Australia look to Māori model to reduce indigenous incarceration

By Aroha Treacher
  • North Island: East Coast

Reducing indigenous incarceration rates in Australia has seen a working group from various Corrections units in Australia take note on how New Zealand prisons use Māori culture to reduce re-offending.

Aboriginals are over-represented in Australian prisons "sitting at around 27 per cent across the country," says Jackie Bray Deputy Chief Executive, South Australia Corrections.

"There has definitely been an increase across the general prison population, but of course the Aboriginal population is also staying pretty static as well, so it's definitely a concern across Australia," says Bray.

The delegation is part of the Correctional Services Administrators Conference focusing on indigenous issues with representatives from the Northern Territories, Queensland, New South Wales, Canberra (ACT), South Australia, Western Australia and New Zealand.

"It is the first time as a group we've got together across to New Zealand, but your colleagues from New Zealand do join us in Australia. We meet every year, just once a year just to share those learnings," says Bray.

The group visited the Te Whare Tirohanga at the Hawke's Bay Regional Prison where inmates learn te reo Māori, something which is a challenge in Australia given there is 300 - 400 different Aboriginal language groups.

"If we focused on one culture it would disadvantage another language group so we do culture across Aboriginal cultures we teach, everybody has got differences and to respect each other," says Scharlene Lamont
Director of Aboriginal Services, South Australia Corrections.

The Te Tirohanga programme has three phases including Level 2 te reo Māori, a Māori intervention programme and drug treatment as well.