One Size Does Not Fit All

  • Deborah Morris
Youth Affairs


Hon Brian Donnelly, Principal Richard Abel, Kahu and Carol Sutherland, ladies and gentlemen.

I love coming to Whangarei. Especially when it means catching up with people who I know are committed to young people.

Kahu and Carol have had a long relationship with the Ministry of Youth Affairs. So it's great to see their efforts to set up a learning centre here finally come together.

In our first Budget the Coalition Government provided extra funding to help young people who had previously been alienated from the mainstream education system. It is now nearly a year since the Budget and it is great to actually see our rhetoric in Parliament being turned into action here in Whangarei, where it matters.

So often I hear of young people who appear not to fit in with the system. I often wonder if it is the young person or an inflexible system that is at fault.

I really believe that if Government pretends that one policy or one service will fit all we'll fail lots of people.

A one size fits all approach is dangerous

I mean, could you imagine Levis jeans just making one size? They would have a very small market.

One size does not fit all. In fact one size could be quite painful for some!

We have to provide a variety of services that can cater for a range of needs.

Today is an acknowledgment of that. It is about the youth of Whangarei having the chance to participate in something that suits their needs.

Another good example that Kahu and Carol are involved in is the Conservation and Youth Service Corps that are funded by my Ministry.

Conservation and Youth Service Corps are youth development programmes. They are not employment programmes, yet of all Government programmes they have the best success rate of getting young people into work, education or training.

The reason for that success is the way that they work with young people in developing their whole self.

You only need to look around you to see how successful programmes such as these are. The trouble is, the way that their success is measured isn't always easy enough for a Treasury analyst to understand!

The Conservation and Youth Service Corps programmes challenge. They challenge life's limits - mentally, physically, socially and spiritually. They are about youth development.

Youth development helps a young person to respect themselves. It is important that our young people respect others by not doing things like stealing or tagging. However, if they have no self respect, then what chance do we have of really improving their life options?

We are not born with self respect. We need to be taught it, we need to learn how important it is to respect who we are, our body and what we stand for. Sure, things like parenting skills, budgeting and social skills are important, but we need to first of all teach young people that they are of value. Young New Zealanders need to be shown that they are intelligent, that they can participate and that they have a right to be on this planet. No more, and no less, than anybody else.

I have seen the dramatic impact that this can have on youth. I have seen quiet, tired, reticent people at the start of a Conservation Corps programme. When I have met them again at the end of the 20 weeks I have been blown away by the dramatic change.

The change wasn't just that their reading skills had improved or that they knew how to fill in an application form for a job. The change was much deeper, it's something you can't quantify for a spreadsheet.

Another reason Conservation Corps is successful is because it is run as a partnership between Government and community organisations.

That is one of the reasons that I know the new School Based Alternative Education Programme is going to work here. There is a partnership between Kamo High School, the Youth Centre, Government, and the young people.

When we work like that, things happen!

Finally, I am really pleased to be here today and wish you all the best for the future.

I hope the new alternative school programme has a long and happy life, and I know that many happy young people leave here with a great future ahead of them.