Academic journal article Social Policy Journal of New Zealand

The Meaning of Family and Home for Young Pasifika People Involved in Gangs in the Suburbs of South Auckland

Academic journal article Social Policy Journal of New Zealand

The Meaning of Family and Home for Young Pasifika People Involved in Gangs in the Suburbs of South Auckland

Article excerpt

Abstract

This article uses in-depth interviews conducted with 26 Pasifika (1) youth gang members from two South Auckland suburbs to explore how these youth perceive family and home in the context of their role as a gang member. The voices of these youth, obtained in a series of focus group interviews organised according to their gang affiliation, provide us with the opportunity to understand the place and meaning that family and home have in the lives of these young people. The data show that being a member of a family remains a key desire for youth gang members, and that a supportive immediate family takes priority over the gang family. Home to the youth included the streets, neighbourhood and community in which their immediate family and gang family resided. Of interest is that young Pasifika people involved in gangs were not seeking to replace their immediate family or home with a gang family or for a life on the street but extended their meanings of family and home to include the gang and the street.

INTRODUCTION

Demographic Profile of Counties Manukau

Research into the meanings of family and home for young Pasifika people involved in gangs was carried out in the communities of Mangere and Otara in the Counties Manukau area of Auckland, identified by the Ministry of Social Development as a key area of youth gang activity. Counties Manukau has a young age structure, a high proportion of Pasifika peoples and areas of high economic deprivation. At the time of the 2006 Census, 67% of Pasifika peoples (177,933) lived in the Auckland region. Manukau City's Pasifika population was 27.8% compared with 6.9% for New Zealand. The Pasifika populations for Otara and Mangere were 78.9% and 49.18% respectively, and 34.2% of the population of Otara and 28.53% of Mangere were under 15 years of age, compared with 21.5% for New Zealand. (2)

Counties Manukau has some of the poorest areas in New Zealand. Suburbs such as Mangere and Otara have a higher level of "economic deprivation, poverty, transience, housing overcrowding and employment" compared with the rest of New Zealand (Auckland Youth Support Network 2006:6). Ninety-four per cent of the people in Otara and 78% of the people in Mangere live in some of New Zealand's most deprived (decile 9 and decile 10) areas. The 2006 Census showed that the median income for Otara and Mangere for those aged 15 years and over was $16,450 and $21,800 respectively, compared with $24,200 for Manukau City and $24,400 for New Zealand. Unemployment for those aged over 15 years of age was 7.1% in Manukau City compared with 5.1% for New Zealand. (3)

Government Initiatives for Pasifika Youth

A number of government reports and strategies have focused on Pasifika youth development and support. The Youth Development Strategy Aotearoa (YSDA) report (Ministry of Youth Affairs 2002) focused on how government and society could support young people aged 12 to 24 years to develop the skills and attitudes to participate positively in society, as these years are seen as critical to human development. The YSDA report noted that healthy relationships among young people with similar experiences or interests are very important for positive development because they allow young people to gain friendship and support, and are a natural setting for talking, negotiating, socialising and exploring future options, as well as providing opportunities for leisure. The report listed common protective factors such as safe, supportive neighbourhoods and a large network of social support from wider family, teachers, school, workplace, church, youth organisations and leaders. Common risk factors were a lack of social support from family, neighbourhood and the wider community; parenting that was overly harsh or that set insufficient boundaries; and problems or disadvantages in the family, including violence, crime and poverty.

The Ministry of Pacific Island Affairs' (2003) consultation with Pasifika youth about their views on identity, prosperity and leadership revealed that these concepts held little meaning for these young people unless they were understood in the context of family. …

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