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Source: New Zealand Government

Whakatakapokai Youth Justice facility opening 

Whakatakapokai, Weymouth, Auckland 

Good morning everyone, and thank you for the very warm welcome. It’s a real honour to be with you today to officially open the Whakatakapokai Youth Justice facility.

Can I start by acknowledging: 

  • Mana whenua and tangata whenua. Whakatakapokai is nestled within the Waikato-Tainui rohe and has been designed and created in partnership with Mana whenua. 
  • Associate Children’s Minister Poto Williams, and my Labour caucus colleagues Anahila Kanongata’a-Suisuiki and Arena Williams
  • Members of the community here today

I also want to acknowledge the leaders and kaimahi from Oranga Tamariki here today, and the work that is being done to set the new strategic direction of the Ministry.

Evidence shows us that involvement with care and protection does not place children and young people on the path to offending.

Data also tells us – in the form of the most recent set of Youth Justice Indicators – that offending rates, seriousness of offending and appearances in the Youth Court have all declined over the last 10 years.

However, we know that if we don’t make a difference in the lives of the young people coming into youth justice, some of them will offend again and may end up in the adult system.

Whakatakapokai gives us a chance to make a big difference.

Whakatakapokai will provide care and support for up to 15 rangatahi remanded or sentenced by the Youth Court, or in some cases the adult courts.

Initially we will be helping vulnerable teenage girls and boys with intense, wraparound support, helping them get out of the youth justice system for good.

By the time a young person comes to the attention of youth justice, it’s rarely their first offence and that’s even more likely when they come into a residential setting.

So, they need a lot of help, as do their whānau.

I have been interested in what I have seen at other youth justice residences and community homes.

However, what is happening here is really exciting: we are seeing innovation and creativity, centred on a specific cohort and their whānau – recognising that one size does not fit all.  

Whakatakapokai has been designed by Oranga Tamariki and Waikato-Tainui as a Māori-based service, and is another sign of the Ministry’s commitment to working with Māori, who know what whānau in their communities need, and know how to deliver it.   

This partnership with Mana whenua will contribute to helping ensure we meet our obligations to rangatahi Māori and whānau.

The facility will offer additional support for whānau engagement, including supporting visits, space to hold hui-a-whānau and Family Group Conferences.

I know the ambition of the youth justice team is to develop into a fully preventative, restorative, and rehabilitative service with strong whānau and victim-centred practice, equity for all, and the trust and confidence of communities and the public.

I support that mission.

Whakatakapokai is part of a series of changes in the residential services within youth justice.

While there may always be a need for secure youth justice residences, where possible, Oranga Tamariki is moving towards smaller facilities that have a more community, less institutional feel and more specialised services and support.

As well as the unique service offered at Whakatakapokai, Oranga Tamariki is increasingly working with community organisations to enable them to provide youth justice homes in more places, in ways that also reflect the needs of those communities and the aspirations of its partners.

I know that the return of Whakatakapokai to being part of the youth justice service was not welcomed by some in the community. I understand that.

There are four justice facilities in Manurewa and that doesn’t align with the vision this community has for itself and the people living here.

However, Whakatakapokai is a facility that the community can be proud to host.

The team behind Whakatakapokai have focused on promoting positive relationships within the local community, especially tangata whenua and mana whenua, local community groups, schools, and the several dozen neighbours who share a fence line with the residence.

Thank you to the community for being involved and for listening to what the team here is aspiring to do.

In a year’s time, I hope I can be back here with kaimahi and the community and we can all be humbled by the difference that Whakatakapokai has made in the lives of young people.

ENDS

MIL OSI