"Ka pū te ruha, ka hao te rangatahi. As the old net withers, a new one emerges."
I am continually inspired by rangatahi.
I guess by their very existence this generation is highly politicised. Older generations often claim that young people are doing too little or too much, they are too loud or they don't say enough. While so much is going on in their lifetime – inheriting a world plagued by irreversible climate change, global pandemics, economic collapse and ever-increasing wealth inequities. Match that with the largest social justice movement in generations - Black Lives Matter - rangatahi have no choice but to be political.
The nature of social media, with instant access to information, they have more exposure to social and climate justice-related issues. All across the globe the sharing of information on the plight of indigenous peoples has given rise to their repulsion of racism and discrimination.
I have been fortunate to bear witness to this rangatahi-lead change and activism in Aotearoa.
A couple of weeks ago, a petition was delivered to Parliament requesting that the New Zealand Parliament hold space to acknowledge and reflect on the impacts of the historic dawn raids policies. The petition arrived with more than 7000 signatures supporting the calls. And I had the privilege to receive this hugely significant tono.
The petition was delivered by two young Pacific leaders, Josiah Tualamali'i and Benji Timu, who were born after the atrocities of the dawn raid era started. To me, it was clear how seriously they took the responsibility of the legacies handed down to them by the Polynesian Panthers, and generations before them. Alongside them came a group of rangatahi from Kapiti College, extremely proud and supportive of what was being passed onto me to carry into the House.
These last few weeks have also been filled with rangatahi kapa haka. I was in Manawatū on Saturday and Te Whanganui-ā-Tara on Monday supporting secondary school kapa haka competitions. Not only was I impressed by the calibre of the talent, but also the extent of politics covered.
Performances confronted various kaupapa from climate change and Covid-19, to Parihaka and land confiscation. At Te Tapere nui o Whātonga, Te Piringa produced a highly entertaining whakawatea referencing to the Speaker of the House's move to stop the wearing of taonga, with their waiata Mihita Pika.
The performance was powerful, it was hilarious, it was inspirational. It made a statement.
When we look toward the future of this nation it is clear that an Aotearoa Hou is on the horizon. Considering the median age of Māori is 26 - compared with national age of 37 - Māori reflect a younger population - 35 per cent of the Māori population is under the age of 15. And 55 per cent are under the age of 25. Forecasts predict that as Māori and Pacific population growth is on the increase, Pākehā European population will be in decline.
There are many transformations taking place in Aotearoa. I can see mature conversations about what a Te Tiriti-centric nation means. A future led by tangata whenua, tangata tiriti and tangata moana. There is an acceptance that we are indeed a Polynesian country in the Pacific with an unrivalled opportunity to pave the way for unity and inclusion.
In this country we are all looking around trying to find answers for the issues that face us. I believe that our rangatahi already have the answers. Their resilience and shared sense for justice are what inspire me.
I suggest we begin to think seriously about how we hand over the reins and allow our rangatahi to do what they do best, lead.
Social media and the internet have meant rangatahi today are more connected than ever, to all the issues and mistreatment that people across the world experience. They are more in tune than anyone else with the innovative solutions we need to solve some of our most complex social issues. Rangatahi are not afraid to speak out against what has been the norm for too long - against white privilege (#BLM), against the failings of capitalism (#EatTheRich) and against abuse (#MeToo).
This is not a "woke" generation, it is in fact a "reclamation" generation who doesn't suffer fools lightly or fall to the myths that a mono-cultural society created.
The following quote is attributed to Hawaiian leader, poet and activist Dr Haunani Kay Trask. Moe mai rā e te rangatira.
"Cultural people have to become political. It's not just political people like myself that have to become cultural. Our culture can't just be ornamental or recreational… Our culture has to be the core of our resistance. The core of our anger. The core of our mana. That's what culture is for."