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Avé Te Teira-King with Billund’s mayor, Stephanie Storbank, during the Children’s General Assembly in September. Photo: SUPPLIED

Budding democrat brings a voice to youth

On a mid-September evening, when most children in New Zealand were getting ready for bed,  Pārāwai student Avé Te Teira-King was stepping out on stage – in Billund, Denmark. 

Avé was one of 80 participants chosen from around the world to attend last year’s Children’s General Assembly. The 10-year-old was in the company of like-minded children aged 10-17. They had been collaborating over zoom meetings for six months to discuss and come up with solutions to real-world issues, with the aim of developing a manifesto and an idea catalogue to be shared with the world. 

The summit, on September 19-21, was the culmination of their months of dedication, and a chance for the children to meet in person, workshop their ideas, and present their manifesto to the United Nations General Assembly via a live broadcast. 

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For Avé, the experience was incredible. She and her chaperone, mother Roanne Mitchell-Te Teira, had the opportunity to explore the self-proclaimed “children’s capital of the world”, including the Lego Museum, before getting down to the serious business of solving the world’s problems. 

“The main manifesto [for the conference] was called STEAM which is a mix of science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics,” Avé said. 

“My manifesto was based off mental health. For the first day or two we were learning more about our manifesto and what we could do about it. I learnt more about the world and the issues we were learning about.” 

The assembly was the ultimate stage for youth, allowing everyone a chance to have a say. Avé answered questions at the live broadcast, and co-hosted a discussion panel with a 17-year-old from Pakistan. 

“I got chosen to be a host for something called a democratic dialogue. There were questions about AI and technology … everybody thought different things.” 

Ro said the parents were also challenged at the assembly. Their task was to continue to support and encourage their youth to have a voice in their own communities. 

“Us as parents got to sit in on one of those dialogues, just to observe how the kids think and how they react,” Ro said. 

“It was quite interesting [to] see a 10-year-old’s answer compared to a 17-year-old’s answer. A 10-year-old, they will just speak what is on their mind and what they think is right, whereas a little bit older they’re a little more reserved … But it was quite mind blowing seeing the answers coming from the younger generation.” 

Since the summit, Avé has been pondering ideas to make a difference in Thames. Her first action was to hold a presentation at Mātai Whetū marae on October 25, explaining what she learned in Billund. Mayor Len Salt attended the presentation, and Ro said he offered Avé a “mayoral mentorship” on the spot. 

“You can tell he’s really supportive of the rangatahi around Hauraki,” Ro said. 

“So [that’s] something in 2024 she can work towards. She’s had a bit of a break since then – it was six months of hard slog, three-hour workshops. Getting up [at 12am] and doing a three hour workshop is quite full-on for a 10-year-old, the commitment was huge.” 

Nicely refreshed from the Christmas break, Avé’s now ready to get involved with some community youth projects. 

“Because it’s also about giving back,” Ro said.

“We need to do a massive thank you to the community who got behind her with fundraising, and this is how she can give back to her own community. 

But she can’t do that by herself, she’s only 10. We’ve gotta have a bit of an army behind her.”