Source: New Zealand Government
Of all the quotes we have just heard from prisoners in our system, the one that stands out to me the most is this one read by Taunu Taepa:
“I was 17 years-old when I first came to jail. It was the first time I had been separated from my mother. I used to cry myself to sleep”.
It’s real. It’s human – and it’s devastating.
It should remind us all that behind the sentence, the crime, the mistake – is a real person, who misses his mum.
Our Corrections system – the way we operate – has focused on cells, walls, restrictions, keeping people locked inside, isolated, punishing them, treating them like the crime they committed.
That approach has not worked for the majority of Māori.
For many, all it has delivered is more people in prison; more Māori incarcerated; more people further broken; more whānau in distress.
That’s why we are changing. Not just for Māori, but for everyone.
As Minister of Corrections, it gives me great satisfaction to now officially launch Hōkai Rangi, the new strategy for Ara Poutama Aotearoa – the Department of Corrections.
Hōkai Rangi is brave, it is bold, it is necessary – and it’s well overdue.
The massive over-representation of Māori in our prisons and on community sentences is devastating to whānau, hapū, and iwi.
We’ve all seen the statistics – and they are so enduring that the reality that over half of our prison population is Māori has just become a normal fact of life.
But those statistics aren’t just numbers – they represent our mothers, our fathers, our grandmothers, our grandfathers, and, worst of all, our children and grandchildren.
So, we started developing Hōkai Rangi with the intention that it would be the new Māori Strategy.
But we quickly learnt, from listening to the voices of people in prison, whānau, academics, community-based experts, our staff and partners that Hōkai Rangi – its direction, the change it is designed to bring about – should not just apply to Māori, but to everyone.
Now, Hōkai Rangi has become Corrections new overall departmental strategy.
It’s an admission that the status quo is no longer acceptable.
And it is going to underpin transformational system change within Corrections to help break the intergenerational cycle of Māori reoffending and imprisonment.
In doing so, Hōkai Rangi will deliver on a number of our Government’s priorities.
It will reduce reoffending so there are fewer victims of crime; it will help us build closer partnerships with Māori; and it will enable us to keep delivering on our target to safely reduce the prison population.
The strategy’s kaupapa statement is ‘Kotahi anō te kaupapa: ko te oranga o te iwi’ -‘There is only one purpose to our work: the wellness and wellbeing of people’.
This is reflected in the six key outcome domains:
- Partnership and leadership. We want to exemplify Māori-Crown relations in action. That means authentic shared decision-making and co-design with Māori.
- Humanising and healing. Corrections staff will treat those in their care with respect, upholding their mana and dignity. No-one will be further harmed or traumatised by their experiences with Corrections.
- Whānau. Whānau will be supported to walk alongside Māori in Corrections’ care on their rehabilitation and reintegration journey.
- Incorporating a Te Ao Māori worldview. Access to culture is a fundamental right, not a privilege, regardless of a person’s circumstances. Mātauranga Māori will be prioritised, embedded, and protected to innovate and improve what Corrections does.
- Whakapapa. Corrections recognises that whakapapa can be the beginning of healing and wellbeing – and will create a safe environment for Māori to share and learn about their identity.
- And, finally, Foundations for participation. Hōkai Rangi understands that people in Corrections care and their whānau need to have their basic needs met and the relevant tools for full participation in society, and will receive the support they need prior to release.
The ultimate objective is to lower the proportion of Māori in Corrections’ care to a level that matches the Māori share of the general population.
One of the fantastic things about this strategy is that it’s not a list of vague, high-level aims that avoid any way of measuring success or any accountability.
Action-planning and measurement, so that we can track our progress, is fundamental to this strategy, as is a commitment to weave accountability for outcomes throughout the Department at all levels.
Hōkai Rangi will be implemented over the five-year period from 2019-2024.
It contains a series of short-term actions to be put in place over the first two years, and a further set of medium-term actions to be implemented in years’ three to five, as well as long-term outcomes and the new approaches required.
Right now we are prioritising the delivery of a new role – Deputy Chief Executive Māori – to ensure a dedicated Māori voice at the top table of Corrections.
We are actively engaging and partnering with iwi – where there is a prison, my expectation is there will be a strong partnership between that prison and mana whenua.
We are co-designing kaupapa Māori rehabilitation programmes specifically for Wāhine Māori and rangatahi Māori.
We are working on co-designing a kaupapa Māori health service and introducing Manaaki standards for the way we look after people in our care.
We are changing policies and practices that focus on placing and keeping people who are in the care of Corrections as close as possible to their whanau.
We’re working on having greater connectedness between the individual and their whanau.
Growing the understanding of Te Ao Maori within our Corrections staff and providing those in our care more access to mātauranga Māori education subjects.
And this is just a snippet of what is to come.
The biggest change Hōkai Rangi brings is the idea that we are now going to treat the person and not just their crime.
I want to thank you all, those here today, and those who are not, who helped us to bring about this change. Who co-wrote the strategy with us.
I hope you can hear your voices speaking back to you as you read through Hōkai Rangi.
This is our strategy. Together we are going to deliver change.
Together we will help our people.
Ko te hōkai nuku, ko te hōkai rangi.