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Our kaupapa & principles

Ara Taiohi is the peak body for youth development. Our work is guided by our kaupapa and principles.

Our kaupapa

Mō te oranga o ngā taiohi me ngā kaitiaki e mahi ana mō rātou.
For the wellbeing of taiohi and the people who support them.

Our values

  • Kaitautoko kaiārahi/support and lead at the same time
  • Inclusive/embracing diversity
  • Responsive/evolving with the sector

Our mission

To support people who work with young people, and thereby enhance youth development so that young people thrive.

Our principles

Treaty-based - we all demonstrate a collective commitment to Te Tiriti o Waitangi and kaupapa Māori, based on tikanga and kaupapa Māori.

Youth development is shaped by the big picture and recognises the importance of connectedness of young people. Within that context, we promote strengths-based principles, quality relationships, participation and good information.

Our name

The name of the organisation was chosen in consultation with Māori executive members of NZAAHD and NYWNA and their two kaumatua, Tamati Cairns and Ruru Hona.

‘Ara’ means ‘pathway, lane, passageway to/from’ and ‘taiohi’ means ‘young person’ in Aotearoa/New Zealand. Therefore Ara Taiohi is the pathway to and from young people.

We use the Māori kupu 'taiohi' as it means young person or youthful. The more commonly used word 'rangatahi' actually means fishing net. Teorongonui Josie Keelan and Associates describe the origin of the word in E Tipu E Rea, A framework for taiohi Māori development,"Some people say that it became popular through the work of Hoani Waititi (Whanau-a-Apanui).  He was an educationalist of the 50s and 60s and wrote two Māori language texts for use in schools called Rangatahi 1 and Rangatahi 2. The whakataukī (proverb) “Ka pü te ruha ka hao te rangatahi”, credited to Tā Apirana Ngata (Ngāti Porou), was used in both books. The books were the major te reo Māori texts during their time so it is probably fair to say that they may have contributed to the use of the word rangatahi when referring to youth. Certainly, the whakataukī which means “When the old net is worn out, the new net is put into use” is constantly used in reference to young people and this has probably reinforced the use of the word, rangatahi."

Ara Taiohi Rules

The Ara Taiohi Rules sets the Charitable Objects and Purposes of Ara Taiohi to be to:

a) Connect the youth sector by fostering a nationwide movement of people who work with young people.

b) Raise the standards in the youth sector by providing information and research, quality self-assessment tools, education and training, and improving accountability for youth workers.

c) Champion youth development including youth health, education and justice, by providing effective leadership and a cohesive voice on issues affecting young people.


The Rules also state that Ara Taiohi shall carry out the following activities to be helpful to the above purposes:

a) Promote the incorporation of Te Tiriti o Waitangi in the practice of people who work with young people.

b) Promote and encourage co-operation between organisations and individuals who work with young people in a youth development context.

c) Develop partnerships with government agencies, private enterprise and others in the tangata whenua and community sector for the benefit of young people and people who work with young people in Aotearoa.

d) Establish and operate an up-to-date information and resource base on youth development, youth health and youth work.

e) Promote and/or undertake research, evaluation and policy development activities related to the youth sector in Aotearoa.

f) Educate and train on youth development, youth health, youth education and youth work issues through workshops and seminars.

g) Promote training for people to work with young people in a safe, skilled, ethical and appropriate manner.

h) Influence and change public attitudes to young people by promoting youth development, youth health and youth work.

i) Do any other such things, including money-raising activities, that are consistent with the Rules of the Society to realise the objects listed.

The Rules of Ara Taiohi Incorporated can be downloaded here.

Ara Taiohi Rules 2013

Being a Treaty-based organisation means we will demonstrate a collective commitment to Te Tiriti o Waitangi and kaupapa Māori at all levels.

While Māori need to be in leadership roles, the Board as a whole will take responsibility for honouring the Treaty, and tikanga and kaupapa Māori will be among the required skill set for all Board members.

Our approach is based on recommendations from the Māori advisory groups to the organisations that preceeded Ara Taiohi - New Zealand Aotearoa Adolescent Health and Development (NZAAHD) and the National Youth Workers Network of Aotearoa - and from Ngā Kaihoe (or as it was at that time, the Māori Caucus) which provides advice and guidance to the Ara Taiohi board.

Māori leadership in Ara Taiohi operates at three levels:

  • Seek a patron of high status who will accord mana to the organisation by their very involvement.
  • Kaumātua (male or female) who is versed in te reo me ona tikanga to provide cultural advice to the board, (but is not a Board member).
  • Kaihautū who is versed in kaupapa Māori to sit alongside the chairperson of the Board, provide political advice to the Board, cultural advice for staff and convene Ngā Kaihoe (Māori Caucus). Te Kaihautū and other members of Ngā Kaihoe will have rangatiratanga over some Māori elements of the organisation’s work.

Putting the Treaty partnership into practice will be an ongoing journey.

Based on the experience of Te Wāhanga Māori and Te Rōpū, and research carried out for the Rangatahi Māori Development Project, we believe the best way to meet Māori needs and encourage Māori membership is to do the following things well:

  • Whānaungatanga: encourage links with Māori at a local and regional level.
  • Tautoko: support those who work with rangatahi Maori, including training.
  • Mātauranga: provide accurate information about other members including iwi affiliations and mahi.
  • Pūrākau: celebrate good stories and provide exemplars/models of good Māori development.

The Youth Development Strategy Aotearoa (YDSA) was published in 2002. The strategy was developed for the public sector, individuals, groups and organisations working with young people on youth issues.  The YDSA was informed by the following components (see YDSA, 2002 pgs 7-8).

The vision:

A country where young people are vibrant and optimistic through being supported and encouraged to take up challenges.

The principles of youth development:

The YDSA is based on a youth development approach that has six key principles:

  • Youth development is shaped by the ‘big picture’.
  • Youth development is about young people being connected.
  • Youth development is based on a consistent strengths-based approach.
  • Youth development happens through quality relationships.
  • Youth development is triggered when young people fully participate.
  • Youth development needs good information.

In combination, these principles contribute to the desired result of positive youth development, where young people gain a:

  • Sense of contributing something of value to society
  • Feeling of connectedness to others and to society
  • Belief that they have choices about their future
  • Feeling of being positive and comfortable with their own identiy.

The aims of the YDSA:

  • All young people have opportunities to establish positive connections to their key social environments.
  • Government policy and practice reflect a positive youth development approach.
  • All young people have access to a range of youth development opportunities.

The goals of YDSA

  • Ensuring a consistent strengths-based youth development approach.
  • Developing skilled people to work with young people.
  • Creating opportunities for young people to actively participate and engage.
  • Building knowledge on youth development through information and research.

The full YDSA can be downloaded here.