The Golden Bay Workcentre Trust (the Trust) was established in 1979 and has centres in Motueka and Golden Bay. The centres offer a range of services, including youth and adult education, community support, mentoring, employment programmes and information services for people in their communities.

The Trust’s General Manager Cait Thomlinson says the Golden Bay Youth Habitat provides rangatahi with dedicated youth worker support in a designated space centrally located in Golden Bay. “Our service combines structured and unstructured environments to promote connection and learning as the core foundation of our activities and programmes. These activities help to counter the sense of alienation and isolation experienced by young people in rural areas and improves wellbeing and future outcomes as well as promoting pro-social behaviour.”

Cait says enabling young people to develop holistically helps them become more connected and invested in their communities, leading to increased opportunities for participation, to engage in long-term education and focus on future training and employment.

“We promote equitable inclusion in activities and services with a focus on wellbeing and future planning and incorporating a ‘fun with friends’ atmosphere. The Trust provides an enabling environment that encourages and recognises youth while promoting their social and emotional competence to thrive.”

In 2023, the Trust received an ACE Aotearoa professional development grant to assist with building the team’s bicultural capability to improve delivery of its services. The funding enabled 20 people to attend a range of courses during the year that focussed on bicultural and/or language training. The feedback was extremely positive. Participants were able to experience waka ama team building, He Waka Kuaka (reo development for the workplace), Te Ataarangi (language revitalisation) and Te Tiriti o Waitangi training.

Cait says relationships are a powerful part of who we are as human beings, and an important part of our mahi working in the community.

“Our ability to connect with others can help make them feel like they belong and have something to contribute to society. It’s difficult to connect with people when we don’t understand their background. Cultural competence is important to us because without it our opportunity to build those relationships is impossible. Instead, we’ll be working with people we don’t understand, creating a higher risk for misunderstandings, hurt feelings, assumptions and judgement.

“Our goal isn’t mastery—it’s about opening hearts to share and learn about other cultures. Our aim is to interact respectfully and knowledgeably with all the people we serve, especially those people whose culture and worldview is different from ours. Already we are seeing the positive effects within our team, with many kaimahi becoming more politically assertive on matters of racism and equality.”

Comments from team members who participated in the training clearly demonstrate the impact this has had on their personal and professional development.

Waka Ama Team Building:
“Wow, what an amazing experience! I was very new to the team when the waka ama team-building day was on, and what an amazing way to get introduced. I was absolutely in awe of how the entire team worked so seamlessly together and the encouragement and support throughout the day. It strengthened the relationships I had started to create with the team tremendously and helped me feel comfortable with the people surrounding me in our workplace. I left the day feeling empowered, supported and fuelled to continue working with this amazing group of humans.”

He Waka Kuaka:
“I have found He Waka Kuaka incredibly challenging but I am retaining the learning slowly. It is a great course with a small group and an amazing facilitator. I thought that this was a really good way to grow our understanding of Mātauranga Māori. I think that the opportunity to take part in these courses strengthened the values and culture of Golden Bay Workcentre Trust as a collective and was a great opportunity to learn new skills together in such a positive and safe learning environment. These classes gave me the confidence to try out basic conversational Māori in a variety of settings and improved my vocabulary and pronunciation.”

Te Ataarangi:
“I am absolutely enjoying Te Ataarangi. It is a huge challenge at times and blows my mind after an hour of speaking only in te reo Māori, but I am managing to visualise te rakau in my mind as I am speaking and it reminds me of the words. I can now confidently speak my paku mihi at agency gatherings, and at level 3 we’re now adding to this mihi, which is fantastic.”

Te Tiriti o Waitangi Training:
“Very important knowledge was shared; all kaiako should have access to this professional learning development. The interweaving of hard-hitting historical and present day facts with an optimism of how different things could be if we stepped up to create a positive partnership honouring our Treaty obligations was empowering. There was time for personal reflection and group sharing, and all material was presented with care, understanding and knowledge.”