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Identity and culture supports new beginnings for Maori prisoners
Photos: (right) Programme Tutor, Rue-Jade Morgan and Corrections Officer Kerry Van Der Laan teach the men the Maori martial art of Mau Rakau using the Taiaha.

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Media Release: 26 September 2017

A new Māori language and cultural programme at Otago Corrections Facility (OCF) is offering prisoners the opportunity to reconnect with their culture.

The 10-week ‘Te Hokai Manea Tepuna’ programme has been introduced at OCF to offer men in the prison’s high security units the opportunity to engage in Te Ara Māori - a Māori pathway based on kaupapa values that helps prisoners make positive changes in their lives.

Acting Prison Director Lyndal Miles says with more 50 percent of people in New Zealand prisons identifying as Māori there is a focus on increasing opportunities and options for Māori prisoners.

“From the people we recruit, to the programmes we provide and the facilities and technology we use, everything we do has a link to reducing re-offending among Māori,” she says.

“This new programme provides a defined pathway to our specialist tikanga units. It’s already showing benefits for the men involved and the site as a whole.

“It is essential the rehabilitation and reintegration programmes we offer connect with the prisoners. When the men leave prison we want them to do so with a positive cultural identity, a sense of belonging to something important and meaningful, self-esteem and improved overall wellbeing.”

Te Hokai Manea Tepuna has been designed by Otago Polytechnic tutor Rue-Jade Morgan specifically for the prisoners in the high security unit. It also enables the men to gain NCEA unit standards.

“For many of our men in prisons, their cultural connections have broken and they know little about the beliefs, culture or language of their whakapapa,” says Otago Area Advisor Māori Phil Ngeru.

“This programme offers our Māori men another opportunity to better understand and reconnect with Māoridom’s rich culture, history, language and identity.”

Ari*, who is in his mid-30s, is taking part in Te Hokai Manea Tepuna.

“My first goal was to contact my adopted parents to find out who my biological parents were in order to learn my Ngapuhi whakapapa,” says Ari.

“From there I enrolled in a self-directed learning Māori programme called He Papa Tikanga through Te Wananga O Aotearoa and graduated late August.

“This course helped me understand the Māori world view of how life began and my place in this.

“It’s great to be in an environment where I can be myself, feel aroha, awhi and manaaki is empowering and strengthening for me and the others. It allows us to connect with who we really are instead of presenting ourselves with a ‘mask’ and exterior shells,” says Ari.

Phil says the programme has had a lasting positive effect on Ari; his attitude and behaviour has improved. He has been transferred from a high security to a low security unit and has completed an engineering course.

“With this newfound knowledge Ari is already planning his future outside of prison and will have his first parole hearing before Christmas.”

The 10-week programme includes activities such as learning kapa haka and kaupapa values, such as mana (respect), manaaki (caring for others), whanaunga (relating well to each other), and wairua (giving their spirit wings).

“This programme is like weaving a mat in that all the different strands holding different concepts and stories firmly into place for all the participants,” Phil says.

“This support both inside the wire, while serving a sentence, and post release during reintegration is what I believe will contribute to positive outcomes for local Māori offenders, whanau and the community.”

Copyright © 2017, UMA Broadcasting Ltd:

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