stand. KidsCall, has been touring the globe gathering messages from young people about the environment and climate change They will be presenting the hopes and demands of young people to the world’s leading politicians at the G8 meeting in Japan in July 2008. Others are taking action locally. EcoWatch in Uganda, set up by young women, works with students to raise awareness of the threat of climate change and to empower people to live in an environmentally sustainable way.

Youth can swing elections
young-obama-supportersWhether it’s as voters or as activists, young people do have power. The youth vote was seen as the all important swing vote in the American Democratic Presidential candidate election, which favoured Barack Obama. Young people in the US are inspired by his message of change and feel he reflects a new generation (their generation!) and new thinking. And he takes young people seriously, speaking to them directly and encouraging them to get involved. Young people came out in huge numbers in the primary elections and showed they are a force to be reckoned with.

In Pakistan, students played a crucial role in pushing for governmental change — for democracy — even with the risk of arrest and other punishments. Their protests helped keep international attention on the issue, and although they may still be waiting for true democratic change, the students’ actions have awakened many Pakistani youth to the potential of their own power.

On the frontline
Young people want change; it’s in our nature. From women’s rights to civil rights, young people have been on the frontline, campaigning for their cause. Youth have never been the kind to sit back and just let things happen. Even the Prime Minister was young once — just like us! Yes — even Helen Clark was out protesting against New Zealand’s involvement in the Vietnam war back in the 1970s. But we need to remember that beliefs do change over time and we need to remind our politicians what it is like to be young. We need to make our voices heard.

myspace-maoriPoliticians seem to be realising the power of youth and are trying to become more “in touch” with us, using technology. In the upcoming elections in New Zealand and the USA, politicians are reaching out to young people via the internet, posting videos on YouTube and creating Bebo and MySpace pages. So, if they are taking us seriously, we should take ourselves seriously too. We have to actively participate in making a change — not just talk about it!

Are you ready to stand up and be counted?


  • Take a chance — run for your student council. Or, if you want your thoughts and ideas to be heard by national decision makers, join the Provoke Network at
  • Become a youth member of a political party
  • Join a local student organisation or CREATE YOUR OWN! You want to change something? Research it, discuss it with others (be prepared for some debate!) and work to make the change
  • Get involved with the World Youth Movement for Democracy
  • Signup with the Just Focus network or join the discussions in the forum


Find out about student activists around the world at
Download the Do-It-Yourself guide to youth activism at
Do you want to write to a politician, or organise a petition or a campaign? Check out the Take Action guides from the Ministry of Youth Development

    This article was originally published in the Global Focus pages of Tearaway Magazine.

    Stem Cells - Potential, promises and problems

    Thursday, October 4th, 2007

    Storme Sen

    Scientific and technological advances have propelled mankind into the modern era whether confronting us with new weapons of war that kill thousands or medical discoveries that save thousands. Scientists almost always start out with good intentions, but the question is what the end product will be used for, and if the end justifies the means. Alfred Nobel (patron of the celebrated Nobel Prizes) created the explosive, dynamite, which was later used in warfare and killed his brother on the battlefield. From then on he dedicated his life towards peace. Adolf Hitler’s scientists performed horrific experiments on the prisoners at concentration camps- is it morally acceptable that we use the information that they discovered? How far should we go in our quest for knowledge?

    At Youth Parliament 2007 in Wellington, New Zealand, a select committee of Youth MPs gathered to discuss whether therapeutic cloning of stem cells should be allowed in their country. There was a range of different viewpoints on this issue represented at the select committee- such as those held by the Bioethics Council, the Nathaniel Centre (a catholic bioethics centre) and the Ministry of Health.

    Stem cells
    Stem CellsThe latest biological controversy is over stem cells and the process of therapeutic cloning. Stem cells are undifferentiated cells, cells that are not specialized yet into specific types such as skin cells. They are able to transform into any type of cell given the correct stimulation. Hence, these cells have the potential to repair damaged tissue and develop treatments for diseases such as chronic heart disease, Parkinson’s, and type I diabetes. These remarkable cells are located in the early embryo, the foetus, the placenta and in some mature tissues and organs throughout the body. The most recent discovery, in February 2007, by researchers from Auckland University in New Zealand and the Sahlgrenska Academy in Sweden, revealed that stem cells can also be located in a certain area of the brain. Stem cells have the potential to revolutionize medical treatments; however, the obvious problem is that they are in hard to reach places.

    The Controversy

    Is it ethical to use embryos in scientific research?

    Stem Cell2Embryonic stem cells are the easiest cells to isolate and manipulate. Unlike adult stem cells they are able to evolve into any other type of cell whereas an adult stem cell is limited in the cells it may transform into. For example, the stem cells found in a part of the brain can only change into different types of neurons. To discover the true potential of stem cells further research is needed and this would require a steady supply of them, indeed, much of the breakthrough research we have to date was performed on aborted foetuses and surplus IVF (in vitro fertilization) embryos.

    The other issue lies around the concept of cloning. Therapeutic cloning is often mistaken for embryo cloning, when in fact embryos are not being cloned at all. Genetic material is taken from a cell in an adult’s body and fused with an empty egg cell. With the correct stimulation the new cell is able to grow into an embryo. The stem cells can then be harvested from the embryo for use in treatments or research. They do not intend to recreate life, but to create life-saving cells.

    The Cons

    Some people do not feel therapeutic stem cell cloning is ethical, and abortion itself is a controversial topic for many. There has been no therapeutic stem cell cloning in New Zealand thus far and the representatives from the Nathaniel Centre were adamant that it should stay that way. They expressed nothing but contempt for the idea of producing an embryo for the sole purpose of extracting a bunch a cells from it then destroying it, arguing that “it is a scientific fact that life begins from conception”. This in itself is a disputed argument, with a lot of disagreement about the moment an embryo is considered a human being. While those against therapeutic stem cell cloning argue for “the dignity of human life” others believe that aborted embryos or surplus IVF embryos (of which there are currently 5000-7000 and the maximum number of years they can be stored in New Zealand is ten) should be utilised instead of simply being destroyed.

    Another concern was about where this sort of research is leading us? MoRST (the Ministry of Research, Science and Technology) assured the committee that any scientific exploits were monitored under strict regulations, however, what is to stop a rogue scientist from toying with nature? Could we be heading to the point of human cloning, many people’s worst fear, where we will be selecting genes to produce perfect individuals?

    The Pros

    SurgeryEmbryonic stem cells are thought by most scientists and researchers to hold amazing potential for finding cures for spinal cord injuries, cancer, heart disease, hundreds of rare immune system and genetic disorders and much more.

    The huge advantage of the process of therapeutic stem cell cloning is that the genetic material of the stem cells and the patient are the same, so that there is no danger of rejection by the patient’s immune system. Currently, for example, when an organ is transplanted into a patient, that patient has to take strong immune suppressant drugs for the rest of their lives.

    The Future

    LabWhile stem cells hold tremendous potential, and there have been many promises made, the fact remains that this potential is far from being realised. There are many technical and ethical barriers to consider before stem cell based therapies become a reality.

    While some members of the select committee at Youth Parliament believed that this sort of research is important for our continued scientific advancement, others felt that allowing therapeutic cloning in New Zealand might taint the clean and green natural image the country has and undermine New Zealand’s reputation of taking a strong stance in controversial areas like G.E. and nuclear power.

    Currently, the therapeutic cloning of stem cells is permitted in Belgium, the UK and Sweden. Whether or not it will be permitted in New Zealand is yet to be seen, however, the select committee at Youth Parliament concluded that if stem cell research should only be allowed using surplus IVF embryos or aborted fetuses. The committee is also hopeful that soon scientists will find a way to manipulate adult stem cells to changing into any type of cell, which would nullify the use of embryonic stem cells.

    Learn More:

    Take Action

    • Get in contact with, or try and organise a class trip to, Auckland University’s Liggins Institute. This is the main place in Aotearoa New Zealand for research concerning embryos etc.
    • Interested in issues around bioethics? The RSNZ in association with Bioethics Council and the New Zealand Organisation of Rare Disorders run a yearly essay competition (with prizes!) on different ethical issues of biology
    • Organise a debate in class where you explore both sides of the issue.

    Tackling climate change

    Wednesday, August 1st, 2007

    How is NZ reducing its ecological footprint?

    Storme Sen

    Global warming
    You hear about global warming everywhere nowadays; scientists and tree-huggers spout on about it and the millions of mind-boggling statistics to back up their claim at any opportunity. Yet, that phrase is never in the forefront of our minds in our everyday life, not when we take our hour long shower, not when we leave six appliances on at once, not until global warming affects our lives personally do those cold statistics mean a thing.

    Since when has the weather gone so insane?
    Mudslides, earthquakes and floods are occurring in places where they shouldn’t be at alarming rates; polar bears are actually drowning from lack of icebergs to rest on! Global warming is no longer something we can put off or disown as scare-propaganda. A recent example of out-of-control weather phenomenon are the tornadoes that hit Taranaki. New Zealand shouldn’t have global warming problems; we are renowned for our “clean and green” image, right? Wrong.

    If we measure the average emissions produced per capita (individually), New Zealand comes in at a shocking 12th place in the world for the highest carbon producing countries in 2006. As a country that thrives on showcasing its natural resources for the tourism industry and production of biological products for export, New Zealand’s economy is particularly vulnerable to climate change

    Cars FloodSo what is global warming?
    The suns rays have always penetrated our atmosphere, warming the earths surface, enabling life to inhabit our planet, then been reflected back off the earths surface out through our ozone layer. But now, the pollution we emit traps the harmful rays in our atmosphere so that they cannot be reflected back out of our ozone layer, causing global warming. This changes our weather patterns, causes droughts, melts our ice caps, provides warmer temperatures for disease carrying vectors and pests, such as mosquitoes, to breed, and changes the conditions for crops to be grown in, to name a few examples.

    We know a lot of these facts and that global warming is a problem of epic proportions, but now the time has come to do something about it. It was not caused by my generation but it is up to us to carry the burden and we can no longer just say our great great grandchildren will have to deal with it. New Zealand has ratified the Kyoto Protocol named after the Japanese city the environmental summit was held in. The Kyoto Protocol aims to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions of developed countries to 5% below the level they were in 1990 from the period 2008-2012. New Zealand’s greenhouse gas emissions are currently 25% higher than they were in 1990 and New Zealand is in danger of not achieving its target.

    Global Warming VisualThe Bill
    At Youth Parliament 2007 a Legislative Bill was put forward for debate amongst the Youth Parliamentarians. This bill was mainly aimed at reducing household carbon gas emissions and lowering the energy usage of individuals. The bill enables a household to open a voluntary carbon account that will monitor their energy consumption via a Smart card system. There would be a fee to open an account and the amount of energy deemed reasonable for consumption would be individually analyzed in accordance with the needs of each different household. The account would also introduce carbon credits (in the form of tax credits), rewarding a household that makes energy savings of 10% (with $500) and penalizing those that overreach their amount of calculated energy use. In addition, the bill stated that the government will pay up to 50% of the costs of converting to more energy efficient means such as solar power.

    This bill was greeted with a plethora of criticism. Youth MP Katherine Steel felt that the bill did not go anywhere near far enough and proclaimed “this bill is proof that the government is f!*king with our futures”. Many Youth MPs pointed out the several flaws in this bill. Namely, if it is voluntary with a sign-up fee no one will do it and making it compulsory is out of the question because it will be “perceived as a state intrusion”. It doesn’t offer enough of an incentive and why would you want to sign up for something that would actually add extra cost should you use too much energy. Additionally there is the cost of performing individual energy usage evaluations, which would be astronomical.

    LiveEarthThe ironically heated debate over this environmental bill also produced talk about whether New Zealand should revoke its strong Anti-Nuclear policy. Youth MP James Barnett stated that “70% of the world already use nuclear power, I say we follow.” Some Youth MPs thought that this was worth the hypocritical label because nuclear power would more than meet our energy requirements and produces no greenhouse gas emissions, stating that we are “famous for Do as we say and not as we do’ anyway” (for example, it is illegal for us to cut down native trees and yet we import the native trees of other countries).

    The more idealistic and positive of the Youth MPs were for the passing of this bill, arguing that while this bill was definitely not perfect, it was still a step in the right direction. Others weren’t so sure it was the government’s job. How many politicians does it take to change a light bulb?” asked Youth MP James Walkinshaw. The answer? None, the people need to do it themselves.

    An Inconvenient Truth


    My PYF experience: a reflection

    Monday, October 30th, 2006

    TeRito Peyroux

    TeRito, Jacob and Rosie
    In March of this year, before even sending an application to be part of the New Zealand delegation attending the inaugural Pacific Youth Festival (PYF) in Tahiti, I was already excited. I suppose it was almost as if I knew that my going would be a liberating home-coming of sorts, to a place in Polynesia which (like Rotuma, Rarotonga and Aitutaki) is a significant part of both my family heritage and cultural identity “Liberating” in the sense that I would be returning to Tahiti without the comfort and security of my parents or ma’piga on hand, should I want it.

    So with my own cultural identity being at the root of initial thoughts and feelings from the very beginning, it was quite natural (after finding out that I had actually been accepted to go and would therefore need to look for funds) that my attitude, learning and overall experience of the PYF were strongly influenced by things pertaining to cultural identity. My cultural identity–as a multiethnic, urban New Zealand born and raised, Methodist young woman, in 2006.
    For sure, the PYF provided a myriad of conferences and workshops ranging from health and education right through to governance and sustainable development, which were designed to be all very relevant to the 1000 or so youth participants in attendance. There was even a representational group that met devotedly every evening to help piece together a Pacific Youth Charter, on the PYF’s behalf.

    Of course, no Pacific gathering would be complete without the flamboyance, richness and celebration of cultural dance, songs, stories and friendships, and in a land so well versed in creative Maohi performance and hospitality, Tahiti was certainly no exception. This was superbly complemented by the nation’s annual Heiva festivities as well.

    I suppose I could also dedicate a paragraph of my reflection to the political woes of French Polynesia and other Pacific Island nations that were shared from the perspectives of those whose portrayals when shared in the media aren’t usually very comprehensive (if they’re shared at all). However, due to my fear of digressing, with regard to politics, I’ll stop right here.
    Still bearing all of the above in mind, the main highlight for me is something that even up until now I pleasantly continue to unwrap. From this PYF experience, my highlight came in the realisation that regardless of things measurable, predictable or linear, my sense of belonging and cultural identity is something that I journey toward discovering, understanding and accepting for myself, and thus I need not anyone else to demarcate for me.

    Regardless of whether I’m a son or a daughter; whether I’m a first, last or even only child; whether or not I can fluently speak my mother/father/or ma’piga tongue for that matter; whether I’m half, quarter or an eighth of an ethnicity, whether I can sing hymns or chant ri jaujau; regardless even of my religion or whether my theology is orthodox, liberation or otherwise influenced …by birth and by upbringing, I am a part of all of these types of variables and they are all a part of me.

    Thus in relation to my ethnic identity for instance, despite the arithmetic and despite any explanations or justifications, I am Rotuman. I am Tahitian. I am French. I am Scottish. I am a Cook Islander. I am a New Zealander. I belong and have just as much of a right and responsibility to each of these different groups as anyone else whose journey through understanding their own sense of identity and belonging leads them to these places also.
    And so, with very cherished experiences in heart, a host of stirred understandings in head, heaps of awe-inspiring new friends on hand, and a nurtured spirit in tact, I certainly look forward to the next Pacific Youth Festival which is expected to be held in Fiji.

    eating taro ice-cream with friends
    TeRito attended the Pacific Youth Festival as part of the Just Focus contingent. This reflection was originally shared in the NZ Rotuman Association Quarterly and also put up on the Rotuma Website.

    The PYF: Pākehā reflections on a Pacific gathering

    Wednesday, October 11th, 2006

    Lyndon Burford
    welcome to tahitiThe inaugural Pacific Youth Festival was a phenomenal gathering. Held in Tahiti from the 17th to 22 July 2006, it was a veritable showcase of cultural diversity, exchange, and open-minded enquiry. It was a vehicle for celebration, learning and sharing, and as ever with new learning, there was the challenge of stepping out of old comfort zones and seeing the world in a new light.
    The Festival was a week of song, dance, cultural exchange, and also a week of politics. A thousand young people from 25 countries across the Pacific (plus France!), ranging in age from 16 to 30, came together in Tahiti to discuss 4 themes of key importance to the Pacific Region; Equitable Globalisation, Conditions for Peace, and Cultural Diversity. The goal of the festival was to create a Pacific Youth Charter, a guiding document to establish a set of common hopes, values, and goals for Pacific Youth. For myself personally, the Pacific Youth Festival was a chance to reflect on my own culture and identity, and to think about my place both in the Pacific and in Aotearoa.

    After a day acclimatising (and yes, checking out the warm Pacific waters!) the Pacific Youth Festival began in earnest. The Festival was structured around small group (20-50 people!) workshops and conferences’ (presented by panels of guest speakers) which ran from 8.30 till 5.30 every day. There was cultural performance every evening, in which we were treated to the great richness of the Pacific’s cultural heritage. There were performance groups from as far abroad as Belau (Palau) and the North Marianas in the West, and Rapanui (Easter Island) in the East. Each had its own unique rhythms and styles, and each brought spirit and character to the Festival. All in all, the days were packed full of learning, laughter, song, and dialogue.
    discussion in workshop
    Peace and Non-violent Conflict Resolution Workshop
    NZ’s professional contribution to the Festival was a workshop on “Peace and Non-violent Conflict Resolution”. This was created and presented by Annie Boanas of the Peace Foundation Wellington, with assistance from Eva Lawrence of the Global Education Centre in Wellington, and from myself. The workshop was run in three phases. The first phase encouraged people to consider what peace meant to them personally. Following this, we proposed a definition of peace as more than just the absence of violence, suggesting that it is the result of a positive, non-violent effort towards the building of a culture of peace. This requires dialogue at all levels, in order to deal with the root causes of conflict. The second section of the workshop gave participants time to consider specific issues related to Peace, through discussion of questions such as:

    • What threatens peace in the Pacific?
    • What do you think your culture has particularly to offer to help create peace?
    • How can people build peaceful relationships at a personal level?

    Finally, participants were invited to share a peace “success story”: a personal story, or one that inspired them, in which peace was created through the application of non-violent means of conflict resolution. At the end of the workshop, attendees were offered a “Take Action” worksheet, detailing specific personal action that can be taken in their own communities to help develop a culture of peace (this was developed a few years ago by several young peaceworkers involved with the Disarmament and Security Centre in Christchurch). After a heartfelt hour of sharing, the young delegates left with a sense of hope and inspiration, along with concrete examples of people working for peace, and peace working.

    Politics in Tahiti - and at the Festival
    Politics also played a large part in the week’s proceedings, however. From the opening ceremony, we were exposed to a political battle that had been raging since long before we arrived — between the pro-French civil authorities and the pro-independence government of French Polynesia.
    oscar temaru
    In his welcome address to the assembled Pacific Youth, the pro-independence President Oscar Temaru invited delegates to redress the injustice of the festival’s agenda that completely ignored the subjects of and independence. This challenge was taken up by two young NZ delegates, Charmaine Clark and Omar Hamed, who ran an excellent workshop on Decolonisation with Justice” at the end of the week. This was attended by delegates, media, MPs, independence advocates, as well as by the small French delegation, who had their own assumptions about the place of France in the Pacific challenged over the course of the festival. (They were growled at by the French authorities for their active in the workshop). In closing his welcome speech, Temaru stated that it was forbidden to speak the indigenous Maohi language in the French Polynesian parliament, which, although not true, does reveal a legitimate grievance of the indigenous people, in that the Maohi language is not an official language of parliament or state. Temaru’s confrontational stance at the opening ceremony saw the French Government’s representative walk out in protest, and reply with an equally confrontational outburst in the media the following day. Such was the political atmosphere in which the week unrolled.

    The Politics of the Pacific Youth Charter

    This political struggle also played out among the youth themselves. Each day, a Charter Drafting Committee, consisting of one member from each delegation, met to draft resolutions regarding the issues discussed that day. To the surprise of all, a young French delegate joined the Committee, taking an active role at the right hand of the Tahitian delegate, who had unilaterally declared himself Chair of the Committee. This was symptomatic of a lack of that was a constant frustration at the Festival; a young Frenchman was invited by the local French authorities to negotiate and vote on a Pacific Youth Charter, without any discussion of the matter with other Pacific delegates.
    houses in tahiti
    The issue came to a head in the middle of the week, when President Temaru invited the Charter Drafting Committee to an evening reception. In a vote split 11-10, the French representative held the crucial deciding vote that saw the young delegates refuse this invitation from a head of state. At this point, several delegates, including the NZ’s delegate, left the meeting to attend the reception. They pointed out, quite rightly, that it was inappropriate to snub an invitation from a head of state, particularly as the Committee had accepted an invitation from the French High Commissioner the night before. The following day, the Committee voted overwhelmingly to remove France’s right to vote on the Charter committee. Nevertheless, resolutions proposed by the NZ delegation relating to nuclear disarmament somehow fell off’ the agenda, and were entirely absent in the final draft Charter. The fallout of French nuclear testing in the Pacific still affects the region today.

    A new perspective: Aotearoa in the Pacific
    There was valuable learning for many Kiwis in observing the process of drafting the Pacific Youth Charter. As Kiwis, we are used to thinking of NZ as a small state, while Pacific Islanders in dialogue with us see themselves as the small state, and Aotearoa as large state or regional power’. The new perspective gained in the Charter process offered us insight into Aotearoa’s role/place in the Pacific Community. This influential role brings with it responsibility; to exercise our power wisely, in the interest of the wider Pacific Community, not simply to pursue our own self-interest.

    Thinking regionally
    A Pacific Youth Charter sometimes required that we put aside our own interests, and put on our regional thinking cap - human rights issues are a good example. Currently, Fiji, Australia, and NZ are the only Pacific countries that have Commissions. However, for many countries in the Pacific, recognition of the even the most basic human rights remains an urgent priority. Sometimes, it was frustrating to see relatively watered down’ concepts making their way into the final document, but for other countries, the mere mention of universal Human Rights in an official document is a great leap forward.

    Cultural awakenings
    International considerations aside, what are my lasting personal impressions of the Pacific Youth Festival? In a sense, I had a wake up call reminiscent of that of many Pākehā who were involved in the 1981 Springbok tour protests. Having been confronted with persisting French colonial influences in Tahiti, I have been forced to consider, as a Pākehā , my place in Aotearoa-NZ. Through dialogue with the Māori members of our delegation, I was also confronted with the reflection that my own land is not as peaceful as I had chosen to believe.
    The current political debate around the removal from NZ legislation of references to the Principles of Te Tiriti o Waitangi in NZ is a good example. Pākehā seem uncertain as to what they believe the Principles are and what they mean in legal terms. But rather than engage in a genuine contemplation of the Principles, Winston Peters has proposed simply removing all reference to them, thus erasing from NZ law most references to our founding document. This threatens to further provoke already disillusioned Māori, who quiet rightfully would see such a move as de-valuing the historical document through which they agreed to Pākehā settlement in Aotearoa. As one Māori member of our delegation noted, where Māori are looking to Pākehā to support a just and fair society, the deletion of the only legally binding mentions of the Treaty in NZ law does not set a good example.
    cultural performance
    I’m a Pakeha New Zealander. What is that?
    As we proposed in our Peace and Conflict Resolution workshop, peace requires constant nurturing through open and honest dialogue. So finally, I am left with this question: what do I bring to an intercultural dialogue with the Tangata Whenua of this land?
    What do I know about the Treaty of Waitangi that afforded my ancestors entry to Aotearoa-NZ? More even than that, what do I know about my ancestors? Having been presented with the wealth of Pacific culture, of which Māori culture is a rich and unique part, I have been faced with a slightly unsettling question, in so far as the answer is not immediately clear: what is my culture? What is the richness of Pakeha culture? This is both the challenge and the reward of the Pacific Youth Festival for me; to take the time for some genuine reflection on who I am, where I come from, and what it means for me to be a Pākehā in a Pacific land. And in this challenge there is a new sense of hope. For in rediscovering my own history, I may be able to play a small part in healing the history of this land.

    Many thanks to the Peace and Disarmament Education Trust, the Disarmament and Security Centre, and the Quakers Peace and Service Trust, who helped fund this fabulous learning experience.


    Peace Movement Aotearoa
    The Disarmament and Security Centre
    The Peace Foundation
    Global Bits magazine, Who are You? The Search for Self in the Global Village


    • Read the guide What We Can Do For Peace, put together by Youth at the Disarmament and Security Centre, Otautahi, Christchurch, NZ

    Photos all by Lyndon Burford.

    Children and youth rights: Where does NZ stand?

    Tuesday, August 29th, 2006

    Lena Stahlschmidt
    kidsWalking into the building where the conference on children and youth rights was being held I realized I knew little about the rights of children and youth…. actually I knew little about what we were going to be doing for an entire day around these rights. I quickly learned that this conference was put on by the Ministry of Youth Development surrounding the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCROC). UNCROC is a document created and recoacggnized by the United Nations outlining children’s and young people’s rights. In 1997 The UN submitted a detailed report recommending changes within New Zealand to be made in order to be in compliance with UNCROC. However many of the recommendations made by the UN have not been changed by NZ. The forum was set up as a way to discuss the government’s role and progress in children and youth rights and to allow the opportunity for youth, government and NGO representatives to collaborate around these issues. This meeting was the first forum where youth, governmental and non-governmental agencies came together to discuss the rights of children outlined by UNCROC. There were over 60 different agencies represented as well as about 10 young people. Entering the building I could feel the dedication and passion many people had surrounding the issues.

    The day began with two governmental official speakers explaining the state NZ is at with children and youth development in the context of children’s rights. The picture they painted made it seem as though New Zealand is doing quite well. This was met by some critiques from an NGO representative putting forth some questions to ponder throughout the day. With that we were off…

    Education and UNCROC
    I headed downstairs to begin the educational disparities workshop.’ The Ministry of Education was presenting information about issues of disparities within education. Their presentation covered an array of areas:

    • the low performance in writing skills
    • low performance levels by boys
    • tall Poppies (high achievers)

    The Ministry also stated that research shows that the disparities are occurring within the classrooms, unlike in other countries where the disparities are between schools and districts. Their approach to address the inequality is to put the focus on individual students. Ideally the teacher would have the time and resources to focus on every student individually, however in reality due to school structure, class size, resources, and funding teachers don’t end up having the time to focus on every individual within the class. The result is the current situation; some kids are left behind, others aren’t pushed to their full potential. The Ministry’s new approach is targeted at years 1-4, as according to research, those years are predictive of a student’s future academic performance. Yet they did not set specific steps in how this is going to be achieved. Unfortunately at the end of their presentation we had little time for comments, questions, and feedback to address the unanswered questions.

    We all left the room, myself a little unconvinced about the way in which the Ministry portrayed the current situation and the approach it planned on taking. What about issues of racism, poverty, unequal opportunity, discrimination, economic status, and how they affect children’s access to and performance in education? To me it seems that these issues are critical in understanding and addressing disparities within the educational system. How do they plan on dealing with students who are falling behind in the first 4 years? As I pondered these thoughts I eased my mind with an array of delicious food. While we were munching down food there was an expo set up with members from 11 different government agencies and organisations. I walked around the room picking up brochures and having brief discussions about how the organisations were related to children’s rights.

    Mental Health and UNCROC

    As I was contemplating on whether to go for 3rds of the desserts we were called back downstairs for the 2nd workshop of the day. I was assigned to the Youth and Mental Health discussion put on by the Ministry of Health. They began with looking at their current strategy followed by an overview of their strategic plan for the coming years. The new plan focused on:

    • looked at the entire picture rather than just an illness
    • not defining a person by their illness
    • educating District Health Boards (DHB’s) more about the child population and best practices to use with children.
    • making services more accessible.

    They left the rest of the time for input and ideas about what should be added or addressed in the report. The group proposed ideas about family support, mentors in school, resources, access, focus on preventative methods (rather than waiting till there is an extreme problem), changing the image of metal health, and taking a holistic approach (so looking at the whole picture: family, friends, physical health etc). The Ministry seemed responsive to the feedback and willing to look at their shortcomings. It was interesting to see the different perspectives that everybody had to contribute depending on their background. It reminded the importance of have a wide array of input in order to create an approach that is effective across all spectrums.

    So let’s hear from the young people!
    We reconvened upstairs for a closing recap of the day and a presentation from the young people’s group. The youth members got up and presented the issues that they had been discussing throughout the day. This for me was the most important aspect of the entire day. Having adults sit around and discuss how to better address children’s and young people’s rights is a step in the right direction, however it is crucial to include children’s and young people’s opinions in this process.

    The young people brought up issue of:

    • voting age and lack of political youth representation and input into issues that affect them.
    • the need for a change in how youth are portrayed and the stereotypes surrounding youth
    • The need for more information and access for youth on their rights.

    It was quite short…I mean considering that the entire day was about issues affecting children and youth I would have thought more emphasis would be placed on the youth group outcomes!

    At the end of the day I left with more questions than I entered with. What actual steps is the government taking to address the issues? What will really make a difference in these areas? Are they going to listen and take action on the NGOs and youth suggestions? What steps are going to be taken to make sure that the government makes steps towards being in total compliance with UNCROC? How can we make sure that children’s and young people’s rights are being upheld and honoured? Where do we go from here? That’s the thing about information…. Sometimes knowing’ brings about more questions.

    The images were first published in Tearaway magazine and is reprinted here with their permission.

    Illustrator: Toby Morris

    PYF: A trip to Tahiti, but what else would it be?

    Monday, August 14th, 2006

    Nicole Mathewson

    tahitian girl dancersI boarded the tiny plane in Westport on July 14, nervous and unprepared. I hadn’t even read half of the information we’d been sent. I was excited to finally get a chance to go overseas, but by this stage I had convinced myself it was going to be terrible. They wouldn’t feed me enough (I like food), the people would be super brainy and super snobbish (how could a little West Coast girl ever compete?), not to mention old (I’m only 18 and the people going were aged from 16-30), and I’d get lost (the amount of youth going to the festival was more than the population of my entire town)!

    Then as I munched the delicious chocolate chip airplane cookie I suddenly changed my mind (I’m funny like that). The Pacific Youth Festival will be great, I told myself.

    And you know what? It was.

    nicole and lyndon's presentationI was immediately welcomed by the 16 other New Zealanders at our one-day workshop in Auckland on the 15th (they weren’t mean after all). And I soon realised I was the only one who was feeling nervous and ill-prepared. And I was one of the youngest people there, but it never became an issue. We all came from different backgrounds, and different parts of the country, but here we were all equal.

    We boarded the plane to Tahiti the next day and I discovered something better than airplane cookies - airplane socks!

    Up to 1000 youth from around the Pacific (plus three from a youth organisation in France - yes France at a PACIFIC festival, proving how much control they still have in the country) were present for the six day festival. Our goal was to create the first Pacific Charter (a task that proved even more difficult than first imagined).

    Our first day was spent exploring Pape’ete, the capital of French Polynesia, and then we got straight into it on Monday morning with the opening ceremony. The most inspiring part of that for me wasn’t in any of the speeches, but was seeing New Caledonia’s refusal to march under the French flag. It was something that became the big topic of the festival, even though originally the organisers tried hard to avoid the topic altogether - decolonisation (which, put very briefly, is the process in which a colony gains independence from a colonial power).
    new caledonian sign at PYF
    We attended conferences, workshops, and seminars focusing on the different themes of the festival including good governance, peace, education, cultural diversity, health, active citizenship, globalisation, equality, and sustainable development. We also watched cultural performances, had dinner and a dance at the Parliament, spent a recreational day on the island of Mo’orea, and sang - a lot!

    Unfortunately, New Zealand wasn’t able to perform a cultural presentation. A lack of time to practise (and the fact we hadn’t met before the trip, let alone performed together) , a lack of indigenous people in the delegation (decreasing the authenticity of the performance), and the debate over what we would perform (Maori or Moriori - and what particular songs or dances) were to blame. The lack of performance is something I hope is rectified in time for the next Pacific Youth Festival in Fiji in 2009.

    A variety of culture was everywhere. On the stage, in the fashion, in conversation. And learning about it all was incredible: seeing Samoan men in skirts (and looking good in them), learning about the history of islands like Rapanui (Easter Island), Marshall and Norfolk from the people who lived there, hearing Tongan men praising the attractiveness of bigger-sized women over stick-thin figures (image conscious people take note!), and practising Tahitian songs.
    pacific couple
    Language barriers were daunting at first, but we soon found there were other ways to communicate than just talking. Though we did do a lot of talking - and I think that’s where people learned the most, in general conversation at the meal table (where the food wasn’t all that bad), or outside our accommodation with a guitar or ukelele or some kind of instrument in hand.

    A clear highlight for many (myself included) was the “Decolonisation with Justice” workshop organised by two Kiwis on the last day. It was a chance to finally talk about the effects of colonisation in our respective countries, something that many people hadn’t been allowed to talk about before. Colonisation had affected practically every Pacific Island nation, including New Zealand (the European and Māori conflict anyone?). The importance of keeping native languages and cultures alive and in practise featured heavily in many workshops along with the problems islanders faced in achieving that because of colonisation. Even in our host country, French Polynesia, the Maohi (native Tahitians), grew up unable to speak their own language because of the disapproval from the occupying French. The same thing happened to the Māori in New Zealand when the English arrived, showing that New Zealand faced many of the same issues as other Pacific Island nations and our place at the festival was certainly justified.

    NZ delegationAnother highlight was meeting three Moriori youth from New Zealand. I never learned anything about the Moriori people at school. All I knew was something about “the Moriori being eaten by the Māori”… It was interesting learning about how the Moriori were still very much alive and the efforts being made to resurrect their language and culture. Their fight to rectify the shame people felt in being identified as Moriori (even more than Māori, Moriori people in the past were looked down upon and forced to hide or forget their culture) was incredibly inspiring.

    While being saturated in culture during the festival was amazing and inspiring, it also became a kind of lowlight as it made me start to ask myself “what is my culture?” As a New Zealand European/Pakeha I felt out of place at the festival without a culture of my own that I could share, and I’m sure I wasn’t the only one from Australasia who felt that way.

    Even though I didn’t understand everything that was going on, I felt comfortable there. By the end of the festival I didn’t want to leave. I learned more in one week about culture, respect and love than I did in all my years at primary and secondary school. The Pacific Youth Festival wasn’t just a trip to Tahiti, it was also an experience I’ll never forget.



    • Encourage your local school to teach students more about the Pacific and Moriori people.
    • Write articles to newspapers and magazines about Pacific Issues.
    • Make changes to led a more sustainable life (recycling is a good way to start) and encourage others to do the same.
    • Get involved with an organisation or group working on Pacific Issues (like Just Focus!)
    • Encourage an end to stereotypes and racism (not all Pacific Islanders wear grass skirts and live off coconuts…)

    Photos by the Aotearoa NZ delegation, including: Annie Boanas, Elise Broadbent and Lyndon Burford.

    sunset over mo'orea

    Pacific Youth Hold Fast: We can’t ignore colonisation

    Friday, August 11th, 2006

    Omar Hamed

    kanaky t-shirtNgā iwi e, Ngā iwi e
    O people, O people
    Kia Kotahi ra, Te Moana-nui-a-kiwa
    Join together as one the Pacific Ocean.
    Ngā iwi e, Ngā iwi e
    O people, o people
    Kia Kotahi ra, Te Moana-nui-a-kiwa
    Join together as one, the Pacific Ocean

    Kia mau ra, kia mau ra
    Hold fast, hold fast
    Ki te mana motuhake me te aroha.
    To self-determination and to love.
    Kia mau ra, kia mau ra
    Hold fast, hold fast
    Ki te mana motuhake me te aroha.
    To self-determination and to love.

    Ngā iwi e. The song of the Pacific. Originally a Kanaky song from New Caledonia, it was translated into Maori in the 1970s and entered New Zealand by way of Greenpeace, who sung it on board the Rainbow Warrior while protesting French nuclear testing at Muroroa in French Polynesia. It is as Pacific as the wide blue ocean in which we all live.

    new caledonian sign at PYFOn the last night of the inaugural Pacific Youth Festival held in Tahiti between 17 and 22 July, it was revived as ninety New Caledonians cheered the end of the festival and sung for a new day in the fight for self-determination in the Pacific. They sang for freedom, their banner bearing the words “Delegation of New Caledonia” (a reminder to the festival of their refusal to march under the French flag). The song, echoing in the outdoor stadium as the sun went down over the harbour of Pape’ete, and the warm Pacific wind stirred the Kanaky flags they carried in their hands and wore around their necks.

    I was lucky enough to be there in the stadium with them. Part of the 17-person delegation from Aotearoa who had travelled across the ocean to be part of the festival, I had joined with the more than 1000 youth from across the Pacific to discuss the important issues of the region. Sustainable Development. Globalisation. Active citizenship. Peace. Health. Education. Equality. Cultural diversity. Good governance. An array of problems and challenges was presented to us in six days of workshops and conferences designed to educate, empower and engage Pacific youth.

    1400 Pacific youth gathered together to share, experience and learn. There were anti-corruption activists from Papua New Guinea, democracy advocates from the Solomon Islands, human rights workers from New Caledonia, sustainable farmers from Tonga, HIV/AIDS educators from the Kiribati Islands, indigenous intellectual property lawyers from Australia, women’s group organisers from Fiji, sports coaches from Vanuatu, community artists from the Norfolk islands and the list goes on. Too many to meet in a week, let alone to list here.

    By the time I left Tahiti, the festival had become a backdrop to something much more serious. Behind the dancers on the cultural stage and the palm trees and the workshops and conferences was being played out an event that may well shape the future of French Polynesia’s future. Looking back on it now it seems bizarre, how Charmaine Clark, (Ngati Kahungunu), a researcher from the Tairawhiti Polytechnic in Gisborne and I got caught up in the middle of the struggle for self-determination in Tahiti.
    new caledonia sign with flags
    It began on Monday morning at the opening ceremony when Oscar Temaru, leader of Tahiti’s biggest independence political party and French Polynesia’s coalition government, asked the festival “to consider the issue of independence and more specifically ‘the freedom of the Maohi [Tahitian] people’”. He also said to the Festival in English, “Do you know that in our local Assembly it is prohibited to speak our language, the language of our land? Here [at the festival] we will speak our mother tongue. This is only one example of the colonial system that still exists in our land. We want to get rid of colonialism, racism and all these wrongs that exist everywhere in the world.” At that point, the French High Commissioner Office’s secretary-general walked out of the festival. The first shot of a new battle in an old war had been fired.

    To explain; French Polynesia is an “overseas country” of France. It exists as a sort of autonomous colony, caught in the limbo of a people who want decolonisation and France which is desperate to hold onto its old colonial outposts in the Pacific. France still controls the immigration, foreign affairs and funds much of the social services in French Polynesia, and many in French Polynesia fear that the economy would collapse without French support. However, there is a tension between those who feel that it’s time for the nation to become independent and those who want the islands to remain connected with France. Oscar Temaru is the fiery independence leader who, when asked by a reporter “Most people call this place French Polynesia. What do you call it?” replied, “This is French-occupied Polynesia. That is the truth. This country has been occupied.” He has been involved in the struggle for self-determination for a long time and is an old friend of Jean-Marie Tjibaou, a Kanaky independence fighter assasinated in 1988 by the French and whose son, Pascal, was also attending the festival.
    new caledonians on bus
    Then, on Monday afternoon, I went with Charmaine, the Aotearoa Junior Delegate’, to watch her and the other Pacific Junior Delegates’ begin drafting the Pacific Youth Charter. It was a shambles. The French Polynesian Junior Delegate’ had appointed himself the chair of the drafting committee and next to him was the delegate from France. Yes, you read correctly: France was part of the festival. Three or four young people from a Paris youth NGO had come to the festival to represent the multimillion-dollar stake that France had in the festival, but it seemed to me, in the Tahitian cultural centre, watching the French delegate dominate proceedings that something was truly wrong for them to be able to put themselves on the drafting committee for the PACIFIC Youth charter.

    On Wednesday the plot thickened, when Oscar Temaru invited the delegates for cocktails at parliament. The French and French Polynesian delegates (by the way the French Polynesian delegate seemed to have colonial outposts in his head) strongly argued that the delegates not go to the cocktails because it would cut into the drafting time for the charter. After a vote, which was eleven votes to ten in favour of not going (the deciding vote being the French), Charmaine and five other delegates walked out of the drafting committee, stating that it was rude to ignore an invitation by the President when they had not ignored a invitation the previous night by the French High Commissioner. At the party Charmaine invited Temaru to a forum that she and I had hastily organised the day before and scheduled for Saturday morning. It was to be a forum on “Decolonisation with Justice”, the very topic that Temaru had wanted discussed at the Forum. Although Temaru was to be outside the country, he promised to send his representative.

    On Thursday it was voted that the French delegate could not have voting powers in the committee, causing him to walk out stating that it was “disrespectful” for Pacific youth to refuse the old colonial nations a say in their, (our) future. The youth of the Pacific had struck a blow against the empire it seemed. omar and char's decolonisation discussionOn Saturday morning Charmaine and I prepared the hall for the around one hundred youth and interested observers, including two members of the French Polynesian Assembly, who came to discuss colonisation and decolonisation. It turned into a very successful forum and we were able to put colonisation back on the agenda of the festival. Samoans came to talk about their dark past at the hands of colonial New Zealand; Kanaky, Maohi, Cook Islanders, Palauans came to discuss their islands’ experiences; Australians came to vent their frustration that there was only one aboriginal in their delegation, Papua New Guineans remembered their brothers and sisters in West Papua, who the government had warned them not to talk about at the Youth Festival. The pain of the Pacific peoples flowed through the room, the hurt, frustration and anger at last beginning to be discussed in an open way instead of being swept under the rug.

    That night Charmaine and I met with the deputy of Temaru’s political party, Jean-Michel Carlson, and his wife to talk about the forum and the way the festival was unfolding. Jean-Michel informed us that the festival was part of a pro-French agenda initiated when Temaru was temporarily out of office after the more pro-French opposition party contested elections. No wonder France was allowed to take part in drafting the charter and why indigenous issues and colonisation were avoided. The whole festival had been initiated as a way of legitimising the French presence in the Pacific.
    some of NZ delegation
    Regardless of this, the Pacific Youth Festival was an important step forward for addressing issues in the Pacific region and facilitating dialogue between Polynesian, Micronesian, Melanesian and colonial settler cultures. However, I would definitely be critical of aspects of the festival such as the large Pacific Plan delegation, which held workshops on its development program (a plan that most Pacific NGOs say, “ignores the real needs of the region.”see link) Workshops on indigenous cultural protection, disabled peoples rights, gender equality, over fishing and poverty highlighted the inspiring work being undertaken by Pacific youth. Being with Maohi and learning about life in French Polynesia was a real experience. For instance, learning about the new golf course that was being created against local people’s wishes on the island of Mo’orea seemed to be an analogy of the whole Pacific situation with tourism: white people monopolising land and resources so they could indulge in recreation, while being served by a new underclass of workers forced to work in the tourism industry because all other industry is underdeveloped.
    omar and friends
    By the time I got on the plane home to New Zealand I was feeling much more like a citizen of the Pacific Ocean than ever before. The festival had made me realise how dependant Pacific peoples are on activists and campaigners in the “big brother” nations of Aotearoa and Australia to protest and lobby for increased foreign aid, fair trade rules, action on climate change and protection from the nuclear arms and colonial armies of the world’s superpowers. Whether it’s colonisation in West Papua, nuclear testing in Muroroa, unfair trade rules at the World Trade Organisation or greenhouse gases from the industrial nations, Pacific issues are Aotearoa’s issues and that to ignore our brothers and sisters in the Pacific is to deny the true fact of human existence: the fact that ultimately we’re all in this one together.


    Get clued up on West Papua!
    Check out these excellent websites on the Pacifics hidden conflict:
    AUT journalists are investigating the conflict.
    Peace Movement Aotearoa’s Resource Page
    Indonesian Human Rights Campaign
    Free West Papua!
    Information on Papua

    Get clued up on the Pacific!
    Read the Oceania Indymedia Site
    Check out the Pacific Concerns Resource Centre
    Check out Dev-Zone’s Resource pages on the Pacific


    • Challenge Stereotypes about Pacific Islanders!
    • Don’t let people make racist comments about Pacific Islanders (or anyone!) challenge the way people perceive each other!

    Photos by Elise Broadbent, Hana Solomon and Lyndon Burford.

    sunset over moorea