We advocate for the interests, rights and wellbeing of children and young people

Child and Youth Voices: Tama-te-rā Ariki


Child rights

13 March 2018

We wanted to learn about the lived experience of rangatahi and tamariki Māori, so we asked them. 

If children and young people are given appropriate opportunities to communicate in ways they are comfortable with, they will clearly show their capacity to identify insights gained from their life experiences.

At the Office of the Children’s Commissioner we promote the participation of children and young people in decisions that affect them. New Zealanders made a promise to ensure tamariki and rangatahi o Aotearoa (children and young people of New Zealand) have a say and have their voices heard about matters that affect them when the government signed the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1993.

Hearing and incorporating the views of children and young people deliver better and more robust decisions. Children and young people’s capacity to act independently is developed and confirmed and their participation as New Zealand citizens increased.

We recognise that as tangata whenua, it is vital that the voices of tamariki and rangatahi Māori are heard at all levels of decision making and planning. Our office wished to more fully reflect their voices in our advocacy. This was a targetted engagement with a group of tamariki and rangatahi whose voices are least likely to be heard without focussed efforts to consult them.

What did tamariki and rangatahi Māori tell us?

We heard unique and powerful stories from rangatahi and tamariki, offering a perspective not often heard. They voiced strong - and at times overwhelming - feelings for the adults in their lives. They were proud to be Māori and discovered that they blossomed when they found stable adults who were able to connect with them in an authentic way. They spoke of violence and financial struggles as well, and of wanting the best for themselves and their families in the future.

There was considerable variation in the life experiences and perspectives of the 155 tamariki and rangatahi with whom we engaged. They told us that they want people to get to know them for who they are. They appreciated it when we did not make assumptions about them as young people and as Māori, nor about their neighbourhoods. They spoke of enjoying the opportunity to share their stories and explore their lives with others. When we asked why they participated in the different programmes that they were part of, they explained that it was because those spaces respected and valued their identity.

One way we helped the 12 in-depth interviewees warm up to telling their stories was by suggesting they choose a movie character and think of how they relate to that character. This became the ‘motif’ that supported their story. Some of the quotes shared in this report may refer to their chosen character.

The voices in this report are grouped into five insights:

1) Insight 1: My cultural identity is my journey
2) Insight 2: I need to feel safe and belong so I can reach my potential
3) Insight 3: I need adults who care about me
4) Insight 4: I want to take away mum’s stress
5) Insight 5: I travel the digital world


TTRA Voices cover