Over the past few days, I have been reflecting on the nature of second chances in our society, namely, who gets them, and who does not. At the beginning of the week, we learned that National MP Sam Uffindell had been reinstated to caucus, after being stood down during an investigation into complaints of bullying during his high school and university years. Party leader Christopher Luxon said that the MP “deserves a second chance.”
We talk a lot about this concept, and it seems to me that it’s generally accepted to be a good thing. Humans are fallible by nature – we are all bound to make mistakes from time to time. The idea of a second chance acknowledges that fact, offering us all the grace to learn from these mistakes and to try again with the benefit of experience and knowledge gained.
I believe in the power of a second chance, and without knowing the full story I cannot begrudge Sam Uffindell his opportunity. However, it has prompted me to compare his situation to similar challenges faced by many others, who have found themselves denied that same opportunity.
Our tamariki are born into a world that is geared against them, immersed in systems that have time and again been proven to produce poorer outcomes for Māori – we have a plethora of research that reinforces this. In this environment, it is no wonder that rangatahi make mistakes. Yet all too often, these mistakes are met with serious and lasting consequences that will define the rest of their lives – no opportunity to learn or grow, or to be seen in a different light.
Opportunity, and supporting the dreams and aspirations of whānau, is at the heart of the Whānau Ora approach. Over the years Te Pūtahitanga o Te Waipounamu has been proud to support whānau on their journey of growth and development, who are dedicated to making their futures brighter than their pasts. We have seen individuals flourish and step into their potential, and we have seen them pay that aroha forward as they become community leaders and share their journeys and knowledge with others.
This week was a reminder that Te Pūtahitanga o Te Waipounamu and the Whānau Ora network must continue to ensure that our whānau have the same opportunities as everyone else – that we all have the opportunity to know better, so that we can do better.