International Youth Day — youth voices, engagement and activism

Thu 17 Aug 2023

In recognition of International Youth Day, we highlight resources and research on young people's voices, youth engagement and youth activism in Aotearoa New Zealand including the newly updated Youth Plan for Aotearoa New Zealand.

photo of 6 diverse young people standing

Youth voices

The government's Child Wellbeing Unit has put together a collection of reports that feature the insights and perspectives of children and young people from Aotearoa New Zealand. The reports cover a wide range of topics including wellbeing, health and mental health, care experienced, families and whānau, family violence and sexual violence, relationship and sex education, pornography, sexual health and much more. For more information see the Index of child and youth engagement reports. You can submit reports to be included by emailing

Several recent reports also highlight young people's perspectives including:

Youth engagement

Mana Taiohi is a principle based framework that informs the way people who work with young people work in Aotearoa, with a Te Ao Māori worldview. It resulted from a review of the principles of youth development previously expressed in the Youth Development Strategy of Aotearoa (2002). See Ara Taiohi for more information about Mana Taiohi and how the principles were developed.

Mana Mokopuna | Children & Young People's Commission listens, engages and reflects the voices of mokopuna through Mai World. Mana Mokopuna has information on resources for engaging with Mokopuna, what to think about before engaging and ways to engage.

Multiethnic Young Leaders NZ developed the Rangatahi Leadership Opportunities Database. It lists information about leadership opportunities available to young people under 35 in Aotearoa. Young people can find opportunities to get involved. Businesses, government agencies, schools and community organisations can submit opportunities for young people to be listed in the database.

For more information on engaging with youth, see the following resources:

Youth activism

In 2020, VOYCE called on the Government to uphold 6 basic rights for children and young people in care. These rights align with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. VOYCE Whakarongo Mai is hosting the VOYCE Summit 2023 — Young Voices Rising: From Care to Influence on 30 August 2023 in Wellington. Registrations closed on 14th August 2023. The Summit will workshop these 6 Promised priorities for the care community, deliver the VOYCE petition calling for action on the 6 Promises, and empower young people to have a say in the upcoming election.

The book Fierce Hope: Youth Activism in Aotearoa (2023) explores six activist groups from Aotearoa New Zealand addressing a range of issues from Indigenous rights and sexual violence to climate change and justice system reform. It includes Thursdays in Black, InsideOUT Kōaro, JustSpeak, ActionStation, Protect Ihumātao and Generation Zero. See more about the research for this project and some of the articles published from the research including Living in and out of time: Youth-led activism in Aotearoa New Zealand (2021) and Creating a culture of care to support rainbow activists’ well-being: an exemplar from Aotearoa/New Zealand (2022). InsideOUT Kōaro and the research team also worked together to highlight the youth activist approach and values of InsideOUT Kōaro in Activating Our Values (2023).

The related media below highlights other Aotearoa youth activism.

Also see the following international resources:

Updated Youth Plan for Aotearoa New Zealand

The Government and Ministry of Youth Development (MYD) | Te Manatū Whakahiato Taiohi launched the updated Youth Plan: Voice, Leadership, Action. The focus areas of the youth plan are voice and leadership. The Youth Plan includes 3 documents: a strategic framework, a rolling suite of actions and a measurement framework. It focuses on collaboration between government agencies and the youth and community sectors.

The MYD information highlights that "The Youth Plan Cross-Agency Working Group will be the main mechanism through which agency-led actions can be identified, developed, tested, and collaborated on." Community organisations, youth-sector organisations and government agencies who would like to know more about or get involved with the Cross-Agency Working Group can email

The Beehive media release launching the updated Youth Plan states "The refreshed Youth Plan aims to amplify the youth voice in government policy and decision-making and ensure processes are in place for young people to have meaningful input."

International Youth Day — UN updates

International Youth Day is celebrated every year on 12 August. In 1999, the United Nations General Assembly endorsed the recommendation made by the World Conference of Ministers Responsible for Youth, that 12 August be declared International Youth Day. For 2023, the UN Office of the Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth is running a campaign on “Celebrating Ways #YouthLead as Agents of Change for the Global Goals.” Explaining this focus, the UN Office of the Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth highlighted that development progress is slipping for the first time in decades and said:

"In light of this reality, young people undoubtedly remain one of our greatest hopes to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), ensuring no one is left behind.

Amidst the multi-faceted crises facing our world, young people’s unwavering optimism, innovative solutions and demonstrated preservice in the face of adversity remind us that there is still time to get the world back on track to achieve the SDGs."

In addition, the theme for the United Nations International day of the World's Indigenous Peoples (9 August) for 2023 is Indigenous youth as agents of change for self-determination with 3 priority issues: climate action, mobilising for justice and intergenerational connections. Highlighting the importance of Indigenous young people's voice in public and political participation as a crucial element for the realisation of Indigenous People’s right to self-determination, UN Special Rapporteur on the rights of Indigenous Peoples, Cali Tzay said:

“Indigenous youth are particularly impacted by threats to their rights, livelihoods, and culture, including intergenerational impacts of the negative legacies of colonialism and disproportionate underrepresentation in formal decision-making, affecting even more young Indigenous women and girls. Racism and racial discrimination, stereotypes, and the lack of financial resources, support or engagement by public institutions and private entities remain persistent challenges for meaningful participation of Indigenous youth in decisions affecting them."

The UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights is calling for inputs from youth-led and youth-focused organisations to help inform the development of the Human Rights 75 Youth Declaration. There are 3 questions. Feedback is due by 1 September 2023.

Related news from the Ministry of Youth Development

Request for proposals are invited for the Ākonga Youth Development Community Fund. The Fund provides funding for youth development, iwi, and community-based providers across Aotearoa New Zealand to support ākonga aged between 12 and 21 years. The fund is administer by the Ministry of Youth Development (MYD) | Te Manatū Whakahiato Taiohi. Proposals are due by 29 August 2023. For more information see the Government Electronic Tenders Service (GETS) RFx ID: 27781052.

MYD and the Ministry of Social Development | Te Manatū Whakahiato Ora published their 2023 Briefing to the Incoming Minister — Youth. See the Beehive website for all briefings to income Ministers following changes to Cabinet in January 2023.

Related media

Youth Activators Faava Leong Tuigamala and Yvette Sapatu, Village Collective, 531pi, 13.03.2024

From the womb to the stage: Twins hit the right note, Star News, 22.09.2023

Paediatric Society Of New Zealand Stands Behind Petition To Raise Criminal Responsibility Age, Addressing Equity, Press Release: Paediatric Society of NZ, Scoop, 06.09.2023

Young people share insights about mental health and wellbeing with Ministers, Child and Youth Wellbeing Strategy news, 16.08.2023

'When you do good, you feel good': Youth initiative harnesses power of creativity, PMN News, 15.08.2023

Lowered Voting Age For Local Elections, Press Release: Save The Children, Scoop, 15.08.2023

Report card one year after agencies put on notice under Oranga Tamariki Action Plan, Stuff, 03.08.2023

Our children deserve to be loved, not locked up - Greens, Opinion Marama Davidson, Waikato Times, 29.07.2023

Pōwhiri welcomes new advocates to Mana Mokopuna – Children and Young People’s Commission, Mana Mokopuna Children & Young People's Commission media release, 28.07.2023

"I'm inspired by young me": Advocates turn state care pain into purpose, Re:News, 21.07.2023

Meet 25 young people changing the world, The Spinoff, 20.07.2023

Standing together to prevent sexual violence, Tō Tātou Pōneke | Our Wellington, Wellington City Council news, 22.07.2023

Pasifika youth advocate appointed to new children and young people’s Commission, Tagata Pasifika, 06.07.2023

New toolkit for online bullying and sextortion, created by students for students, Stuff, 30.06.2023

Aro ki te hā – Respectful Relationships Programme for Rainbow Rangatahi, Rainbow Violence Prevention Network Aotearoa New Zealand blog, 29.06.2023

Student Voices Against Sexual Harm, The Circular — National Council of Women of New Zealand, 29.06.2023

Report reveals abuse experienced by takatāpui and rainbow rangatahi in state care, Stuff, 15.06.2023

Rainbow rangatahi share stories of abuse and discrimination in state care in Oranga Tamariki's Making Ourselves Visible report, RNZ, 14.06.2023

Life in mental care system said to fail vulnerable rangatahi, RNZ, 29.05.2023

Teen tells of lack of mental health support despite abuse in state care, RNZ, 29.05.2023

Not Enough Being Done To Ensure The Mental Wellbeing Of Young People In Care: Rangatahi Calls For Urgent Action!, Press Release: VOYCE, Scoop, 22.05.2023

Rangatahi seek seat at table, Waatea News, 22.05.2023

Youth voice needed in mental health policy, Koi Tū: The Centre for Informed Futures media release, 15.05.2023

Study identifies four key factors affecting youth mental health, Newshub, 15.05.2023

Mental health and wellbeing needs of children and young people involved with Oranga Tamariki, Manatū Hauora | Ministry of Health news, 05.04.2023

Youth Activism in NZ w/ Dr Carisa Showden: 20 February, 2023, 95bFM, 20.02.2023

Spotlighting today's activist: 'We hope this book does justice to each story', Stuff, 08.01.2023

Image: Creative Christians on Unsplash

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