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Source: New Zealand Government

Wāhine Māori Pathways Post-Budget Announcement

Christchurch Women’s Prison, Christchurch

Thank you, Jeremy, for the warm welcome.

I came into Government knowing that we could do things differently, that we needed to do things differently – especially for Māori.

And taking on the over-representation of Māori in our prisons has been a top priority for me as Corrections Minister.

This is a massive task and a long-term challenge, but progress is already being made.

In three years, we have safely reduced the prison population by 19 per cent.

There are now over 800 fewer Māori in prison.

The Māori imprisonment rate, while still too high, has been decreasing, and Māori reconviction and reimprisonment rates are improving.

Those are real results, but to continue making progress we need to keep doing things differently. We need to make real change.

So, it’s a real pleasure to be here today to announce the new Wāhine Māori Pathways.

Firstly, I would like to acknowledge iwi and mana whenua who are present today – Ngāi Tahu, Te Taumutu, Ngāi Tūāhuriri Rūnaka, Nga Maata Waka.

I also acknowledge those of you who have been involved in the co-design group, representatives from Corrections, and the many Providers who have given input to the pathways.

It is so important that we are able to work together to improve the wellbeing for these Māori women and their whānau.

We’ve all seen the statistics – statistics that are so longstanding that the fact over half of our prison population is Māori has been normalised.

These statistics represent our mothers, our fathers, our grandmothers, our grandfathers, and, worst of all, our children and grandchildren.

The system is not working for Māori. It needs to change, and it needs to change urgently.

And the only way we can achieve better outcomes for Māori, is by working together.

The Corrections system has largely been designed and developed to provide for men, however women have specific needs that require a unique approach.

Research shows that tailoring services to them will achieve better outcomes.

Māori Pathways will provide a seamless end-to-end kaupapa pathway for women in the wider Canterbury region being managed by Corrections.

The new approaches will be responsive to the specific needs of women in the corrections system, and the whānau-centred approach will support improved outcomes for tamariki and whānau alongside the women.

The co-designed approaches will support wider system change by working in partnership with mana whenua, iwi, Māori providers and other government agencies.

The Māori Pathways will be available to women at Christchurch Women’s Prison and those serving sentences and orders in the community, with priority for those who identify as Māori or have a connection though their children or whānau.

The new approaches will be made available to all Māori women here at Christchurch Women’s Prison and the number of participants will increase as the approaches become more widely implemented in the prison and community.

Pathways involves a range of initiatives to lower the proportion of Māori in the Corrections system and aligns with the outcomes of Hōkai Rangi.

These initiatives have initially been co-designed with kaupapa Māori community providers, those with lived experience and supported by mana whenua.

Forging strong partnerships with iwi and agencies are key to the success of the programme.

As part of Budget 2021, I am pleased to confirm that we have committed over $10 million dollars over four years to be directed towards Wāhine Māori Pathways.

This is in addition to the $98 million over four years for the wider Māori Pathways programme in Budget 2019.

This funding will enable us to work together to provide the following initiatives.

Firstly, the introduction of culturally appropriate spaces for women and their children.

We know that children with a parent in prison suffer from social stigma, abandonment issues and disruption to their living arrangements.

There are also long-term poor outcomes for these tamariki who are six times more likely to go to prison themselves. 

These new facilities, both in the prison and community, will offer environments that are holistic and have a more beneficial look and feel about them. This enables women and whānau to feel at ease and know that they are in a ‘safe space where they can heal’, as opposed to a sterile environment that acts as a barrier to progressing oranga.

Secondly, a wraparound support service delivering whānau-centred services to women and their families.

We know our most positive changes come through people, not systems.

That’s why we will be supporting our women with Connectors.

Connectors are people from a range of different areas including prison and community staff through to Whānau Ora navigators and support workers from other agencies and the community.

This concept ensures that women and whānau are given wrap-around support throughout their journey.

They will help her and her whānau navigate the entire pathway, while connecting in with; Case Managers and integrated services to provide a consistent, Te ao Māori whānau-centred approach to rehabilitation.

Lastly, providing kaupapa Māori programmes that are whakapapa and whānau centred for women.

Many women who come into prison don’t have a strong sense of their identity.

Therefore, we want to ensure that a woman’s journey into all kaupapa Māori programmes stays with her wherever she goes.

This will ensure that Māori women are supported to have a sense of their cultural identity, connections to their people and place and as sense of belonging.

Which in turn, will reduce the cycle of reoffending so there are fewer victims of crime.

Once again – thank you to everyone here for the significant effort you have put into this project and forming this innovative partnership.

I am really proud of the pathway we have created together, paving the way for better outcomes for Māori women.

These initiatives recognise that strengthening cultural identity and whānau connections are integral to achieving wellbeing.

It allows for more seamless pathways through different stages of the system, with guidance and support provided every step of the way.

Leading to better outcomes for Māori, reduced reoffending and creating lasting change.

I am proud to announce this change. Because to do nothing for our people and their whānau, is no longer acceptable.

My final words are for the women here about to begin their Māori Pathway – thank you for participating in this kaupapa and for sharing your experiences today.

Remember that you are part of a wider whānau – Ngāi Māori – and we want to embrace you as you make your way through your time here.  All we ask of you is to embrace us – iwi and hapū – so we can walk this pathway together.