Since 2011, Papakura Youth Council has been a valuable asset to its Youth in the Papakura community by allowing them to be seen and heard.
Working alongside the Papakura Local Board and community groups, the Youth Council are advocates for young people and organise initiatives and events that creates awareness and engagement for youth in today’s society.
Current Papakura Youth Council Chairperson, Kyanna Hetaraka-Rua has been their spokesperson since November 2018, but has been part of the Board since 2015. She says their main aim of the Council is to create and gain that engagement with young people because of the issues they face today.
“Engaging with youth today can be a struggle because of social media influences and some of the other issues they face like not being taken seriously because of their age.” Says Kyanna.
She says having a platform where youth can voice their concerns and ideas is a big deal, especially for youth in South Auckland where there is a stigma attached to them being misrepresented.
Although breaking away from the perception of being misrepresented is difficult, especially from today’s media perspective, Kyanna says by simply giving them the opportunity to talk and make decisions makes them feel like they are being heard.
“This way, they are the ones doing the talking, rather than being talked for by adults and other representatives.” Says Kyanna.
With driven initiatives like Youth week, regular discussion panels, workshops and youth hosted events like Block parties and concerts, Papakura Youth Council help give young people a purpose and encouragement to be an active part of their communities and to help them make decisions that shape their future, fuelling a positive response from all youth that take part.
Youth Week is one of the group’s biggest events and Kyanna says this year has been their most successful for ideas and change.
Youth week is the annual, week-long event in May aimed at celebrating and encouraging young people to take on challenges, share ideas and focus on the positive aspects of being young, all over the country.
Each year, a theme is given and allows groups to create their events and campaign posters around that theme. As Youth Week is open to all young representatives in schools and all youth organisations around the country. Communities and their youth can then vote on their favourite design, with the winning design printed and sent out around the country to be displayed in schools, libraries and community halls.
This year, the theme was Ahakoa te aha, kei a koe te tikanga: Be who you want to be”. Papakura Youth Council chose to create a panels series called ‘Finding Your Voice-Got a Problem, Bro?’ that included thirteen youth representatives from local schools, musicians and the board’s own members to share their stories in different panels ranging from Creativity to Advocacy and Activism.
The night was held at the Hawkins Centre in Papakura and was an important and successful night in reaching youth in the wider Papakura community.
Kyanna says these kind of events give them the confidence to connect to a bigger audience and encourage other young people to come on board to help create that awareness and make those changes for their future.
“It’s about doing something different and getting our voice out there. Since I’ve been a part of the Council, I’ve seen it at different stages and I think the reason why we have been more successful with our work in 2018, is the attitude of our young people, and how they have stepped up. There is more focus on engagement and a huge want for change,” says Kyanna.
She says having that support from the Papakura Local Board also make a huge difference in their drive and has seen the growth from them, especially when it comes to pushing certain initiatives.
“They’ve been extremely supportive in those areas, and of course, the help we get from other organisations, like Youth Town, South Auckland.”
In 2019, Papakura Youth Council aims to continue connecting with youth and its communities, and is planning to have more of a social media presence awareness in the community to reach wider audiences, and will have already achieved one of their main goals, kicking off the new year at full capacity with a team of fifteen members.
“It’s been a while since we had a full team, so we’re looking forward to that and seeing what 2019 will bring,” says Kyanna.