Noella Niyonzima Rimutaka's new Youth MP

No matter how many times young people watch Hunger Games and Divergent, “we don’t seem to grasp the main theme – that young people can change societies”.

So said Sacred Heart College 17-year-old Claudia Homan in her pitch last week to a panel put together by Chris Hipkins MP to decide who would represent him in the Youth Parliament to be held in July 2016.

Homan said too many young people are unwilling to rebel against social norms or their parents’ views – yet it was many of those parents who marched for change over the Vietnam war, apartheid and visits by US nuclear ships.

“We’ve become too passive and trusting of our politicians. No longer do we think we have the power to change the way our nation runs.”

Nila Taylor, from Chilton St James, said the difficulty lies with “connecting the enthusiasm and liveliness of youth with the world of politics, referendums and polling.

“To put in bluntly we feel ignored.”

The stereotype is that young people have been brainwashed by reality shows and social media and think they have to be the next Kardashian to succeed. But they’re smarter than that.

Ignored by the media are all the good things done via social media: the people who connect on the web to raise money for good causes, to set up youth environment groups, Taylor said.

In a lucid and compelling 10 minute speech in which she seldom referred to notes, 16-year-old Noella Niyonzima from Naenae College – the successful candidate – said it was critical more youths made an effort to listen, and engage in politics. “It puts us in a better position for the future when we have to start standing up, and stepping up, to make the right decisions to benefit our country.”

Asked what one thing she would invest in if she had that power of decision, Niyonzima said she would put more money into lower socio-economic schools. Young people lacking the education to get a good job in an increasingly complex and technological world risked joining those with “a lack of hope and purpose”.

Samuel Porter, from Hutt International Boys, also needed no notes as he argued for more opportunities for youth to get involved in politics, and for mid-term referenda on critical issues such as the signing of the TPPA.

Alexander Elzenaar, from Upper Hutt College, said young people were being shut out of the process when a Parliament dominated by older people argued about issues important to older people.

“[Young people] need to understand, our views don’t matter unless we make people aware of them.”

– Hutt News

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