Young Pacific MPs have made a bold challenge to parliamentarians in election year at the PYP: Our Movement – Pacific Youth Parliament.
The event, which is being hosted at St Bede’s College in Christchurch, has brought together 100 young Pasifika people from around New Zealand for a four-day parliamentary simulation.
On day two several of the young MPs made passionate speeches outlining what they think are the most important issues in election year.
University of Canterbury student Tumaru Mataio lamented the high rates of physical and sexual violence against women in New Zealand and Pacific countries.
“I want all parties to prioritise prevention of physical and sexual violence against women. As decision makers you have the power to create a more stable and engaging society for all our women.”
University of Waikato student Kristoffer Lavasi’i made a “call to arms” for parliamentarians to urgently address New Zealand’s growing mental health problems, pointing to statistics showing that Pacific people in New Zealand are 1.4 times more likely to have experienced psychological distress.
Lavasi’i said that Western approaches to mental health don’t always work for Pacific people, and stressed the need for a “Pacific intervention” when addressing particular communities.
“Speaking and discussing are integral parts of our cultural tradition – it is the way in which we bring truth. It is realising the problem and via organically grown relationships considering a community-focused and driven answer to these tough questions.”
One of the youngest participants, 15-year-old Helena Tulia of Christchurch, was concerned at growing religious intolerance in the world and laid a challenge to the government to take a proactive approach.
“If we are going to live in peace and harmony with other religious cultures, I challenge the Government to create a world religion and spirituality curriculum aimed at intermediate level schooling until Year 13.”
University of Otago student Eden Lati made a strong case for compulsory Civics education in New Zealand schools, while Auckland University student Samantha Taito said the high costs of tertiary education were baring many people from access to opportunities.
“World class education should not be limited to those who can afford it.”
About 80 percent of the 13 to 24-year-olds attending the youth Parliament are from Christchurch with the remainder travelling from Dunedin, Rotorua, Hamilton and Auckland.
MPs, academics and professionals have also presented about issues facing the country, providng advice and mentoring.
Chair of PYLAT Pacific Youth Leadership and Transformation Josiah Tualamali’i says the four-day event has been six years in the making, and has been possible thanks to sponsorship from several organisations including the Christchurch City Council, Ministry of Pacific Peoples and the Ministry of Education.
He says the aim of the event is to create future leaders and decision makers by providing a taste of the political process in an engaging and safe environment.
“We want them to become well informed so they can influence our country – whether that is in politics, school or any area of life.”
After debating various issues along party lines the MPs will come together to create a joint PYP Our Movement submission.