Open Letter to political leaders, we are not your political football! 

Care Experienced Rangatira speak out..


Let’s be real. This has been an overwhelming election period. As such, there have been plenty of hot topics that have come to a head in the media/political sphere, specifically in regard to addressing youth crime. This of course includes televised leadership debates, articles, forums, and proposed policy. 

VOYCE – Whakarongo Mai Regional Youth Councils are a group of state care experienced young people from across the entire mōtu who want to make it known:

We are watching, we are listening, and our collective struggle has given us the strength to speak up this election period.

It all started with one simple comment made during the first leader’s debate that struck a chord with us.

Re: boot camps, National Leader Christopher Luxon made a quip that “[they] are better than who you’ve got over at Oranga Tamariki videoing kids getting put in a headlock”.

While this was a split-second exchange, it is one we felt worthy of responding to.

Mr Luxon – first of all, we agree with you in that the incident you made reference to is completely unacceptable – but we cannot condone our childhoods being weaponized in this way.

As a group we are deeply concerned with alarming and disparaging rhetoric and POLICY from multiple parties this election – many of which we have responded to as the national advocacy agency for children and young people in state care.

We cannot condone the suggestion of boot camps as a means of youth justice. As Mr Hipkins correctly pointed out, boot camps in the past have had an 80% re-offending rate. This is not indicative of a system that seeks to rehabilitate and support young offenders. Bootcamps are not the only proposed hot-ticket policy surrounding children in the care of the state. The Ram Raids Bill proposed by the Labour Party breaches several of the human rights that Aotearoa, New Zealand has signed up to and that should be afforded to all children, something that the Labour government have shown zero indication of remedying. The ACT Party have promised to build 200 new youth residence beds and to hand youth justice over to corrections. New Zealand First are campaigning to re-introduce the Demerit Points Bill defeated in their last term of government after being campaigned against by many organisations, including VOYCE.

We want to make it incredibly clear: the Hauora of tamariki and rangatahi in state care is a NON-PARTISAN issue. Any government elected has the obligation to uphold the mana of our most vulnerable in state care and their families. 

Finally, when you speak on Oranga Tamariki, you are speaking about all of us who are currently or formerly in the state care system, not just young offenders.

It is not constructive to conflate the two – it is not an accurate nor appropriate net to cast over our vulnerable rangatahi that are in the care of the state. What you call ‘the system’ we call ‘our childhood’. 

We encourage all politicians seeking election to deeply consider how they can support our rangatahi and uphold their mana in parliament. To quote our dear friend Aaron Hendry: #Loveistheway. Please do not bury us in places where we cannot grow. Children in state care are OUR children, and OUR future. Do better, act accordingly.

Signed with strength and urgency,

VOYCE – Whakarongo Mai Regional Youth Council