Young people need more great role models in their community, on TV and in positions of power and leadership

Survey respondents were asked to identify how strongly they agreed with the statement, “I see people that look like me in leadership roles (e.g. politicians, principals, professors)” on a Likert scale with 0 being ‘strongly disagree’ and 5 being ‘strongly agree’. The average answer chosen by 1,043 people was 2.78. Only 34% of respondents agreed with, or strongly agreed with this statement. 57% of the survey respondents who identified as Asian chose a score of 2 or less,  as did 50% of the Pasifika respondents and 48% of the Māori respondents. This is compared to 30% of Pākehā respondents who chose 2 or less.

77% of the gender diverse young people who took our survey also chose 2 or less when answering the statement.

In short, a majority of the young people we spoke to do not see people in positions of power and influence who look like them -  but it’s worse if they are gender diverse, Māori, Asian or Pasifika.

“I would love to seem more Māori and female role models. I also want to see change in mental health, and less discrimination towards disadvantaged people, families, youth, children, gangs, the LGBT community, and people from other countries e.g. refugees - Whaiora, 23, Female, Kawerau

“We need more exposure to different cultures, sexualities, disabilities, gender identity etc. within the media.” - Lucas, 22, Trans-Man, Thames

“We need more female representation in politics and more LGBTQ representation in media.” - Danica, 21, Female, Mt Roskill

When asked to rank how strongly they agree or disagree with statement “I see people that look like me on TV and in movies”, the average response was 2.67, and the breakdown in demographics is very similar to the above.

One of the academic researchers we interviewed also had this to say:

“It’s really important for any young person’s wellbeing that connections through whānau, and communities are made to give people their sense of place their turangawaewae, their ability to stand on a place and know that they are represented, loved, welcomed and have a voice.

“We know that significant adult role models and particularly community members play an incredibly important role in increasing the ability of young people to succeed. The role modelling for their education, for their sport, extracurricular, music, everything.

“Adult mentoring is so incredibly powerful and often underestimated because sometimes people can overcome an extremely difficult home background and they [the role models] can provide a level of stability. That is the role of youth worker. Sometimes the teachers and school play that role and get people from the place that they are to a completely different place due to the the strategic influence they have in their life.

“Schools have a role to play in terms of creating a zone of stability. A school can play an incredibly powerful role in ensuring wellbeing.”