30 June 2008
Staff and family members of offenders were on hand to congratulate 23 prisoners at Spring Hill Corrections Facility as they graduated from the Pasefika Legends Story Telling Programme.
The ceremony was held on Saturday 21 June to acknowledge the men's commitment towards addressing their offending behaviour, and provided a chance for their families to mark the achievement with them.
The Pasefika Legends Story Telling Programme was run over 40 hours across ten weeks. It has been run in other Auckland prisons and is a success with staff and prisoners.
The venue for the course, the only prison-based fale in New Zealand, provided inspiration to the men, providing them with a traditional setting still within the security of the prison. The fale was built with the Spring Hill site to accommodate programmes of the Pacific Focus Unit. Every part of the fale building holds cultural significance. The roof represents the belief that cultural values provide shelter in life. The foundation represents the family, or aiga. The pou (the four posts between the roof and the foundation) connect culture and family.
The people of the Pacific have long told their stories as a method of 'biography' and as a way to identify their connection to their wider community. Various Pacific legends, traditional dances and songs were learnt and performed on the programme to assist the prisoners in understanding the messages behind the legends and how to apply them in their own lives.
"Many New Zealand-born Pacific prisoners have been isolated from their cultural identities. They are sometimes third generation New Zealanders who haven't been brought up the traditional Pacific way - such as fa'a Samoa - and may experience feelings of displacement in situations where they are expected to act in a culturally appropriate manner - but aren't sure of how to do that,” says Regional Adviser Pacific Aufa'amulia Asenati Lole-Taylor.
Although Pacific people make up only a small number of the total prisoner population (approximately 11 per cent) they are over-represented in violent and sexual offending statistics.
"Research suggests that culturally-based programmes for prisoners are more successful in changing offending attitudes," says Mrs Lole-Taylor.
A special invitation was issued from the prison's regional management team to His Honour Judge A'e'au Semi Epati. Judge Epati was the first Pacific Island judge in New Zealand, and he presides over District and Youth Court matters in Manukau.
Judge Epati had powerful words for the men.
"It is possible that I may have been the judge who sent you to prison in the first place, but I am not here to apologise for my actions. Rather to be part of your journey while you are in prison. I sincerely hope that your time in prison will be an opportunity for you to reflect seriously on your actions, and look at where you need to take ownership of what you do. Your families who are here today indicates that you come from loving families.
"This programme has reignited that Pasefika blood of yours, allowing you to make that crucial link back to your cultural and genealogical connections which enable you to have pride in your cultural identity and your cultural heritage.
"Your parents did not raise you to be a prisoner. You and I have all been raised by our parents to be successful, and it is important that we remind ourselves of the right directions in order to make the right choices. The choices that you make do not affect only you, they have impact on more people, including your families and our society."
Judge Epati noted that it was the first time he had visited the prison in his capacity as a judge, and acknowledged the significance involved for himself in his role in sentencing offenders to be able to see the rehabilitation aspect of the prisoner's journey through the justice system.
Pacific Island people have 3000 years of experience in using oral history, legends, and group activities as part of their ceremonies and way of life. Their oratory skills have been the foundation of their culture for the wellbeing of themselves, their families and their societies.
Mrs Lole-Taylor says the Pasefika Legends programme helps prisoners to understand and embrace their cultural identities. Cultural practices are explained through legend, allowing the prisoner to become more receptive to other rules around them.
"This, combined with the prisoner building up his self-esteem on the programme and having a motivated and positive attitude help the prisoner prepare for other programmes and treatment that they may be scheduled to complete in prison, or for release and reintegration into the community and workforce."
For more information email firstname.lastname@example.org or phone (04) 460 3365 or 021 761 828 (a/h).
Copyright © Department of Corrections | Feedback and queries email: email@example.com