MMA fighter Shane Young is a man on a mission to make Aotearoa a place where our rangatahi feel safe, valued, accepted and supported. 

On Pink Shirt Day this Friday 17 May, Shane will wear a pink shirt to send a clear message to other Māori – we can’t accept bullying and we must stand together as a whānau to prevent it and call it out when we see it. 

Upholding mana

The Pink Shirt Day kaupapa is underpinned by three key E Tū Whānau values: kōrero awhi, aroha and mana manaaki.

“I fully tautoko those values. If we are to prevent bullying and heal, we need to lead with love. We need call it out with aroha. We need to kōrero about it positively and uphold the mana of everyone – including the person doing the bullying.

“When I was at boarding school I was bullied, and I was also the bully at times. What I know is that anyone who bullies has their own battles and insecurities they are facing. We need to look after them too.

“Bullying happens when we are disconnected from our culture, and when the four pou of our whare are out of whack – our whānau, wairua, tinana, hinengaro and of course our whenua is at the base of all of that.

“It’s taken me a long time to forgive myself for being a bully – but there’s huge strength in being able to do that.”

The big picture

Many studies show rangatahi who are bullied are more likely to experience mental health issues, such as depression, anxiety and even suicidal thoughts.

“Too many young Māori are struggling, and I know what that’s like – I went through a rough patch last year and ended up taking a break from UFC. I went home to Napier and reconnected with my Māoritanga and my whānau – it was so healing to just kōrero with them and reflect on why I do what I do.” 

Following his break from the UFC Shane came back stronger than ever to win a featherweight fight at UFC 234 In Melbourne.

Post-fight Shane spoke to a global audience about the importance of reaching out for help, saying "it's all good, we don't have to be strong. You can be strong by reaching out".

Pink is for men too

As a prize fighter Shane is considered to be a “manly-man”, but he’s looking forward to challenging what that means by wearing bright pink on Friday 17 May.

“There’s definitely still this idea that pink is a feminine, girly colour, and there’s this toxic masculinity that is so prevalent in Aotearoa – that men can’t share their emotions or that you’re weak if you do – that’s just not true.

“I want to use my platform to do some good in the world and supporting Pink Shirt Day is a kaupapa that can make Aotearoa a safer, kinder place for Māori and for everyone, so I’m behind it 100%.”

Read about Pink Shirt Day