Rangatahi transformation programme Bros for Change receives $510k in funding

By Jessica Tyson

Former sports star Jaye Pukepuke and his rangatahi transformation programme Bros for Change have been recognised with a significant funding announcement from the Government.

The programme will be based in Kaikōura and has been awarded $510,000 from He Poutama Rangatahi, the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment’s youth training and employment pathway fund, as part of the recent jobs, training and education budget announcement.

“We’re only a small organisation but having that money allows us to actually go and do the mahi. We’ve been talking for a long time and watching people go into Kaikoura and talk a lot but we actually need to go in and do the mahi now,” says Pukepuke.  

Pukepuke is a former New Zealand Māori and New Zealand Rugby League player; and 2018 Local Hero, New Zealander of the Year. He has dedicated his life to supporting young people to face the future with confidence and excitement. It comes after his own experience of hardship spending time in prison in his early twenties for his involvement in aggravated robberies.

He set up Bros for Change to transform the lives of rangatahi. The programme uses a strong sense of culture and identity to help rangatahi reach their full potential, regardless of their background.  

Pukepuke says the programme this year is going to be about 20 weeks long, involving 36 rangatahi and it consists of about six milestones or pou.

“All of them are key to getting through the whole programme starting with a weeklong camp in the bush just to build the relationships, the whakawhanaungatanga, and that pretty much sets up the rest of the camp, having that relationship, stripping everyone back to just the raw nature of themselves and getting through tasks, pushing through barriers and figuring out obstacles.”

By using the protocols of Te Ao Māori, the programme helps to break down barriers and build strong relationships by encouraging respect for both the participants and the facilitators. Activities include mau rākau, physical training sessions, cooking sessions, camps and wānanga along with whānau inclusive activities.

“We’re actually not trying to change them. We’re just throwing out a whole lot of tools that we have and because it’s all self-referred. They’re all here because they want to be. They can pick up and take what they want and put that into their own lives.”

Pouārahi of Te Pūtahitanga o Te Waipounamu says it is fantastic news for whānau in Kaikōura as well as "a significant tribute to the dedication of the team at Bros for Change, who have done so much to connect rangatahi with new experiences, tools and skills; and to extend that positivity to relationships with their whānau and te ao Māori”.

Leahy says Pukepuke has gathered around him inspirational leadership the ilk of Ben Murray and Zion Tauamiti who emphasise the value of strengthening whānau relationships around rangatahi.

One of the facilitators of Bros for Change says, “What is real? Real work, real talk and real change – that is our tagline. We tell the truth, we have lived, we’re not squeaky clean, so no sugar coating, we tell it how it is.”

Leahy says Te Pūtahitanga o Te Waipounamu began negotiating with MBIE over a year ago, to express our belief in Bros for Change as a life-changing proposition for many rangatahi who may have felt marginalised or excluded from future pathways.