Thirty-two prisoners have today graduated from the prison-based Malaga Polynesia programme at the country’s only Pacific Focus Unit.
The unit, which provides culturally-based rehabilitation programmes for Pacific men convicted of serious violent offending, was built at Spring Hill Corrections Facility in Waikato in 2007.
“The theme of the programme was ‘A Polynesian Journey in Samoa’. The programme helps the men to reflect on their cultural backgrounds, whether they are from Samoa, Tonga, Niue or the Cook Islands, and how they can amalgamate their island identities within a New Zealand society,” says Regional Adviser Pacific, Le’au Asenati Lole-Taylor, who co-facilitates the programme with volunteer Reverend Paulo Leli.
Su'a William Sio, Member of Parliament for Mangere and a Samoan high chief, was guest speaker at the graduation. A number of Pacific community leaders and family members also attended.
Prisoners attending the programme are also involved in other rehabilitation programmes and work activities to address the causes of their offending and provide them with the skills needed for a crime-free life following release from prison. Many of these programmes are run at a prison fale next to the Pacific Focus Unit.
The programme covers four main areas. Identity (fa’asinomaga) where prisoners learn about the significance of names and language and how these affect their identities, family (aiga) where prisoners discuss the importance of family and the wider community, trades (agava’a) which focuses prisoners on household tasks and developing trades to contribute to society and build self esteem, and socialising (va fealoaloai ma isi tagata) which supports the importance of participation in community events.
“Research has shown that support for prisoners from their own communities greatly assists their reintegration when they are released from prison,” says Mrs Lole-Taylor.
“I am very proud of the commitment, enthusiasm and dedication that the graduating prisoners have shown throughout the programme.”
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