By D'Angelo Martin for The Hui
A new iwi-led training programme is hoping to change the number of Māori who are not in employment, education, or training.
Paria Te Tai (The Changing of the Tide) is a course run by Wellington-based iwi Ngāti Toa. It focuses on getting rangatahi back on track and opening up employment opportunities for their descendants.
Riria Solomon, 21, is a trainee on the course and knows what it's like to hit rock bottom.
"I had my first baby at 13. And then after that, my life was destroyed, really. It was like I had to grow up, type of thing," she tells The Hui.
"My mum kicked me out on the streets, she said since you want to grow up, you can go your own way and grow up."
Since beginning the course, her life has completely changed for the better.
"Three months later after joining the course, I get my daughter back, two months after that, I get a house," she says.
"In a few months' time, I'll be doing a baking course and follow my dream to be a qualified baker."
The course is funded by Te Puni Kōkiri through Pae Aronui, which aims to improve education, employment, and training outcomes for 15 to 24-year-olds.
Russ Parai and Marina Magele tutor the course.
"When we share our stories and our history, it really does help them to connect that much easier. And it all makes sense," says Parai.
It's the whanau approach that seems to be working, along with a sense of belonging and being reconnected to their whenua.
"The activities had to be meaningful and purposeful, from going over to Mana, to Kāpiti, to be able to make that connection, to bring our iwi experts on board to share their whakaaro," Parai says.
"So it's that whole story towards kotahitanga and of course wairuatanga that has a deep sense of meaning or purpose."
Similarly to Solomon, Kayla Love has got onto a career path through Paria Te Tai and is working as a cadet youth counselor.
"I truly believe that doing something that you love is important. And if you're not doing something that you love, it can be really detrimental to your mental health, and to your wellbeing overall. So for them to seek out something that was fitted for me, that was amazing."
Like many rangatahi on the course, Love didn't hold out much hope for having a career.
"The year after I left school, I fell pregnant, so I wasn't really focussed on what career I'm going to do, what job I was going to get into - I was just focussing on being a mum," she says.
"I stuck to myself and I was too afraid to apply for jobs, I was thinking, 'oh man, they're going to think I'm not good enough, I've had no experience. I've got a son and I'm a single mum, who's going to take care of him, I don't know how to sort out all these different things.' I was overwhelmed."
But with the help of her tutors, Love has been able to overcome those obstacles.
The Pae Aronui programme is now operating in four regions. In its first year, over 300 rangatahi enrolled with 140 finding employment.
Minister of Māori Development Willie Jackson says the pilot course is providing a pathway to a better life.
"When you've got Māori employment two or three times worse than Pākehā employment, shouldn't we just ramp it up? And that's what I'll be presenting to the Cabinet over the next year or so because we've had this success, but we're only talking 300, imagine if it was 3000."
Made with support from Te Māngai Pāho and NZ On Air.