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T-RAP founding members Tina Marea-Waite, Olivia Kororia, Ro Mitchell-Te Teira and Absalom Turoa are bringing the youth voice back to Thames. Photo: ALICE PARMINTER

Leading the way on youth leadership

A call has gone out to the youth of Thames to join a new community initiative called T-RAP – the Thames Rangatahi Advisory Panel. 

Young people between the ages of 12 and 24 are eligible to join the panel, which aims to be a safe space for all rangatahi [youths] to develop their voice within the wider Thames community, by providing a platform for youth-oriented events, mentoring, community involvement and leadership. 

The initial stages of the group will be facilitated by Olivia Kororia and Absalom Turoa, who both fall within the panel’s target age range, along with mentors Tina Marea-Waite and Ro Mitchell-Te Teira, who will provide guidance and experience. The bulk of the mahi, though, will be led by the recruited youths themselves, who will be expected to shape the panel into a group that meets their needs. 

“Our youth are so used to being spoken to, not being spoken with. So [we’re] giving them the opportunity to lead,” Tina said. 

And the panel is welcoming everyone – regardless of skills, interests or life experience. 

“Maybe you’re good at IT or public speaking or singing… We’re not just focusing on sport. We’ve got art, music and drama. For the older ones it could be careers, it could be CV writing,” Ro said. 

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Mentoring will be a large part of the panel. The group has deliberately opened its doors to a wide age range, working towards an organic tuakana-teina [older person-younger person] role-modelling system. 

“I remember being 12,13 and not having role models,” Absalom said. 

“Hopefully it becomes like a revolving door where the kids are meeting older kids and having the opportunity to learn something. All of a sudden all of the kids in the area have a voice and the rangatahi are independent enough to be taken seriously.”

Olivia agreed, saying she was excited to help give her peers a place to connect. 

“I remember being that age and being so bored… [that’s] when you get into trouble, so you give them a place to go and things to do,” she said. “It sets them up for the future.”

While the shape and purpose of the panel is yet to be fully fleshed out, the founding members all said they had high hopes it would help rangatahi develop a sense of belonging, in a community which has often been at odds with its younger members. 

“A level of fear has developed, with ram-raids and all of those sorts of things, [but] not every rangatahi is going to bash down your door,” Tina said. 

“We all have to live in one community. We need to connect. 

“If we get that positive swing happening, who knows what happens to our younger ones that are playing up? Giving them a little bit of pride in our town – when you have all of that stuff within you then you tend to look after stuff a bit more.”

Already community interest in the initiative is strong, and Ro said one of the panel’s first steps would be hosting a meeting with community leaders and business owners. 

“We’re really going to focus on our rangatahi being more involved with the community and business owners being more involved with the youth,” she said. 

“There’s gonna be mistakes on the way, but it’s the only way they’re going to learn.”

Tina agreed, saying a mindshift was needed to help bridge the societal divide. 

“Our rangatahi have just got so much untapped potential,” she said. “[But] nothing’s going to change if we can’t start working together.” 

Details: for more information visit or search @connecteenrangatahi on TikTok.