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Hague rallies community to fight for youth

Mon 13 Feb 2012 In: New Zealand Daily News View at Wayback

“We call on you to help make the world a safe place for our young people,” is the message from Kevin Hague as he enlists the community on his quest not to tell youth ‘it gets better,’ but to show them it can be better now. The Green MP and glbt youth advocate has spoken to the inaugural Queers in Tertiary Education Hui at the University of Auckland’s Faculty of Education today. He shared personal stories of being a teenager, and recalled leaving Hamilton at the age of 16 to attend Auckland University. “When I look back on myself, I was a very frightened boy,” he said. Hague added that coming out is still a messy process for people: “You are encountering young people who are in this experience … what to adults may seem like a brief space of time,” he told the hui. Waikato University student Murray Ritches joined Hague at the podium and presented the report he wrote last year How Do We Make It Better? which looked into why New Zealand is still a hostile environment for queer youth and what steps can be taken to improve it. Hague is passionate about taking action and along with new colleague, lesbian MP Jan Logie, he is currently speaking to the community to ensure there is a consensus on the recommendations and canvassing support for going forward, by setting up working groups to push for change. “I come across a lot of negativity, people say we can’t do it … well yes we can,” he told the gathering of queer academic staff and students. “We have enormous power and we need to harness that power to make those changes.” Hague cited a campaign in the early 1990s which saw newspaper the Auckland Star shut down after it ran an editorial saying queer youth groups should not be allowed in schools. The community responded by contacting the paper’s advertisers and basically choking it at its income source. “Our real power comes from combining and not having a million separate groups,” Hague said, pointing out that we currently have a regulatory regime that allows bad schools, the schools where queer students are the most marginalised, to get away with doing nothing. “We can change it in a couple of years, and we will,” the Green MP said, adding that he is already in talks with the PPTA on a way forward. Hague was asked about whether there is any hope of cross-party support on such issues and said Labour’s Rainbow Caucus Chair has expressed support for the idea of working together, while gay National MP and Attorney-General Chris Finlayson “may” be willing to get involved as well. Hague made a video as part of the worldwide It Gets Better campaign, because its message to glbt youth that while life might be tough now, there are plenty of older people in the community who are living proof that things do get better in the future, struck a chord. His take on this was changed when gay New Zealand Winter Olympian Blake Skjellerup questioned ‘why can’t things be better now?’ This led Hague recommending eager student Ritches, who was looking for a research project, delve into ways of making things better now.    

Credit: Daily News staff

First published: Monday, 13th February 2012 - 2:55pm

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