Youth perspectives on participation and inclusion in city life post-disaster : a Christchurch case study.
Thesis DisciplinePolitical Science
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Policy and Governance
This thesis examines the opportunities for young citizens in Christchurch to be engaged in city planning post-disaster. This qualitative study was conducted eight years after the 2010-2011 earthquakes and employed interviews with 18 young people aged between 12-24 years old, 14 of whom were already actively engaged in volunteering or participating in a youth council. It finds that despite having sought out opportunities for youth leadership and advocacy roles post-disaster, young people report frustration that they are excluded from decision-making and public life. These feelings of exclusion were described by young people as political, physical and social. Young people felt politically excluded from decision-making in the city, with some youth reporting that they did not feel listened to by decision-makers or able to make a difference. Physical exclusion was also experienced by the young people I interviewed, who reported that they felt excluded from their city and neighbourhood. This ranged from feeling unwelcome in certain parts of the city due to perceived social stratification, to actual exclusion from newly privatised areas in a post-quake recovery city. Social exclusion was reported by young people in the study in regard to their sense of marginalisation from the wider community, due to structural and social barriers. Among these, they observed a sense of prejudice towards them and other youth due to their age, class and/or ethnicity. The barriers to their participation and inclusion, and their aspirations for Christchurch post-disaster are discussed, as well as the implications of exclusion for young people’s wellbeing and sense of belonging. Results of this study contribute to the literature that challenges the sole focus on children and young peoples’ vulnerability post-disaster, reinforcing their capacity and desire to contribute to the recovery of their city and community (Peek, 2008). This research also challenges the narrative that young people are politically apathetic (Norris, 2004; Nissen, 2017), and adds to our understandings of the way that disasters can concentrate power amongst certain groups, in this case excluding young people generally from decision-making and public life. I conclude with some recommendations for a more robust post-disaster recovery in Christchurch, in ways that are more inclusive of young people and supportive of their wellbeing.