May 7, 2021

Maori News & Indigenous Views


2 min read

YMCA members are today celebrating the award of a QSM to the Chief Executive of the Gisborne YMCA, Leigh Gibson. YMCA National Chief Executive Ric Odom said:

Leigh was a member of the YMCA Gisborne Board for many years including serving as its President before taking over as CEO. This was at a time when the YMCA in Gisborne was in a difficult position. Under her leadership, the YMCA has become financially sustainable and an integral part of the Gisborne community.

The bilingual childhood centre is only the most recent building project in a long list of YMCA developments in the local area.

Leigh Gibson attributes the success of the Gisborne YMCA to the spirit of partnership embodied in Te Tiriti O Waitangi.

All activities, programmes and initiatives undertaken at the Gisborne YMCA seek to empower participants in a culturally appropriate manner, she said.

Currently 55-60% of staff employed by the Gisborne YMCA are Maori, with some programmes having up to 90-95% Maori employees such as the Y Tamariki Bilingual Early Childhood Centre and other services provided at the Kaiti YMCA.

The YMCA recognises cultural diversity and that success for Maori is inextricably linked with New Zealands success, said Leigh. All services operated by the YMCA explicitly recognise that as an organisation we accept ownership, leadership and accountability for significantly improving opportunities for Maori throughout our services in Gisborne.

In creating its strategic plan YMCA identified the main causes of serious health issues for the Gisborne community are linked to poor education, high unemployment and low income. Tairawhiti still experiences higher levels of deprivation than New Zealand as a whole, with almost half (47.5%) of the population living within deciles 9 and 10. There are 11,115 families in the Gisborne community of which 27.5% are one parent families. The median income of $15,000 for Gisborne is the third lowest median income in the country and Tairawhiti shows the largest proportion of youth (0-14 years).

All these profiles are dominated by high rates of Maori with Tairawhiti showing the greatest Maori population for the country (44.4%). These factors and characteristics mean that the affordability and access issues become complex affecting inequalities not only in health but also in recreation and educational opportunities. The YMCA recognises and values the need to reduce inequalities, especially amongst the Maori population in the Gisborne area.

Our programmes are being designed and will evolve to contribute to the improvement of health and social issues for this community. Because Maori make up almost 50% of this districts population the YMCA will ensure that programmes and services will use tools to improve Maori responsiveness and equity, said Leigh.

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