New Zealand Minister asks youth to define their own leadership values

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Venkat Raman

Venkat Raman

Auckland, January 9, 2021

Address to the Yuva Bharatiya Pravasi Divas held in Delhi

Minister for Youth Priyanca Radhakrishnan addressing the global conference on January 8, 2021 (Picture Supplied)


A Minister of the Crown has advised young people around the world not to ‘fall into boxes of stereotypes’ but evolve their own definition of leadership to effectively meet the challenges of the times and develop appropriate solutions.

New Zealand Minister of Youth Priyanca Radhakrishnan had a simple message for the youth of the world in leadership positions. “There is often a societal expectation of what leadership should look like. Do not to let those expectations define you,” she said.

As well as being the Minister for Youth, Ms Radhakrishnan’s other portfolios include Diversity, Inclusion and Ethnic Communities; and Community and Voluntary Sector. She is also the Associate Minister for Social Development and Employment.

She was delivering the keynote address at the Virtual Global Conference of the ‘Yuva Pravasi Bharatiya Divas’ (Young Diaspora Day) hosted from New Delhi yesterday (Friday, January 8, 2021), she said that these issues, faced by the youth of New Zealand, resonate with those of young people everywhere.

Promoting universal values

She cited a recent interview of New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern to advance her point. She said that according to Ms Ardern, when we think about the values we want to teach our children, they are often universal values of kindness, generosity, honesty, humility, respecting others, we want them to treat others well and to be treated well themselves.

“And yet, when we look to our leaders, we often expect something quite different. We expect them to be aggressive, to show no mercy, to be ruthless, to show no weakness.”

“Therefore, do not let society put you in a box and expect you to conform to stereotypes. Forge your own leadership style based on the values that guide you. And take some time out to protect your mental health because we do all our jobs better when we are able to care for ourselves,” Ms Radhakrishnan said.

Wellbeing of our youth

She said that having been involved with young people as a Researcher, Community Worker, Member of Parliament and now a Minister, Ms Radhakrishnan understands and appreciates the issues and things that they value.

“These are accessible, affordable, high-quality education and to be equipped with the life skills and knowledge that they need to thrive in the 21st century (b) Employment opportunities (c) wanting the cost of living to come down (d) being able to afford to buy a home in the future. The Digital Era in which we live poses great benefits (as seen with the onset of Covid-19 pandemic) but it can also be incredibly dangerous,” she said.

Screenshot of some of the keynote speakers. Priyanca Radhakrishnan is at top far right corner (Picture from Twitter)

Digital Era disconnect

Ms Radhakrishnan said that despite this digital connection, an increasing number of young people experience loneliness, causing mental health issues.

“It is therefore important to ensure that we support a variety of ways for young people to stay connected, whether through sport, the arts and other activities. In New Zealand, a massive protective factor for young people’s wellbeing, is their sense of purpose and belonging. And interestingly, for many, their sense of purpose was strengthened during our Covid-19 lockdowns, when our restrictions were severe,” she said.

This is because many young people volunteered with organisations that were providing essential services to the elderly and others who could not leave their homes even to access essentials like food or medication, she added.

Student Volunteer Army

“We have a Charity called the Student Volunteer Army that was started by a young person and now has a membership of hundreds. They mobilise every time there is a natural disaster or other need, like the Covid Lockdowns, to help those who need a little extra support,” Ms Radhakrishnan said.

According to her, young people have expressed their concerns as Discrimination – Racism, sexism, discrimination against youth with a disability or those who identify with the LGBTQI community. Certain groups of youth face specific and additional barriers.

“We have not-for-profit organisations in New Zealand run by young people from different ethnic communities, for example, who provide additional support to new migrants from different countries, including India. We have organisations that form support networks to lift the aspirations of young people from certain communities, like the Young Sikh Professionals Network New Zealand,” she said.

Student Volunteer Army at work (Website Picture)

Early access to services

The New Zealand government and the community as a whole face the task of attending to issues such as youth mental health, mental wellbeing and suicide prevention, she said.

“Our government’s work programme has a strong emphasis on improving early access to mental health support and also to addressing risk factors and strengthening the protective factors that support young people’s resilience. We also need people in leadership positions to talk openly about what they do to take care of their physical and mental health so that our young people know that they not alone when they do experience challenges or things like the imposter syndrome –our Prime Minister talks about quite openly,” Ms Radhakrishnan said.

Engaging with Indian government

She recalled her last visit to India in February 2020 as a Member of Parliament in the delegation led by the then Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters and Trade and Export Growth Minister David Parker, during which she attended meetings with External Affairs Minister Dr Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, other ministers and officials of External Affairs and other ministries.

She said that the onset of Covid-19 and the resultant travel and other restrictions had prevented from a personal visit to India to attend the biennial Pravasi Bharatiya Divas held from January 7 to January 9 every year.

Ms Radhakrishnan said that her government placed relationship with India on priority and was keen to take it higher levels.

“India’s importance to India continues to grow and its strong economy, large population and international influence make it a key partner to the Indo-Pacific region. We have a common interest in the prosperity and stability of Indo-Pacific region,” she said.

Historic relationship

Stating that the warm and growing relationship between the two countries go back more than 200 years, she said that the early settlement of people of Indian origin occurred in Christchurch in 1950 and that larger numbers of immigrants from Punjab came in 1890 and thereafter and made New Zealand their home.

“Indian troops fought alongside the Anzacs in Gallipoli in 1915 and of course we have been long-time sporting rivals on the Cricket pitch,” she said.

People of Indian origin today are about 5% of our total population, she added.

Deeper personal connection

Ms Radhakrishnan said that at a personal level, her relationship with India as a country of birth with close members of the family living there mean that connections are deeper.

“I still feel the warmth from India. When I was sworn in as a Minister of the Crown in Wellington (on November 6, 2020), I experienced an outpouring of warmth from India: politicians, media, faith leaders, community organisations, companies and individuals. I want to take this opportunity to thank all of them,” she said.

Challenges to weather

Speaking about the general election held on October 17, 2020 (which the national and international media have billed as ‘historic, with a resounding victory for the Labour Party, which emerged as a single majority Party with 65 seats, the first for the Party in 50 years and the first for a government since the introduction of the MMP system in 1996), she said that her government took office (for the second term) on November 6, 2020 at a time of unparalleled international crisis.

“It faces the greatest public health emergency since the global flu pandemic a century ago.  The ensuing economic shock represents the largest global downturn since the Great Depression. So, we have some specific challenges to weather and some opportunities to build on for the future,” she said.

Hard and Early Response

New Zealand’s success in handling the Covid-19 pandemic and its community spread has been largely attributed to the personal management of Ms Arden, her public health officials and most important of all, the unstinted cooperation of New Zealand, who were termed as ‘The Team of Five Million’ by the Prime Minister in her speeches.

Ms Radhakrishnan said that the country’s health response has been based on an ‘Elimination Strategy,’ meaning that the first line of defence continues to be a strong border regime.

“This is crucial to keeping Covid out of the community. If it does reappear in terms of community transmission, it needs to be stamped out as soon as possible. We have not had a case in the community since November 18, 2020. New Zealand’s success in fighting the Virus means that we are better positioned for recovery compared to many other countries and we have seen employment, export and growth numbers that are better than expected,” she said.

She said that the Elimination Strategy Programme will run over the next three year with three overreaching objectives. These are (a) To keep New Zealanders safe from Covid-19 (b) To accelerate our economic recovery and (c) To lay the foundations for a better future

Kiren Rijiju, Minister of State for Youth Affairs and Sports speaking at the Conference (Twitter)

About Pravasi Bharatiya Divas

The Yuva Pravasi Bharatiya Divas is a biennial event hosted by the External Affairs Ministry of the Indian government with the sponsorship of State governments, trade and other organisations, evincing the interests of thousands of people and businesses of Indian origin. It culminates into the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas Conference at the conclusion of which the Prime Minister delivers an address followed by distribution of Pravasi Bharatiya Samman Awards to about 30 persons from various parts of the world for their contributions to various fields of activity in their respective countries.

Indian Newslink will publish a separate story on this later.

Among those present at the virtual meeting were Minister of State for External Affairs V Muraleedharan, Kiren Rijiju, Minister of State (Independent Charge) for Youth Affairs and Sports, Sanjay Bhattacharya, Secretary to the Government, (Consular, Passport & Visa Division and Overseas Indian Affairs).

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