Te Ngākau Kahukura Championing Rainbow Young People

Te Ngākau Kahukura is a national initiative that strives to develop and enhance the environments in which rainbow young people live, learn, and access health services and social support. Youth-facing services need support and encouragement to ensure they are accepting, affirming and unprejudiced. Te Ngākau Kahukura builds on the Rainbow Ready project that was developed through a partnership between Ara Taiohi, the national peak body for youth development, and RainbowYOUTH, a national organisation run by and for rainbow young people.

The name, Te Ngākau Kahukura, reflects its role as a heart, “strengthening and nourishing the system of support around rainbow young people in Aotearoa”. Te Ngākau Kahukura helps organisations to build rainbow knowledge and capability and shares resources and connections with rainbow communities. It aims to support those who work with young people to have the confidence and courage to work and engage with rainbow young people in an appropriate manner.

Moira Clunie (Te Rarawa) has been the Project Lead for Te Ngākau Kahukura since March 2019. They took over the role from Jack Trolove who led the initial mahi which saw the initiative come to life. He was heavily involved in establishing the scope and vision of the organisation and passed the baton to Moira and their teammate, Training Lead, Joey Macdonald. Both Moira and Joey are using their extensive experience in the rainbow, mental health and disability fields to translate the vision into a successful operation.

L-R: Jack Trolove, Anya Satyanand (Former CEO Ara Taiohi; CEO The Prince’s Trust New Zealand), Moira Clunie, Joey Macdonald and Jane Zintl (CEO Ara Taiohi)

“Our kaupapa is based on us wanting to improve social inclusion and wellbeing for rainbow young people across Aotearoa. In order for this to happen, we all need to grow, we all need to do the work, and the whakataukī ‘Kia puāwai, me puāwai’ which was gifted to us by Elizabeth Kerekere reflects that,” says Moira.

Te Ngākau Kahukura has adopted five strategies to achieve its goals.

  1. It advocates for the inclusion of rainbow young people’s needs in national policies. This has translated into engaging with Ministers and MPs, working with Statistics New Zealand on sex and gender standards, presenting to the Ministries of Youth and Social Development and Oranga Tamariki on rainbow young people and bullying, and giving input into Ministry of Health’s strategies on mental health and wellbeing.
  2. It develops best practice guidelines and helps to embed these in organisations. For example, developing a coaching relationship with Auckland University’s School of Nursing which includes curriculum development, and establishing a strategic relationship with the Professional Association for Transgender Health Aotearoa (PATHA) to work on education around trans people and gender-affirming healthcare.
  3. It collaborates with rainbow community experts to identify the best ways to effect change. This has included co-developing regional training models with local partners, working collectively to make a submission to the Mental Health and Wellbeing Commission Bill, and capacity building with rainbow stakeholders.
  4. It works with youth-facing services to review and improve their practices. This strategy has seen the team run youth service provider workshops at the Festival for Youth Development and they are in discussions with a government agency around upskilling staff to better support gender diverse young people.
  5. It shares accessible evidence-based information about rainbow issues. Actions taken have included strengthening relationships with youth health and wellbeing researchers, redeveloping the website as a repository for free information, and presenting best practice advice on how to engage with rainbow community organisations at the Design for Social Innovation Symposium.
L – R: Moira, Joey and Rt Hon Jacinda Ardern At RainbowYOUTH’s 30th birthday gala

“We’re aiming for systems change, working collaboratively with key leverage points including funders, political decision makers, researchers, training providers, sector bodies and large agencies supporting young people. We want to engage and support any organisation that is providing health, social and education support services to rainbow rangatahi,” says Joey.

Joey and Moira running a workshop at the Design for Social Innovation Symposium

It is clear that Te Ngākau Kahukura has a lot of work to do, and it has plotted a way to ensure its continued positive trajectory. Even more importantly, the team possesses the passion, experience and know-how to convert ideas into actions into solid, measurable outcomes.

“We want to acknowledge the support of The Tindall Foundation, J R McKenzie Trust, Ministry of Youth Development – Te Manatū Whakahiato Taiohi, and Foundation North. We’re looking forward to seeing what we can achieve for rainbow young people in the coming years,” says Moira.