Thriving Rangatahi Data-driven Perspectives

Thriving Rangatahi

Data-driven perspectives to contribute to a more equitable Aotearoa

We are pleased to release Thriving Rangatahi: Data-driven perspectives to contribute to a more equitable Aotearoa. We hope this paper will offer new insights that will help us collectively create a more equitable, thriving society for our tamariki and rangatahi.

To develop this paper, the Vodafone Foundation, in partnership with The Centre for Social Impact, Nicholsons Consulting and Deloitte, conducted an extensive literature review, engaged with community practitioners around Aotearoa and brought together a broad collection of government datasets that paint a picture of young people’s lives around the country. This process has provided us with a clear picture of what is happening now – how advantage and disadvantage is being experienced by tamariki and rangatahi people in different regions. It has also revealed the protective factors that are required for rangatahi to live great lives.

We don’t need to fix our young people. We need to fix the systems that view them through a deficit lens – systems which consistently exclude them from opportunities.

This paper aims to highlight the findings of our work to date and make recommendations that will help us move collectively towards a brighter Aotearoa. Our intention is not to prescribe actions – no one set of actions will get us to the changes we need. Instead, our goal is to influence a multitude of small and large decisions made by government, funders and community members each day; decisions that can collectively lead us to a more equitable and aspirational future.

We urge you to read the paper and reflect on the findings, to engage your sense of urgency, and to consider your role in creating the conditions for change.

Thriving Rangatahi Data-driven Perspectives Report

By Lani Evans, Head of Foundation & Sustainability

Where’s the team of 5 million for our rangatahi?

By Juliet Jones, Chair of Vodafone Foundation Board

We listened; we united; we sacrificed and we were kind.  Against many metrics, you could also say we won.  Covid-19 captivated the team of 5 million, joining us against an intangible force, which we hope we will one day overcome.

And when we do, is it possible that “Unite against Covid-19” could become “Unite for our rangatahi”?

One in five young people in Aotearoa experience exclusion and disadvantage.  As I write this, close to 180,000[1] young people will be experiencing material deprivation, struggling to find employment, engage with education, and navigate the justice system and protective services.  These young people are over-burdened and under-resourced.  The data tells us this year after year.  Yet this state of affairs persists and those at the frontline who witness the inequitable effects of Covid-19 know too well that, left as they are, things are likely to worsen.

We are a proud country and we have good reason to be.  We are in the top five rankings for the world’s most democratic countries[2]; we have been rated first for handling the pandemic more effectively than any other country[3]; we are one of the least corrupt countries in the world, high in political and press freedom[4].  Yet of the 41 developed countries in the latest Unicef report card we rank a dismal 35th for child and youth wellbeing[5].  Where’s the pride in that?

At the Vodafone Foundation we have a vision of an Aotearoa New Zealand where all young people have access to the resources and opportunities they need to thrive.  Our goal is to halve the number of young people experiencing disadvantage and exclusion by 2027.  Like many others, we are committed to creating an equitable Aotearoa and a brighter future for our rangatahi.  Our mahi involves partnering with community and leveraging the best of digital technology, but we can’t change these entrenched statistics on our own.  To be successful the team of 5 million must work together – we must make current levels of inequity culturally unacceptable.



A year ago, some pandemic predictions had 80,000 New Zealanders losing their lives if things had continued without Government intervention.  That eventuality wasn’t accepted by us and neither should it have been.  But neither should we accept that a large group of our young people live in material deprivation, struggle to find employment, experience racism and suffer from bias in our justice system.  I know none of us want that.

As the Prime Minister said in her first lockdown speech on 23 March 2020, “Together we must stop that happening, and we can…. We’re in this together and must unite against Covid-19.”   This is not about replicating daily press conferences or contact tracing apps, but about the collective might and the power of a nation when it comes together for a common humanitarian cause.

At the Vodafone Foundation, we will continue our mahi and I look forward to sharing more of that with you soon.  In the meantime, does this team of 5 million have it in us?


[1] Vodafone Foundation Thriving Rangatahi Population Explorer 2020 data
[2] The Economist’s annual Democracy Index, 2 February 2021
[3] Lowy Institute, 9 January 2021
[4] 2020 Corruptions Perception Index, Transparency International
[5] Unicef Report Card, published 3 September 2020

Five ways to awhi community organisations during the COVID-19 pandemic

By Lani Evans, Vodafone Foundation and Sustainability Manager


COVID-19 and the rahui o te motu (national lockdown) is hard on us all. The current situation is also exacerbating some of the existing inequalities in Aotearoa. So if, like me, you’re in a position of relative security and privilege, you might be thinking about ways you can help community organisations.


Here are five easy ways you can support.

1. Donate Money: Donate money to an organisation that has a connection to you and your hapori (community). Cash donations allow organisations to set their own priorities – paying staff, keeping their doors open, moving their services online or purchasing the goods and services they need. At the Vodafone Foundation we’ve chosen to prioritise giving to community organisations that we already have a relationship with, and those who are providing essential and critical services to our rangatahi.

2. Spread your Social Capital: Now is a great time to use your social channels for social good. Amplify the voices of community organisations – help to celebrate their wins, help them connect to people and resources they need, and share stories of their work. It’s particularly important to get behind community organisations when they’re advocating for policy changes that will positively impact the most vulnerable members of our communities.

3. Volunteer: Some folks are busier than usual right now, and others have unexpected time on their hands. If you’re in the latter category, think about what unique skills you can contribute to community organisations. This might look like tech support, grant writing, mentoring, risk analysis, or helping organisations pivot to navigate our current reality. Contact intermediary organisations, like your local Volunteer Centre, HelpTank or the Student Volunteer Army. They’ll help connect you to organisations who can make use of your skills, without burdening frontline workers with your very well-intentioned queries.

4. Give blood: Giving blood is an essential service and the blood bank is in need, so if you are willing and able, this is a practical, tangible and (relatively) easy way to contribute.

5. Donate goods: If you’ve got goods to giveaway that’s great! But make sure those items can be of use to organisations right now. With no face-to-face contact and strictly limited distribution channels, community organisations may struggle to pass goods on to the people they work with, so approach with caution.

Finally, connect with the people in your immediate neighbourhood. There is an opportunity to the lockdown to flex your hapori development muscles: put a teddy bear in your window; set up a WhatsApp group for your street; wave enthusiastically as you pass people from a distance, or simply practice being generous with yourself.

Stay safe and kia kaha whanau!

Our $120,000 emergency fund to awhi community partners during COVID-19 lockdown

By Lani Evans, Vodafone Foundation and Sustainability Manager


The Vodafone Foundation’s overarching goal is to create an Aotearoa, New Zealand where all young people have access to the resources and opportunities they need to thrive. In times of uncertainty like this, we want to do everything we can to support community organisations on the front line, to provide them with what they need to get on with the mahi.

We’re heard that emergency funding is the most pressing need, so we’re releasing $120,000 in funds immediately to provide untagged, non-contestable donations to 12 of our current community partners.

These partners* provide young people with a wide range of essential services, including access to safe shelter, social connection, medical and mental health support and digital inclusion– and they are all doing remarkable work to help our communities throughout this incredibly challenging time.

We’re pleased to hear responses from these partners that the support is welcomed.

Brook Turner from Vision West explained “COVID-19 has had huge impacts on our most vulnerable. While many of us have stocked our shelves for the lockdown, those trapped by poverty, illness, disability, addictions and mental health have become isolated. Our homeless whanau remain homeless. To support whanau, Vision West in partnership with Vodafone Foundation are doing emergency food deliveries to the most vulnerable. We are also continuing to provide housing support to the homeless. Vodafone remains a steadfast friend for us at this time.”

Tracie Shipton said “VOYCE Whakarongo mai will be working hard to connect young people in foster care and keeping them connected with each other wherever we can, and thank Vodafone for the assistance in making this happen.”

We’re also looking at whether we can offer additional funds to support medium and long-term needs, and working with the Vodafone business to provide essential internet and mobile connectivity services and device donations when and where we can.

In addition, we’re working with Vodafone to look at safe and effective opportunities for staff to volunteer and donate to non-profit organisations, as well as examining avenues to support broader digital inclusion in our vulnerable and disconnected communities.

Our focus is firmly on wrapping around our current community partners and making sure they’re able to continue to serve the needs of young people, support their staff and keep their physical and/or digital doors open during this difficult time.

We’ll get through this together with kindness, generosity and community.

Kia kaha, kia maia, kia manawanui.

*Vodafone Foundation community partners include:
· Vision West
· Anamata Cafe
· VIBE Hutt Valley
· Youthline
· VOYCE Whakarongo Mai
· Maoriland
· Te Ora Hou Otautahi
· Aviva
· Tamaki Community Development

Responding to COVID-19 and increasing support for our community partners


By Linn Araboglos, Manager, Vodafone NZ Foundation

As New Zealand grapples with the impacts of COVID-19 we are aware of the increased pressure this may be having on our community partners on the wellbeing of the rangatahi we serve.

We’re hearing that demand for services has increased as our community partners continue to support our most disadvantaged young people, those who are sleeping rough or don’t have a safe place to go to.

We understand that things are changing quickly, for example, people may need to work remotely, may have reduced staff capacity, fundraising events may be cancelled and community partners may be experiencing other unexpected costs or disruptions. We’ve been thinking about what we can do to support our community partners during these rapidly changing times.

In response, here is what the Vodafone NZ Foundation has been doing as COVID-19 continues to evolve:

  • We are checking in with and listening to our community partners to understand their needs right now and exploring additional avenues where we can provide support.
  • We are mobilising additional resources for the community partners we work with to support them to continue serving and responding to rangatahi in their community – this includes providing additional and emergency funding for our currently funded community partners to support them with costs and resilience so that they can continue to deliver key services for young people.
  • We are making practical changes to the way we support our partners – such as exploring flexible arrangements with current funding, reporting requirements and re-prioritising funds to meet community need.

More broadly, Vodafone New Zealand is offering a COVID-19 Care plan to customers. The plan includes:

  • Broadband data certainty. The removal of data caps from data-capped Broadband plans for consumers and small to medium sized businesses until at least the end of June 2020
  • Mobile data certainty. Eligible Consumer Pay Monthly mobile customers with data-caps to be actively encouraged towards Endless Data plans (which also include endless texts and minutes to AU and NZ numbers)
  • No Covid-19 related disconnections or late fees. Temporary measures to protect customers in financial hardship from Covid-19 over at least the next six months.
  • Worry-free remote learning for all. Helping families by zero rating Government guided education and health sites to support responses to Covid-19.
  • Ensuring capacity. Vodafone NZ has added extra capacity to fixed, broadband and mobile networks to cope with the extra demand as more people work from home and we will actively monitor network performance

With most – if not all – organisations implementing working from home at mass-scale, here’s some guidance from Vodafone NZ HR Director, Katie Williams, on how to set your organisation up for remote working.

For further support and information on Vodafone’s response to COVID-19, please head to

Kia kaha everyone.


Driving Change Network calls for a meeting with Prime Minister Ardern

In late 2018 the Vodafone New Zealand Foundation brought together a small group of community focussed funders to look at the barriers young people faced in getting their driver’s licenses.

Driving Change has since grown to include a wide range of stakeholders in the driver licensing space way beyond philanthropy.

On Tuesday 3rd September, Todd Foundation, Mayors Taskforce for Jobs, Philanthropy New Zealand, Vodafone New Zealand Foundation and PwC, brought together a range of stakeholders from diverse groups of interested parties (business, iwi, community, local and central government, philanthropy and NGOs) creating the Driver Change Network.

Today the group sent this open letter to the PM:

Open Letter to Rt Hon Jacinda Ardern

26 September 2019

Kei te rangatira, tēnā koe Prime Minister,

New Zealand Driver Licencing System

Studies show that 70,000 – 90,000 young people face major barriers to progressing to a full licence.  A driver licence currently holds many functions beyond a licence to drive. It’s a prerequisite to many jobs, independence, a formal means of legal identification, and a positive step to participate in our economy.

Families and children will benefit when the drivers in their lives are able to drive legally, safely and confidently. Communities, especially rural and remote communities, will benefit when more of their people are able to access education opportunities, contribute to the care of their whanau, participate in employment and generally take an active part in the life of the community. All of us will benefit when fewer of our young people are caught up in the criminal justice system and more of our young people are able to drive with confidence, access all the opportunities that come with driving, and contribute to our country through their paid and unpaid work, including family care.

Tangata whenua Māori, those in low socio-economic circumstances, those in isolated rural communities, and those currently in the care of the state, face disproportionate barriers to accessing a driver’s licence and the benefits that come with it. Today, those who the graduated licensing system fails choose to drive regardless, risk social and economic isolation, face large fines and often a journey into the criminal justice system. These failures prompted us to assemble a diverse and passionate group of New Zealanders spanning business, iwi, community, local government, central government, philanthropic and non-government organisations. Together we formed the Driving Change Network.

Our mission is to promote a driver licensing system where licences are recognised for the social and public good they provide. We want New Zealand to be a country where everyone is able to access the benefits of a driver’s licence.

While there are a large number of community programmes addressing these challenges, they struggle to meet demand, are not universal nor coordinated across New Zealand, are often restricted to serving a particular demographic, and are underfunded.

The Driving Change Network believe that with a more coordinated, inclusive and accessible driver licensing system, we can take another step towards a thriving, just and prosperous Aotearoa.  At a recent hui, we identified the common challenges, and worked on some practical solutions to close the current gaps.

Given its significance to all New Zealanders, the Driving Change Network would like to meet with you to discuss how we can work together to ensure every New Zealander has the same opportunity to access the benefits of a driver’s licence. Given over 7 different Ministries are funding programmes independently, and 11 Ministries are involved in this system, we believe a cross-agency approach is required.

Ngā mihi nui,

The Driving Change Network

Signatories to this letter:

Blue Light; COMET Auckland; Connecting for Youth Employment; Gareth Parry, Partner, PwC Consulting; Got Drive Community Trust; HMS Trust and their projects Passport 2 Drive and Open Road; J R McKenzie Trust; JustSpeak; Keran Tsering, The Salvation Army Driver Programmes Manager; Lynda Murray, parent; Mayors Taskforce for Jobs; Manakau Urban Māori Authority; Partners Porirua; Philanthropy New Zealand; Taranaki Futures; The Southern Initiative; Todd Foundation; Vodafone New Zealand Foundation

Responses to or enquiries regarding this letter can be addressed to Noa Woolloff (

Open Letter to Rt Hon Jacinda Ardern from the Driving Change Network

The Driving Change Network will also be mapping the driver licensing system, along with its barriers and opportunities, and hope to host strategic meetings with MPs.

Systems-level impact is a focus for the Vodafone NZ Foundation in our current strategy, as is collaboration, so we have set aside funding for systems change work in this space, along with the Todd Foundation and J R McKenzie Trust.

What are we funding through our Innovation Fund?


The Vodafone Foundation Innovation Fund has been set up to support innovative work that aims to create better outcomes for our most excluded and disadvantaged youth.

We are looking for proven or promising ideas, projects and programmes that align with our strategy, generate outcomes in one or more of our five keys areas, and that utilise technology in their implementation or dissemination.

We thought we’d share a few examples of the projects we’re funding, so potential applicants have a better idea of what we’re looking for.


In our most recent round, in early 2018, we funded the following projects. These are just short descriptions of the projects, for more detail we’d recommend contacting our amazing community partners directly.


At our seed funding level (up to $10,000 to scope out a project, or test it’s feasibility) we’re funding:

  • MYRIVR Trust. Building from the success of their MYRIVR app (a free nationwide app that provides a location-based database of community health and social services), we’re funding this awesome team to engage with young people to co-design a potential ‘Youth Voices Portal’ or ‘Virtual Youth Council’.
  • Vibe (Hutt based Youth One Stop Shop), in collaboration with Spyre. We’re funding Vibe to conduct a feasibility study of a business model and app that provides a means of support for a young person to achieve their goals by way of reminders, communication with key support people, and an incentives system. The funding will also be used to support the next steps in the development of the Spyre mobile application and website.
  • Christchurch Early Intervention Trust. This amazing group are developing an early intervention smart-phone based app to deliver training in managing challenging behaviour in children to parents, teachers, social workers and others. Our funding will be used to develop the first batch of materials; scope the feasibility of delivery by smart phone to parents, teachers and others; and begin to test the market for this service with parents.


At our pilot funding level (up to $50,000 to pilot an innovative idea) we’re funding:

  • Maoriland Charitable Trust. We’re providing funding support for the establishment of M.A.T.C.H – The Maoriland Tech Creative Hub at the Maoriland Hub in Otaki. Through M.A.T.C.H, Otaki based rangatahi will have access to mentors, workshops, hackathons, creative challenges and creative free-play in a youth centred space. With a focus on rangatahi Maori, this project will help prepare young people for the future of work.
  • Youthline Central South Island. We renewed pilot funding for this group to continue to test and develop a digital mentoring programme. In their programme young skilled mentors connect with disadvantaged and excluded young people through the use of mobile phones and existing smart phone applications. Mentors receive mentoring training to support them in their new digital role, and greater geographic reach is enabled through the programme.
  • Tokona te Raki Maori Futures Collective. Tokona te Raki have developed an online data tool using predictive analytics to show where Maori are in the workforce, where jobs will be in the future, and to map the vocational pathways to take rangatahi to the meaningful jobs for the future. This project is to enable a rangatahi co-design process and the digital development of a careers tool based on this data.
  • Tāmaki Community Development Trust. The Tamaki Youth Wellbeing Project will see eight ideas, put forward by the community, move into their second testing phase. These eight ideas aim to grow youth wellbeing, and reduce the high numbers of youth suicides in the Tamaki community.
  • Rotorua Community Youth Centre. This project will enable customisation of an innovative IT digital platform for connecting and exchanging information between a young person and the agencies and community organisations that are supporting them to achieve their positive goals. The platform will include the development of a common framework to allow youth services and organisations to support rangatahi collectively and consistently.


We have also got a few projects underway at our scale funding level, but this round we are not opening the scale funding for public applications.

We’re really excited to have begun our funding relationship with each of these groups, and look forward to receiving more applications in our upcoming round.


Helen Anderson

Grants Lead, Vodafone New Zealand Foundation

Vodafone Foundation extends partnership with Zeal with largest grant


The Vodafone NZ Foundation today announced their largest ever charitable grant of $700,000. The grant, along with significant wrap-around support, will enable Zeal to scale their programme supporting young people disclosing mental health crises online.

The grant will be used to scale up Zeal’s Online Crisis Intervention programme which will allow them to save more lives.

This is part of the Vodafone Foundation’s commitment to halving the number of excluded and disadvantaged youth by 2027.



Head of the Vodafone NZ Foundation, Lani Evans, says this partnership is even more important at a time when the latest mental health research reveals shocking statistics for Kiwi youth.

“New Zealand’s suicide rate is the worst in the developed world, with the highest number of suicides in the 20-24 year old group [1]. It’s absolutely tragic, and we want to do everything we can to help our rangatahi.

“The latest research shows one in four young people are online almost constantly and often see others post about mental health crises online. In 2016, we began a partnership with Zeal to test an innovative idea that provides support to young people in crisis in a format that is relevant to them. Since the inception of this idea, we’ve provided Zeal with financial support, as well as technical expertise and volunteer time,” said Lani.

Zeal’s solution, which is called Online Crisis Intervention, reaches out to young people in crisis online and provides meaningful, interpersonal support, helping them get to a better place and in some occasions has even saved lives. The partnership also plays an important role in the Vodafone Foundation’s 10 year strategy to use technology to create better outcomes for rangatahi and save lives through innovative, scalable solutions.

General Manager of Zeal and Director of Online Crisis Intervention, Elliot Taylor, explains how the grant will help save more lives.

“The Online Crisis Intervention programme is a global first. Our vision is to get help to every young person in crisis online. Thanks to the Vodafone Foundation’s support, we have the opportunity to turn this dream into a reality and to ensure all young people receive support when and where they need it.

“Our team of volunteers is trained to respond to young people and offer care and support. They are currently live 21 hours a week and have 8 conversations a day. Our aspiration is to provide a 24 hour service and respond to all young people within 5 minutes,” Elliot said.

The team at Zeal and the Vodafone Foundation share the vision to see more young people in New Zealand living lives they value.

The Vodafone Foundation goes beyond funding. It leverages Vodafone’s technology, power, and business support and will also use its global reach to help spread awareness of this programme to positively impact the lives of more young people around the world.

[1] Statistics from Ministry of Justice

Self-care as social change

Sarah Longbottom, Executive Director, Ngä Rangatahi Toa

I believe that truly, madly, deeply caring for yourself is a mark of human evolution; it is how we shed our skin to become refined and better versions of ourselves, and effectively contribute to the lives of others. For inclusive and transformative leaders, self-care is not something you do so you can keep on working. Self-care is the work. The love, kindness and compassion manifested in caring for yourself will permeate the chinks in the armour of the status quo, resulting in the true and sustainable change we seek.

Sarah Longbottom
Photo: Dan Eriksen

The disciplined work of self-care is more than just ‘knowing what fills your tank’, although this is the place we may start. Truly caring for yourself requires you to relentlessly lift the veil on the matrix of social reality, and back yourself to go against the grain of conditioning. While we all stand on the shoulders of giants – those who have taken up arms against the oppressor and who have made great sacrifices – to sustain societal change at the core level of humanity we must let go of the strategies and reactions we have relied on to get us this far, for they won’t take us any further. As leaders, we must learn to unlearn, and understand that to create a conscious and awake world, we must first be conscious and awake ourselves. We must lean in to the ebb and flow of existence, not resist what is. At a transformational level, the work of self-care must become more than something we ‘do’ to armour up and go back out into the battlefield to fight for what we believe in. It must be something we intentionally become so that the battlefield itself transforms. We can elevate the micro practices of self to a macro evolution of society by embodying self-care at an intrinsic level, being vigilant in following the breadcrumbs back to where the stories we tell ourselves are first written, and holding space for all others to do the same.

Self-care is a practice and you do get better at it but it does not mean re-making yourself into an image of perfection, it simply means you accept what is and stop being at war with yourself. Self-care means being able to let go of self-loathing and love yourself, especially when you have hurt someone. Self-care means being able to sit with shame and be kind to yourself, especially when you’re jealous, angry and mean. Self-care means being able to quiet the busy mind and have compassion for yourself on those days you are so far down the rabbit hole you can’t think of one good thing you’ve ever done in your life. Self-care is about not battling against your chaos, but instead working to lessen its impact by accepting and loving all parts of yourself, even those parts you may vehemently wish were different. Self-care is the condition that will evolve us out of the mire of the human soup to where we can be of most service to others, for as we accept ourselves, we accept others. As we show ourselves love, kindness and compassion we are able to extend this wholeheartedly to all others, arriving at the place of joy and interconnectedness where suffering finds no ammunition. This viral antidote to the malaise of modern life is mos def a crackin new normal I can get with.

Herald Theatre Group
Photo: Dan Eriksen

From a perspective of social change, I am particularly into this ‘new normal’ that practising self-care can gateways us into. Like many excellent humans I know and love, I am attuned to the dangerous narcosis of that which is ‘normal’. While traditionally ‘normal’ may bore and confound those who are committed to innovation and change we now need to wake up to the fact that normal is not the humdrum anymore; hidden behind the white picket fence, normal has devolved into the outrageous and the inhuman. Normal is a growing underclass in New Zealand. Normal is a family of seven living in a car. Normal is the amazing young people we work with being statistically more likely to go to prison than to University. I recognise normality as a collective insanity that robs us of our ability to connect, empathise and be human. I also recognise that standing on the same old battlefield, passionately fighting the same old fight, does not lesson this insanity, it feeds it. Cultivating an internal equilibrium that enables you to not react from your place of chaos but instead stand witness from your place of peace breaks the cycle of perpetual resistance, making the first crucial step in evolving out of this state of madness.

The new normal we need has its genesis in self-care, which requires us to practice radical acceptance of all parts of ourselves and be our own best friend rather than our own worst enemy. It requires us to embrace the against-the-grain process of showing up and being seen, disarming our shame, fear and self-loathing with love, kindness and compassion. The pith of the power of self-care as social change lies in the fact that each of us is a microcosm of the world – everyday battles waged in an internal chaos manifest the battles of insanity that are waged in the world. As we learn to lay down the weapons we have been conditioned to wield against ourselves and others our new normal becomes one of acceptance and profound love for the world. As peculiar as it may sound, as we accept ourselves we accept that many live in poverty in New Zealand. We accept that a car may also be a coveted form of shelter, and that there are slippery pipelines to prison in the communities we serve. This acceptance is not resignation or passivity, it is a process of change and evolution and it is from here that we can take considered action.

Herald Theatre Opening Night Todd and Yvonne
Photo: Dan Eriksen

When we choose to work on and evolve ourselves we are choosing to embody the fierce grace that will evolve the world. For leaders who imagine other ways of seeing and being self-care is an incubator for change and the best example we can set. Taking a deep dive into the marrow of our own existence strips away the armour of conditioning and story. Our new normal is born from this place of self-care. It is an armistice for all of our battles that when embraced and shared will change our world on a cellular level.

Talking about consent


A recent media story regarding the online behaviour of some Wellington students had me thinking: how do we, both as individuals and as communities, learn about and improve our understanding of consent?


To me, consent is a process of gaining clarity of wants and desires through negotiation, agreement and mutual understanding. Consent is something that can only be given, it can’t be taken from someone. However, if consent is given it can still be retracted at any point in time. Also, just because someone has given consent before, it doesn’t mean you can expect it is okay forever. Consent may have been given once, but it doesn’t mean it will be given again. It is negotiated time and time again and is not ever-lasting, nor is it the same for different people.


I think one of the first things that people think about when they hear the word consent is sex. However people don’t often talk about sex, let alone sexual consent and when we do talk about it, it’s often focused on situations where consent wasn’t given, rather than positive examples of consensual relationships.


I used to be a facilitator for the Sex & Ethics program as well as other sexual violence prevention initiatives. I delivered sessions to young people and adults to support them to understand consent, the law and their own personal ethics and values. This normalised consent and made it integral to their day to day lives. When delivering these workshops, it was important for me that the participants knew what the workshop was about, and that they felt comfortable to participate as much or as little as they wanted. It is not ethical to have someone attend a workshop about consent if they haven’t consented to be there.


Consent is an integral part of all relationships. Often there can be a power imbalance in a relationship, such as between a teacher and a student, or a parent and a child, but this does not mean gaining consent should be overlooked. Instead I think it means that consent needs to be intentionally sought in order to build a mutually trusting relationship. One way that I practice consent with my child is asking them if they want a hug or a kiss from me. It is important to remember that even if I want to give them a cuddle, it doesn’t mean they want one and I respect that. I think it is important to acknowledge the power imbalance in relationships and to take steps to close that gap where possible. Having a consensual relationship is a positive way to do so.

The Briggs whanau


It is important to remember that just because someone wants to gain consent from you, there is no obligation to give it and there shouldn’t be any pressure put on you. For example, you may agree to have lunch with someone one day. Just because it is has happened once, it doesn’t mean you will have lunch with them again, nor will you necessarily start spending time with them in other ways. A great example of this is given by Flight of the Conchords in their song “A kiss is not a contract”.


The public response from young people and adults to the behaviour of the Wellington incident demonstrates the desire and need for community conversations around consent. Which brings into question:

At what age do we start having conversations around consent?

How do we keep people safe when discussing consent?

Where should these conversations take place?


I feel it is important that consent is inclusive – people of all ages should be practising consent in all of their relationships. Children should learn about consent through the role modelling of their families and communities. As we get older, we need ongoing opportunities to reflect, discuss and learn how to have consensual relationships. Whether these conversations happen with friends, families or professionals, the most important thing is the conversations are happening, and in a way that allows the people involved to feel safe and supported.


Josh Briggs, Grants Lead, Vodafone NZ Foundation