Topic: Prison

Te Tirohanga rehabilitation programme celebrates 20 years

By Aroha Treacher
  • North Island: East Coast

Te Tirohanga, the first kaupapa Māori-based programme to rehabilitate Māori inmates inside prison has reached its 20-year anniversary. Te Kāea was inside the Hawke's Bay Regional Prison today where the first Te Tirohanga was opened.

Prisoners are given education opportunities like numeracy and literacy, they also learn the Māori language and protocols at Te Tirohanga.

Rehabilitation Advocate Sir Pita Sharples says, “The reason that our board decided to make this happen was because of the huge number of Māori in prison. Secondly, there were no Māori initiatives at all inside prison. There was nothing that taught the principles of hospitality and marae protocols. So that's why we established this initiative.”

9300 men have been through Te Tirohanga, with the Hawke's Bay house labelled by Corrections as the most successful of all their houses.

Corrections Officer George Massingham says, “Success is on a simple level is if you're looking at the 60 guys on opposing gangs different parts of New Zealand different parts of the world who come together and behave in a prison setting. That's really important so the violence that was in here is vastly different to elsewhere. We also measure the reoffending rates, haven't got those figures today but we also measure those separately too.”

Sharples was instrumental in establishing Te Tirohanga.

He says, "It all goes back to finding who you are. You're not just from Hastings, you are able to track it back. When you leave here you've got a belonging. That becomes important you've got an identity a connection and because of the stuff you were doing in prison you also got a future.”

“I'm very pleased, very pleased because we now have five houses like this which has seen the establishment of Te Whare Oranga Ake which is used outside the prison. So yes, I'm very happy,” says Sharples.

The model has attracted interest from prisons overseas to help rehabilitate their indigenous populations.