5 August 2011
Local Instructor Studies Overseas to Help Youth at Home
A Winston Churchill Fellowship has enabled Navy Lieutenant Mason Tolerton to travel to Canada to observe indigenous
youth programmes and compare them to those run in New Zealand by the Defence Force.
LT Tolerton, from Christchurch, currently works as a Limited Service Volunteer (LSV) Platoon Commander for the Youth
Development Unit South (YDUS), at Burnham Military Camp.
The former Christ’s College student, who is married with two children, joined the Royal NZ Navy in 2000 training as a
Bridge Watch Keeper, although his interest has always been working with youth.
LT Tolerton says, “I hoped that one day I could align my studies at University in the social sciences with an output
that would benefit the Defence Force and feel that I have found this in the YDU.
“Seeing young people from a diverse range of backgrounds excel and move into gainful employment, job training or further
education, enabling them to contribute effectively to their community, is very rewarding.”
While in Canada LT Tolerton has spent time looking at the Raven and Bold Eagle programmes run through the Canadian
“The purpose of the visit is to see if anything can be learned from the Canadian programmes that would enhance
opportunities for young people, particularly Maori, Pacifica and other minority groups, attending the LSV and other
youth development courses run by the Defence Force.”
The first part of his trip was spent at a culture camp in a wilderness training area where the young people learnt
traditional values and customs from Elders, built a sweat lodge and participated in a local pow wow.
“The camp was regularly visited at night by bears no doubt interested in the deer which frequently ran through the camp
grounds and occasionally into the tents!”
The culture camp was followed by more formal training at the main base in Victoria where the young people learnt basic
military skills as well as attending classes about drug and alcohol risk, suicide awareness, first aid, and
“From my discussions with many First Nation leaders I have found that the programmes are very well supported by the
communities. One tribal leader told me: ‘we send away teenagers with all the accompanying issues, and six weeks later
get back young men and women who can lead their communities.’”
LT Tolerton is now spending time at the Canadian Forces base Wainwright on the prairies, observing the Bold Eagle
programme, which has been running for 21 years.
“So far the trip has been incredibly productive. I am very grateful to the Winston Churchill Fellowship and both the
NZDF and the Canadian Forces for this opportunity to further enhance a training programme that I believe gets positive
results for young New Zealanders. Seeing a similar programme at work in Canada and succeeding is further vindication in
my mind as to the benefits of Youth Development work conducted in partnership between the military, government agencies
and interested community groups.”