Throughout New Zealand there are many Maori kids struggling with disconnection from society and their families, they are often found to be struggling in school and having no reason to try and prosper in life, this concept is portrayed in many ways through the texts, Hunt for the WilderPeople by Barry Taika Waititi, The Dark Horse directed by James Napier Rolleston, BOY written by Taika Waititi and Dog Tucker by Kathryn Drinkwater. These texts all feature a young Maori Teenager and how they struggle through extreme poverty, getting kicked out of home, and bouncing their way around New Zealand’s child welfare system or regulated gang violence. Lack of support from parents and their community is one of the reasons these children suffer from such big setbacks in their life.

In Taika Waititi’s 2010 film BOY we Maori poverty and children suffering from disconnection from society. This is shown through the setting and ideas demonstrated throughout the text. “Boy” is a fatherless child whose hero is his unknown father. During the movie “Boys” school principle tells him about the word potential, for the rest of the movie “Boy” is constantly asking people what it means, “Hey Rocky, What does potential mean”. This is one of the many times he asks about the word. This is an example that shows how “Boy” has not been exposed to intiquite learning and his knowledge does not spread very far as he is surrounded by a low socioeconomic area. Over the course of the movie “Boy” hypes his dad, Alamein, up to be a wonderful human being and a great person. When Alamein returns, Boy is overjoyed and is in disbelief as though he has met his childhood hero. However, over the course of the Movie, “Boy” discovers that his dad is not who he has always dreamed about. His father is a drug addict and has only come home to try and get money from his mother. As Alamein leaves and “Boy” is once again without a father he is left sad and angry at the world. This idea about young boys being left by their dysfunctional families, being kicked out of home or struggling to maintain a strong connection with society is evident throughout all four of the texts.

The Dark horse, directed by James Napier Rolleston, also follows and portrays similar themes and ideas as BOY. Mana is a low socioeconomic boy plagued by poverty and violence. He is born poverty and gang life which immediately threatens his chance of growing into a wonderful person. Daily beatings from his father does not deter the fact that he wants to grow up to be a member of the “Vagrants Aotearoa”, his father’s own Gisborne gang. Mana’s uncle Genesis helps to pull him out of this life and lead him onto a path of better well being by playing the game of chess. Chess becomes Mana’s escape from reality and his safe haven as it gives him a re-connection to society and a sense of family. Mana’s chess club not only gives him people to connect with but also people who can be role models for him and help him push his life in a positive direction. “Mana, You are not who they’re making you think you are”, this is one of the many things Genesis says to Mana to try and help him through the tough times. The themes demonstrated in “The Dark Horse” are not only that of violence and poverty but also that of how once disconnected from society you can always try and find something to help reconnect you, if you can find someone to role model for you then you can always change your life for the better.

Kathryn Drinkwater’s 2009 book “Dog Tucker” is another New Zealand text that emphasises teenagers being very distant to their families and society. Devlin is a strong willed teen who is forced to leave home and go into New Zealand’s shitty social welfare system. After bouncing through many foster homes he finds a loving family and settles in with them. He stays with this family for a while but continues to get in trouble at school and struggles to regain trust with his peers and everyone he has contact with. After many fights at school he runs away from his current foster home. His great uncle, a horse trainer, picks him up off the streets and takes him under his wing. Devlin begins to thrive as he is now out of the city and has found something he loves. Devlin starts to learn how to train horses and is homeschooled by his uncle, the schooling consists of a lot of hands on learning which helps engage Devlin. This is a prime example of how New Zealand’s social welfare and Education systems are made for only a certain type of person and many kids struggle to fit in and work with these systems. Dog Tucker may be a Fictional story but it seems to portray a lot of significant themes that are happening around New Zealand and proves that our Social Welfare and Education systems don’t work for people who struggle to fit into society.

Hunt for the Wilderpeople by Taika Waititi is another New Zealand text that represents a young New Zealand teenager who has been born into a dysfunctional family and has therefore been sent off into the world by himself with a lack of rolemodes and direction in life. Ricky Baker is a Maori child, who like Devlin from Dog Tucker, has struggled through New Zealands bad Social Welfare System for most of his life and as a result of this has been sent to Juvenile Prison because he had continuisly been getting into trouble due to not fitting into New Zealands rich society. Ricky is sent to a farm to live with his Aunty and Uncle because if he were to stay on the streets of Auckland for much longer then he would have wound up in more trouble. Just like in Dog Tucker, the change of scene turns out to be very good and influences a positive change into Ricky’s life. When Aunty Bella passed away Uncle Hec was the only person who Ricky cared for and was his whole world. When Ricky and Uncle Hec ran away into the Urewera bush they didn’t seem to mind because they were all that each other had. Ricky had noone to think about or anything to miss. His whole world revolved around himself and Uncle Hec. This is a good example about how children like Ricky who have bounced around from foster care to foster care have nothing but themselves. They have no friends, possessions or families that worry about them, they have nothing but themselves. I think this is the main reason that kids like this rebel because they have no reason to wake up in the morning, all they do it piss around and get in trouble.

After analysing four New Zealand texts (The Dark Horse by James Napier Robertson, Boy directed Taika Waititi, Hunt for the Wilder People also directed by Taika Waititi and Dog Tucker written by Kathryn Drinkwater) I have come to the conclusion that there a many issues influencing New Zealand children into turning their life down a path of drugs, alcohol, violence and despair. Dysfunctional families result in kids having no role models and very little positive influences in life. Problems like these can only be fixed through funding from the government and external help to the systems these children are constantly failing in. If we were to help improve our social welfare and education systems then this would have a flow on effect and positively influence the kids who rely on these systems. Kids like Ricky Baker are a good example of how this has helped and that by changing the environment they are in and removing them from our straight education system then we can fully turn the kids lives around. If we were able to break the cycle of disconnection in these kids lives then we would have a much easier problem to deal with and these problems would almost fully be erased.


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