October 11, 2023

Rangatahi and politics - How to survive another election year in Aotearoa

Rangatahi and politics - How to survive another election year in Aotearoa

By Reuben Nightingale - Whakauae Winter Studentship Recipient

When I look back on my life, I reflect on the people who made me. It is obvious to say that “my whānau knows me best”, but there are so many outside perceptions and expectations that shape who we are, many of which – for a young Māori male – have meant navigating through a sea of racist, homophobic, discouraging, and exclusionary environments, and which shape our political landscape here in Aotearoa.

Growing up and being surrounded by media-fuelled images of deficient Māori, and especially rangatahi Māori, has made it hard to engage in politics. A parliament dominated and made-up by mainly non-Māori, voted into power by mainly non-Māori, is not a place where rangatahi can comfortably see ourselves. The processes of government seem to feature the same debates, the back-and-forth between political parties and representatives that do not actually represent us, and who seem to not be able to make real lasting change. How do we figure out our own voice within this, how do we make our own voice heard, how do we contribute to change?

I turn 30 this year and have just achieved a Bachelor of Social Sciences and now feel as though I have arrived at my maunga. The path I chose was packed-full of experiences, which I look back on now were me trying to find out who I am and how I can contribute to (re)building our world. I am nowhere near the summit, but expressing my visions and learning who I am through university is how I now stand at the “gateway” of my next path toward the summit, and I could not have made it without those that love me. My people have always been there for me, telling me to “hold your head up, and you'll go far.” They have kept me on the right track and will keep me focussed on the path ahead.

Being ‘political' as a rangatahi means critically engaging with the history of our country, and with our identities. For me, I treasure all sides of my heritage, Māori and Pākehā. I now have the confidence to begin perceiving and introspecting from both sides of my whakapapa. The power and knowledge which come from two minds will help negotiate the toughest of terrains – which is where we need to focus on during yet another divisive and harrowing pre-election environment.

The love of whānau transcends time and life itself, it keeps me deeply connected to my identity, my values, and my aspirations to contribute to Aotearoa in being one of the best places on earth to live as a rangatahi; a place where we can safely engage in what is called “politics'.

For further resources on politics, elections and voting in Aotearoa go to:


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