Blog 042! Whakarongo Mai.

By Mana Williams Eade   30 Minutes

This Interview and Discussion was made by the youth of today for the youth of tomorrow.

Today’s chat is a reality check
. Today’s chat is about the creation of a new advocacy service that speaks for the voices of New Zealand’s children. That holds New Zealand collectively responsible for the protection and wellbeing of our children. Today, I interview another ministerial youth advocate and one of the founding members and trustees of the new non-governmental organization (NGO) VOYCE – Whakarongo Mai, Tupua Urlich. This whole chat is based on the awareness to, and the celebration of what will be one of the largest advocacy services in the world.

A bit of history…

New Zealand has a population of 4.471 Million people and covers an area of 268,021 km² which is slightly bigger than the United Kingdom which has a population of 64 million people. There are more vending machines in Japan than there are people in New Zealand. So then this begs the question, why the heck do we have 5500 vulnerable taonga currently in our child welfare system? It’s completely and utterly disgusting. For those of you who do not know what taonga means, it is a Maori reference to a highly prized resource or item, something with huge significance. In reference to the children of New Zealand, they represent tomorrow’s lawyers, tomorrow’s voices, they represent tomorrow, which is today’s future.

The Ministry of Social Development for years has been grappling with this notion of creating an effective system that is obligated to look after and protect vulnerable children within New Zealand. They have made fourteen attempts to improve, refine and shape a better system that looks after our kids. But they haven’t nearly done enough because there shouldn’t be any kids in care at all! Even from a systematic point of view. The number is so small it should have been remedied twenty years ago. In a perfect world, parents would be complaining that they need a respite from their kids because they are so happy raiding the cupboards, drawing on the walls and suffocating their parents with love. But the reality is, that thousands of children have been taken away from their parents, ripped out of their communities from people they knew and loved, and are suffering from psychological and emotional trauma. This has got to end. The first step to recovering a functioning system was designed not too long ago by the ministry of Social Development and named Oranga Tamariki. It is a child-centered ministry that was designed with the advice of youth within New Zealand to make sure that it was a system that actually gave kids what they needed to grow and develop in a New Zealand that puts aside its shit and puts the needs of kids first. Something that can be celebrated.


So what are we looking at today?

Today’s chat hosts a different spin on things, I will be interviewing the awesome Tupua Urlich and we will be talking about the first real and tangible opportunity to really make a massive change in our countries children’s lives with a new advocacy service called VOYCE – Whakarongo Mai.

THE KORERO – Discussion

What is my experience with youth advocacy? – By Mana

My name is Mana Williams Eade, I’m a nineteen-year-old human being that cares. I grew up in the foster care system from the age of 8 months old, was raised by my aunt and step dad and became whangai at the age of 12. From there I excelled in school and clearly loved my writing and I now study Architecture and Public Policy at Victoria University. I was appointed to be a part of a seven-member advocacy panel that we named Te Whanau Aroha, which allowed me to voice my opinions to people who were listening. Since then I have experienced these huge efforts like Oranga Tamariki and the new Children’s Commissioner Judge Andrew Becroft that have created humongous change in a short period of time. Some of my involvement with VOYCE included creating a digital platform that youth would be able to access and connect with using their new advocacy service, as well as doing video interviews for their upcoming website that launches on April the first. I’ve also started my own daily blog just talking about stuff that really bugs me and raising awareness for social stuff that matters, like VOYCE.

This discussion, however, is not only about my opinion through my experience but includes the voice of my friend Tupua Urlich. Here is his story…

“Diamond in the rough.” – By Tupua

A diamond in the rough would be the best way to describe my childhood. through the oppression and isolation, I learned to dream. For dreaming was my only escape from the pain and heartache of my childhood. Isolated and lost in a system of statistics, a system of abuse. Through my dreams, I imagined the unique gift to see the faint light in times of dark and sorrow my dreams became who I was in my mind. So a few things to identify me, I left my home, I left my family and everything I knew before I had even started school. The only place that I was accepted was in my dreams. those pressures around me, they gave me a precious retreat at no risk of ever being defected. The sad thing is, I’m not the only diamond in the rough.

“Adolescent truth.”

Like all teens, I thought I knew it all. The truth is I knew what I had to know about this world. My dreams reminded me of my escape or like a camera when it comes back into focus, the reality was clear. The world I had been raised in was far from a safe place. The countless beatings and abuse, darkness was coming through. Or the weight of 10,000 dark memories weighing me down, my soul finally collapsed under the immense weight and pressure. Now I needed an enemy to blame for my never ending pain. All along I was the only one they were angry at, I was the one they would beat, I was the one they would move time and time again. Nobody wanted me. With that realization, depression kicked in. I was fighting this battle with a broken sword, a weak shield and worst of all no hope, no belief that I ever had the chance of victory.

“Adulthood on the horizon”

Sometimes things just come into view. As I walked through a painful world I came to a place where I could see the future. Adulthood was emerging, I wasn’t ready. I never had the chance to be a child. The pain of the past hurt more than ever. Feeling hopeless and unworthy I attempted suicide. When that didn’t work I knew I didn’t have it in me, so I self-harmed. As a desperate plea for mercy, not attention like they would suggest. The truth was I was on my own and I had never been enough for myself. When I looked in the mirror I saw the lifeless defeated young man, then it hit me. Young, Man. My childhood was over, it was too late for me. I had revealed the true enemy now, but it wasn’t me. In this world, where battles are won by the pen, I had to change what that pen was writing for children and young people like me. I could heal through healing those who understood and experienced my pain. There is hope. Now, I have the courage.

“Courage is a feeling, and it’s very hard to describe a feeling in a few words.”

Name – Tupua Urlich
Role – Youth Advocate, Founding Member and Trustee of VOYCE.

It’s important that we reflect on these two hugely different opinions. I was fortunate enough to be cared for in a way that gave me the opportunity to understand the pen. Understand how I can manipulate it to advocate for those who do not have a voice. Where my friend Tupua came from a diversely different background and can tell his story through his experience. Together we bring this uniquely significant discussion about VOYCE to raised it up in a way that can never be brought down into the clutches of failure with the likes of Child Youth and Family. So I really hope you enjoy this wee chat below here. Thanks for reading.
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M – Mana
T – Tupua

M – What is VOYCE Whakarongo Mai?

T “VOYCE Whakarongo Mai is a Connection and Advocacy Service for children in care.”

M – How does VOYCE Whakarongo Mai, differ from other agencies like Child Youth and Family and Oranga Tamariki?

T “VOYCE Whakarongo Mai isn’t a care and protection agency it’s a rights organization. Oranga Tamariki has an obligation to look after and cater for the needs of young people who can’t live at home in New Zealand. VOYCE is more of a monitoring system you could say, Te Oranga Tamariki has an obligation to work transparently with VOYCE-Whakarongo Mai. There are laws binding them to Te Oranga Tamariki.”

M – Is VOYCE Whakarongo Mai a privately ran NGO?

T “Partly, VOYCE is funded by the government but is also a privately funded organizational philanthropy.”

M- Which corporations fund VOYCE Whakarongo Mai?

T “So there’s the TODD Foundation, Tindall Foundation, Foundation North and VODAFONE…”

M – So what interest does a corporation like VODAFONE have with the care and protection of our kids in New Zealand?

T “There was a philanthropic meeting held in Ponsonby, Auckland, a couple of years ago. These big corporations like VODAFONE are very socially conscious and so they wanted to know what were some problems and some key solutions {in New Zealand} that they could help make possible. At every table, there was a member of Parliament, a Judge or a lawyer, a philanthropic member, and a young person etc. All of the different tables pitched ideas, we pitched the idea of a care and connection advocacy service and we won, which gave us funding and resources.”

M – So how would a child get in touch with VOYCE?

T “If you’re in Te Oranga Tamariki, you’re automatically enrolled with VOYCE Whakarongo Mai. So there’s no opt-in it’s an automatic service.”

M – That’s awesome because it allows kids without internet access to still be involved.

T “Some of the issues around Social Media is that many kids are banned from using social media as a utility to run away and get up to to all sorts of things.”

M – What is the capacity for VOYCE when it first rolls out?

T “We’re at early stages, but the figure will increasingly grow as the organization develops.”

M – We know that there are 5500 kids currently in the care and protection system but what is commonly missed is that there are approximately 30,000 children in the in-between stage. I guess a question could be if VOYCE caters for the wider population of kids in the system?

T “Wherever there is an Oranga Tamariki office, there will be a VOYCE office too. To ensure that all young people in the state have an advocate and have a connection service. So it’s really about making the service accessible and making the staff grow as the task calls for it.”

M – You said yesterday that there will be a base in Auckland?

T “The national Office will be in Auckland, and that opens on the 1st of April. When VOYCE opens in April they will start small and grow over time. Ensuring they have the right staff in the different roles. This will follow suit in other regions.”

M – How does VOYCE compare with advocacy services around the world?

T “At capacity, it will be the biggest connection advocacy service in the world.” 

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“Without the voice of experience, we’re not going to have any real change.” – Tupua.

“I am delighted that, for the first time, young people in care in New Zealand are to have an independent advocacy service to represent them,” – Minister Anne Tolley.

At the end of the day, what matters is that a child can be loved and cared for by their family. To be cherished and adored by those around them. The very least that we can do as a people is to advocate for their voices. The bare minimum people can do collectively as New Zealanders, as people, is to not treat these kids like damaged goods, but to simply treat them as taonga.

This is today’s chat. Thank you for being a part of the talk, I just want to extend thanks to Tupua for his incredible insight into advocacy services, it was really good to have him present in this korero. April the first! The day it all changes. And as always…

Thanks for checking in…

One thought on “Blog 042! Whakarongo Mai.

  1. I’m so pleased and overwhelmed with both of you young men being passionate about Vouyce its amazing…I would love to be apart of the mahi if I’m able to help….as I’m a Nana who has had past struggles in life and am now fighting Oranga Tamariki to be a caregiver of my four mokopuna in the Cyfs. ..system…..So I’ve bn travell

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