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‘Constitutional transformation’ was the message to last week’s 175th commemorations of the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi, brought by Matike Mai Aotearoa Rangatahi, a national youth project engaging young people in exploring New Zealand’s constitutional history and expressing their thoughts, hopes and aspirations for our future.

Matike Mai Aotearoa Rangatahi is the youth arm of the Constitutional Transformation Independent Working Group headed by Moana Jackson and Professor Margaret Mutu and is tasked with seeking out rangatahi contributions on constitutional transformation, covering the widest possible cross-section of Maori society.

“Rangatahi nationwide are clear on the type of country they want to live in” states Ngaa Rauuira Puumanawawhiti, a spokesperson for the Matike Mai Rangatahi youth group.

“That is one where constitutional protection is afforded the health and wellbeing of our natural environment, access to education and health care, the mana motuhake of tangata whenua and their kawa, tikanga, He Whakaputanga and Te Tiriti, and Maori knowledges, systems and institutions such as te reo me ona tikanga”.

He Whakaputanga, Te Tiriti and Tikanga were not only the basis of these discussions, but their constitutional enshrinement was also reflected in the contributions collected from Rangatahi throughout the country.

The finding of the Waitangi Tribunal that Maori did not cede sovereignty highlights the urgency of the issue and the need to listen to rangatahi aspirations as we engage, debate and work together on what a future constitution might look like”.

Over the past three years 13 regional Matike Mai youth teams have been formed, with 80 youth educators now nationwide. A workshop using digital media, spoken word performance, audience participatory drama and small-to-large group activities was delivered in secondary schools, wharekura, tertiary organisations, as well as alternative and community education centres, teen parent units and youth justice centres.

“Youth throughout the country loved our workshop and expressed a deep gratitude at having been asked what they thought and felt about the future. Young voices are often not valued or are ignored, yet we are the ones who will shape our future constitution. To share the hopes and dreams of youth at Waitangi was an honour and we hope to be able to build on those messages”.

To date the project has received financial support from the JR McKenzie Trust, the UN Trust Fund on Indigenous Issues Small grants programme and the New Zealand National Commission for UNESCO.

“We are grateful for all the support we have received so far and are looking forward to growing this project into a national movement. Young people are positive about the future and have a deep sense of the need for greater mutual respect and peace. Only great things can come from this and continuing these discussions” saysNgaa Rauuira.

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