Ngāti Porou reaches out to its descendants in prison

By Aroha Treacher
  • North Island: East Coast

Ngāti Porou is reaching out to their descendants in prison, and for the last three years have been conducting monthly visits to Auckland Women's Prison and Hawke's Bay Regional Prison to support them and reduce re-offending.

"We come here to talk to them and find out what they do in here, and how we as Ngāti Porou can support and set up avenues for them to access," says Ngāti Porou Rūnanga Chaplain, Jack Papuni.

At the Te Whare Tirohanga Māori unit in the Hawke's Bay Prison, around a third of the sixty inmates are of Ngāti Porou descent, so the idea of the visits is to get them to open up about their goals and aspirations.

Police officer Juanita Timutimu says, "We let them know that they are our family, secondly, that we are here to support them even though they are in prison, they are still our family."

The workshops are centered around reintegrating the inmates when their prison term is up by helping them to find employment, gain skills or training and help with everyday life skills.

Statistic show that around sixty per cent of inmates return to jail within five years, and that's the last thing the iwi want to see.

"The ones that come work with us, they don't come back here and that's the main thing," explains Timutimu.

An inmate we spoke to was grateful for the interest Ngāti Porou had shown for them, "They come here every month with the intention of making sure we are supported when we go home, that all of us as Ngāti Porou descendants are able to reconnect with our hapū and marae, and that's very important."

Ngāti Porou has the second highest incarceration rate of any iwi nationwide and it's a figure they want to reduce.