Four years ago I helped organise the largest number of submissions on a single issue that Council received for the 10 year Long Term Council Community Plan. It basically asked Council to acknowledge only one thing – that young people are full citizens of our community. In the end only one line in the LTCCP referred to young people and it was silent on the recommendations made in the submissions.
Council does not need to provide facilities or events for young people as much as it needs to be asking itself how young people are thinking about and relating to their communities, how young people are organising themselves and under what circumstances young people are prepared to commit to the wellbeing and development of this region.
Rekindling intergenerational relationships are critical at this time – but those relationships must be based on mutual respect and appreciation of each others gifts and limitations.
I recently attended a planning meeting organised by GDC that considered what Gisborne would look like in 30 years time. There were less than five people aged under 30 years in a room of over 60 people. If young people are not actively involved in planning the future of the region now, they will have no ownership of the developments that occur and will join the masses leaving instead of contributing to a better future for all of us.
Our society must make it right and possible for old people not to fear the young or be deserted by them, for the test of a civilization is the way that it cares for its most vulnerable members. – Pearl S. Buck (1892-1973)
I love this quote and I plan to make it a reality.
Our society is fragmented and disconnected in many ways. Over the past 50 years a stark division has emerged in many families and communities between younger and older members.
Before World War II the notion of a ‘youth’ population was unheard of (let alone ‘youth culture’ or ‘youth sub-cultures’) – that was because young people were expected to participate in the economic, cultural and social life of their family. Clear rites of passage existed in every society to mark the movement of a child to an adult. Now we have this strange transitional period where young people are no longer children and not yet adults – they exist in a confusing social vacuum that presents all sorts of contradictory messages – and we wonder why they misbehave!
The inter-generational transfer of knowledge, language and values has never been so poor than it is today. An unhealthy obsession with material wealth and status pervades the value systems of many young people thanks in large part to the influence of commercial culture and global communications media.
Reconnecting young people to their parents and grandparents is one of the most important challenges facing our community – passing on the best values of our elders is an essential component of any healthy society. Practical skills and activities such as growing, preparing and preserving food, passing on traditions and family stories that connect with our past and future generations must be a priority for everyone.
I make a point now of asking my parents about such things at every opportunity – and I love sitting in the presence of elders who are willing to share their wisdom with someone as naive and ignorant as myself.
What are some examples of this inter-generational connectedness that you have experienced recently?
My wife and I moved back to Gisborne in 1998 to live with and care for her elderly grandparents.
Matini and Lena Koia raised Tarsh as their own child, she grew up living in the same house as her uncles and aunties until they moved out and eventually Tarsh left Gisborne to undertake her studies in Maori and Politics at Canterbury University.
Matini was a shepherd and farmer up the Coast all his life – other than a stint as an under-age soldier going off as a member of J-Force to occupied Japan after the war. He was an expert geneologist and had great stories about growing up around Tikitiki and Port Awanui! Lena grew up around Makarika as the daughter of the local midwife and raised 11 of her own children, as well as Tarsh.
Being raised by a grandparent is a special privilege – Tarsh has inherited some of her grandparents best attributes, their wisdom, humility and much of the knowledge they passed on.
Living with Matini and Lena as a young married couple was a great experience – seeing how these two 70-somethings loved, forgave and cared for each other was the best marriage guidance we could have hoped for as newly weds.
It was a great experience for all of us living together for the four years. While Matini was very sick with respitory illness and Lena has alzhiemers, we shared many stories, good laughs and a few times of tears.
Matini passed away exactly one year before our daughter Miria was born. She was named after his mother and we will make sure she knows Matini as well as we did.
I would like to commend Cnr Bauld on his (recent) position that says Council need to take some local leadership in coordinating social development efforts in the region. I would also like to acknowledge that other Councillors and many people in the community have been saying the same thing for many years.
A Community House is one, but not necessarily the most important or effective, way of taking some leadership on the complex issues involved in this area. The ‘redundancies and inefficiencies’ in the sector that Cnr Bauld talks about are not ‘obvious to all of us’ and need to be articulated clearly and agreed upon by key stakeholders (funders, providers, Council and users of services) before effective action can be undertaken to address the causes of the inefficiencies and ineffectiveness of the current systems and structures that exist.
The GDC Social Policy statement should be the document guiding this kind of conversation – but unfortunately the one that was adopted does not help at all. It had inadequate (read: almost no) input from stakeholders in its design (purpose, content and structure) and its contents are not particularly useful in determining how Council should take local leadership in this area – in fact by imposing the agenda of a few individuals, Council may have pre-determined the parameters of the policy. I hope this is not the case.
I recommend that the Community Development Committee lead a much wider discussion within the community about what role Council should have in social development and a review of the new Social Policy be undertaken with wide community input before the end of the year.
1 August 2007
From my submission on the 2007 Draft Annual Plan & LTCCP Review…
– That GDC undertake a substantive community consultation process over a 3-6 month period asking residents and stakeholder groups for their opinions on what the purpose, content and power of a GDC Social Policy should be.
– That the Social Policy suggested in the Statement of Proposal be discarded and after a proper process of asking the community for initial comment, a policy should be drafted for further consultation with the community and eventual adoption by GDC.Rationale:
The proposed purpose, content and power of a Social Policy has been drafted with minimal community input. If it is to be useful to GDC and the community it is established to serve, the policy needs to be developed in partnership by the community and GDC. The proposed policy is full of provocative statements, assumptions and ideological positions that are not well reasoned, supported by evidence or endorsed by the sectors of the community most affected by GDC ensuring it has a robust statement on social issues. It is important for GDC to have a Social Policy and it needs this urgently, but the process for developing such a policy should include the widest possible involvement of stakeholders and be seen as a community development opportunity in itself, ultimately resulting in a statement that has broad support and clear linkages to all aspects of the organisation.