Opening of Training Day for Youth Workers

  • Tony Ryall
Youth Affairs

Fickling Convention Centre
Three Kings
Auckland

Committee members Richard Northey, John Seddon, Joan Larder, Jocelyn Jacobs, Dude TuiSamoa, Lea Cowley, Ladies and Gentlemen.

I am delighted to be here today to lend what support I can to you as you develop your skills in helping youth.

It is a cliche but growing up is difficult. So many things are changing. Friends are changing, responsibilities are increasing, parents suddenly seem less important, and bodies are moving toward adulthood.

There are times when young people can not cope with all that is happening to them. Nobody understands that better than the people here.

We want a society where young people can develop in a positive way.

As they interact with family, peer groups, school or the work place and their communities, we want them feel valued, in control, stable in who they are and connected with society as a whole.

For all these challenges I believe the vast majority of young people are positive, vivacious and eager to take control of their own lives.

Most are well educated, supported by caring families and are well on their way to taking their place in society as adults.

It's important for us all to remember just how exciting young people can be and how much their energy and fresh ideas can offer our society.

I say this because we can sometimes get the impression that young people are somehow negative and disconnected. It is true that many are rebellious, but of course that is a natural part of growing up.

So often adults, including the media, focus solely on the small minority of young people who are really struggling with the transition to adulthood.

And, it's right for us to do that.

Because it is this minority who need the help of dedicated people like you.

It is also essential that the Government continue to play its part.

And, sometimes it is necessary for the Government to intervene because other adults in these young people's lives have failed them.

By making the effort to listen to and understand young people we can show them that someone cares about them and what they have to say.

None of us should condemn young people to the scrap-heap just because they are in trouble as teenagers.

Most troubled young people grow up to become positive members of society. Some grow up to be make major contributions for the better.

A couple of months ago I met a person like that. Through his efforts he is now making an enormous difference for the better in a whole community.

As a young man he had been a gang member. He had, by his own admission, stepped out of society into a world few New Zealanders know.

Now he, and his equally committed wife, are the driving forces behind an incredible turn around in a small Northland community.

Up until recently this Northland community had been subjected to violence, crime, drug problems, and social breakdown.

These two people, with the help of many others, have turned that community around.

So far their efforts have helped reduce crime in the neighbourhood by 40 percent! There is no graffiti anywhere in the community. The local school has no significant truancy.

It is easy for society to write-off difficult or troubled young people.

But, it is in none of our interests to do so. This is why the work you all do is so important.

That is also why I am so pleased you have taken this initiative to develop your skills as youth workers.

From what I have seen, youth workers are highly skilled in their ability to relate to and communicate with young people. They are also passionate about their work.

It is vital that that passion and ability are combined with safe work practices and professional training and development so that young people receive the best possible support from youth workers.

I want to encourage all people working with youth to take whatever opportunities they have to develop their professional skills.

And, I also want to encourage youth workers throughout New Zealand to take their lead from the people here today to network together, learn from each other, and if need be garner support from one another.

My Ministry has developed a draft strategy to encourage youth worker training and professional development.

The strategy has been developed in consultation with key people in the youth work sector. It aims to:

  •  provide information on training and training opportunities 
  • strengthen incentives for government funded youth workers to be qualified 
  • adjust existing training funds to help support formal training.

You here today have already shown your commitment to training and development.

Thank you for inviting me to be here with you. I am sure you will find today productive and helpful.