Ngāti Porou launch pilot to facilitate family group conferences

By Aroha Treacher
  • North Island: East Coast

Ngāti Porou has become the first iwi in the country to facilitate it's own Family Group Conference for it's young people that offend, it's part of a unique pilot programme that gives Ngāti Porou youth a choice to work with iwi to address their offending. 

"They are directed by the judge to take part in what's called a Family Group Conference, the FGC, is a place where we come together as a whānau to support our young people to put a plan in place to help reduce their re-offending," says Youth Justice Co-ordinator for Ngāti Porou, Simon Wharehinga.

"So you never usually get mum and dad it's usually one parent, the rangatahi, their lawyer and Oranga Tamariki, so quite often they'll become quite reserved and won't say anything, often they talk a lot without making any sense and most of them swear a lot but that's how they express themselves, so we just have to do a lot of work with them to ensure that we get the best possible outcome," says Youth Justice Co-ordinator for Ngāti Porou, Laurie Sadlier.

Sadlier and Wharehinga are the first iwi members to facilitate a family group conference rather than Oranga Tamariki which hasn't been tried since FGCs were introduced in 1989.

"Since 1989 tamariki have only provided the one option thats to work with Child Youth and Family then or Oranga Tamariki now and they're really taking that opportunity by the horns, so working with iwi has really taken off for our young people here," says Wharehinga.

The pilot has been running since the beginning of the year and so far they've seen around 30 young people.

"We've seen some young people go back to education we ve seen young people have whanau members take them under their wing, it's about making sure that our whānau have an opportunity to do something different and to participate in the process," Robyn Smith, Services Manager.

A Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was signed between Ngāti Porou and Child Youth and Family in 2013, with the embodiment of that agreement now in action.