The importance of ensuring young people have a voice on issues and opportunities that affect them has been recognised throughout the Whanganui Rangitīkei Ruapehu region.
Healthy Families in collaboration with Te Oranganui, the Whanganui District Health Board Public Health team, Whanganui Stop Smoking Service/Ngā Taura Tuhono, Te Rūnanga o Ngā Wairiki/Ngāti Apa and a number of local rangatahi champions are disrupting the system in order to meaningfully engage with young people, to see and hear their perspectives about health and wellbeing in a real way.
“I know Healthy Families really well and the different methods they use and their philosphy in co-design. Consulting with young people is no longer enough. Healthy Families is about genuine collaboration with communities – doing with rather than doing to. If we really want to change our practices then we need to change how we make decisions and how we invest in our commuities,” says Troy Brown, Regional Advisor Te Puni Kōkiri.
The team have been connecting with rangatahi across the region gathering insights from young people aged 11-18 over the past 6 months with over 100 young people engaged. Even during COVID-19 level 4 the team and their partners set up a digital village for rangatahi to share their ideas, discuss issues, and come up with relevant messaging for the Mental Health Foundation’s ‘Five Ways to Wellbeing.’
“The engagement process with our rangatahi is ongoing,” says Healthy Families Whanganui Rangitīkei Ruapehu Systems Innovator Lee-Arna Nepia. “Young people have told us that their environment, the way they are viewed and judged by those within their community has the ability to impact their wellbeing, young people need to feel like they belong,” she said.
“We know young people are searching for role models – that one trusted adult who can help them navigate life,”she adds.
And Te Puni Kōkiri kaitohu Maia Te Koha agrees. “We see great value in the insights that will come from this work to influence our policy decisions at all levels, to ensure they are reflective of the needs of our rangatahi moving forward,” she says.
The insights report developed from this work will be open source and made available on the Healthy Families Whanganui, Rangitīkei Ruapheu website for other organisations and services to use. And the report will further inform the rangatahi wellbeing strategy, He Iere Rangatahi, developed by the Whanganui Youth Workers Collective and contributed to by a wide variety of services and organisations within the Whanganui rohe.
“This work is about a bigger remit to see rangatahi as change makers, pathwaying into design roles. They’ve got to be included not just consulted if we want things to change and work like this is a stepping stone towards changing that system,” said Impact Strategist and Healthy Families Whanganui Rangitīkei Ruapehu Manager Rebecca Davis.