Former inmates help reduce re-offending

A Tikanga Māori programme facilitated by ex-prisoners in their role as teacher has motivated Waikeria prisoners to make positive changes in their lives.

For some prisoners the program has been the first step in the journey to rehabilitation.

The Mahi Tahi Trust’s New Life Akoranga Wānanga helps prisoners to discover and recover traditional Māori principles, values and disciplines.

Assistant Prison Director Jim Watson believes reconnecting people with their culture can be a catalyst for change.

He says, “All the Department of Corrections’ tikanga programmes are based on four kaupapa, which underpin Te Ao Māori; wairuatanga (spirituality), whanaungatanga (relationships), manaakitanga (caring for each other, hospitality), and rangatiratanga (leadership).

This kaupapa helps participants to understand that their cultural inheritance has value, that their offending is at odds with tikanga Māori and that their whakapapa has the power to motivate and sustain them in making profound changes in their outlook and behaviour.”

Delivered for more than 20 years in prisons, the Trust has seen many teachers act as powerful role models and inspiration for men who have gone on to make genuine positive changes.

One participant of the programme describes how the importance of whānau drove his motivation to change.

"What really stood out for me was the kaiako and how he explained when he had to change from being a patched gangster for many years to being the person he is today - a friend, father, grandfather and husband. The realisation that if he had continued his gangster life of drugs and alcohol; the impact it would've been detrimental to his whānau.”

Māori over-representation in the offender population is a long-standing issue of concern for the Department of Corrections. The Department is committed to working effectively with Māori offenders, their whānau and their wider communities to ensure better outcomes.