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Invercargill has been chosen as the first centre in New Zealand to take part in the Thriving Rangatahi project — a six-year investment aimed at helping young people who are excluded and disadvantaged.
The Vodafone New Zealand Foundation-funded project, in which at least $500,000 will be invested in local groups, was officially launched at the Ascot Park Hotel in Invercargill last night, after a hui with local stakeholders at Murihiku marae during the day.
Foundation head Lani Evans said the city was chosen because 30% of its young people fit the category of excluded and disadvantaged, 7% higher than the national average.
With Vodafone’s investment in Invercargill’s infrastructure about to happen, the impending closure of the Tiwai Point aluminium smelter and a partnership already in place with Ngai Tahu, it was chosen as the first city in the country to take part in the project.
"What we want to do is take a preventive approach, to come in before things get worse, so they don’t get worse."
The first six-month phase was talking to local groups, schools and runanga to see what was already happening to support the young in the community so they could look at ways they could be built on, Ms Evans said.
Research had already been carried out, during which young people were spoken to.
"Finding out what do they want their futures to look like, what are their barriers to achieving them," she said.
Massey University Toi Aria (Design for Public Good) director Associate Prof Anna Brown said there had been some open discussions with the city’s young people during research for the project.
The key themes were there was a need for support and trust from adults to help engage with services and employment; a need for holistic health services, including mental health, access to career opportunities; and the need for stability and security in their lives.
"It’s about having opportunities and about having people believing in them," she said.
The research had garnered insights about what it was like to live in Invercargill.
"They had a great interest in this place but not necessarily a lot of pride."
A place for youth to gather, which did not cost money, and free Wi-Fi were also high on the agenda.
One youth in particular had given a poignant quote, she said.
"‘We understand that we’re young and don’t know everything and we don’t have a lot of experience but with what experience we do have, we do know what’s going on’."
Ms Evans said while not all initiatives implemented in Invercargill would be rolled out to other places, it was hoped key parts of the project could be introduced to benefit young people nationwide.