“At least I have a house to live in”: Māori and Pacific young people’s hopes and fears about the future
Young people are often represented as the leaders of the next generation and much attention is given to the need for them to become more active participants in shaping the nation’s future. Over the years, education policy makers, health officials, government representatives in the criminal justice and welfare systems have sought ways of involving New Zealand’s youth more closely in civic society as they grapple with a daunting range of problems, many of which are likely to significantly worsen in the coming years. Despite these efforts, the views of some of the most economically and politically marginalised indigenous and/or racialized young people continue to be elusive and as a result a less nuanced understanding is available about how young people think about their lives in times ahead. This study explores the hopes and fears that marginalised urban Māori and Pacific youth hold about the future and how they establish a sometimes fragile sense of belonging in precarious and uncertain times. In this project, Māori and Pacific young people were invited to discuss their aspirations and anxieties about the future and how these ideas are influenced by their everyday local ‘places’ in the present. Two participant groups were involved in the project; one included Māori youth in an urban centre where there were few opportunities for unemployed young people while the other group included Pacific youth living in a city area where many families experience high levels of economic hardship. The research tracks their views about who they are now as young people growing up in a complex and increasingly divided society and who they might become in the years ahead. Taking a place-based approach, focus groups and walk-along interviews were conducted in two New Zealand cities. As the study progressed, the participants began to talk about the significance of hope, and lack of hope, in their everyday lives. Drawing on the work of Paulo Freire, it is argued that informed hope can be a powerful humanizing force in young people’s lives and the study suggests that when youth have a strong foundation of hope and belonging, they are often capable of becoming active agents of social change.