17 Apr 2018

Meet the Lost Boys of Taranaki

From Afternoons, 1:26 pm on 17 April 2018

A group of teenage boys head into the bush on a youth crime prevention programme in the new VICE NZ documentary Lost Boys of Taranaki.

The film gives a voice to young people the media more often talks about than to, says producer Ursula Williams.

Lost Boys of Taranaki follows a group of at-risk boys of 14 and 15 through START Taranaki's seven-week EARLY programme.

Three weeks of the programme takes place in the wilderness, where the boys learn bush lore from "classic Kiwi bloke" Nev and spend three days fending for themselves alone.

There was a lot of negotiation with the filmmakers before they agreed to be filmed, Ursula says.

"You have to make sure that these kids aren't in any way jeopardised by this choice – and also that the organisation isn't either.

Whilst these Taranaki boys are definitely more streetwise than some kids their age, it was the first time many had been camping or spent time in the wild, Ursula says.

The film shows them at times vulnerable, lonely and reflective, but "connecting all the dots" will be a long-term process, Ursula says.

"They still don't necessarily always understand their crimes in the first place."

Many of the boys come from low-income, fatherless homes, she says.

"We have to think about these boys as the first victims of their crimes. They haven't had the start my children had."

It's rare that boys like those in the film are talked to and not about, Ursula says.

"I hope that we can start talking to them more and understanding them more to facilitate a discussion that would prevent further crimes."

The boys were full of pride on their programme graduation day, she says.

"Even just getting a certificate and having their hands shaken and told 'Well done, you've achieved something' might be new for some of these boys.

"[In Lost Boys of Taranaki] we're trying to highlight the need to have constructive conversations about youth offending, in a different way. We have to think about prevention rather than cure, in my opinion."

Lost Boys of Taranaki is the latest documentary in VICE NZ's Zealandia series.

Watch it below: