The recipe for the success of the Māori Focus Unit (MFU) at Waikeria prison was demonstrated last week when MFU prisoners organised an event to showcase the range of skills they had learnt through being in the unit.
The event was attended by around 40 people including Corrections staff, the Prison's Kaumatua and invited members of the public.
The prisoner driven initiative involved a powhiri, including an explanation of the various steps in the powhiri process, presentations about the activities undertaken in the unit including health and fitness and Te Reo, and a Kapa Haka display.
Feedback from the prisoners involved was very positive and they expressed they felt it helped external stakeholders understand how the Māori Focus Unit concept is a vital part of the rehabilitation process.
“It was fantastic that the event was fully organised and presented by the MFU prisoners and really demonstrated how important the unit’s teachings are in the successful rehabilitation of these prisoners. It also gave the Prison and Community Probation & Psychological Services staff, as well as the invited guests, the opportunity to gain an understanding of how the support for prisoners following release can be made more effective, which was really valuable,” says Waikeria North Prison Manager, Paul O'Byrne.
“The Department of Corrections has a significant focus to reduce re-offending amongst Māori and the Māori Focus Units are a key tool in helping us to achieve this outcome.”
Notes to Editors
Waikeria Prison has one of New Zealand's five Māori Focus Units. The Unit, called Te Ao Marama or The Path to the Light, establishes a culturally appropriate environment in which prisoners can address issues relating to their offending in a holistic manner.
The unit is constituted on Tikanga Māori principles and operates within a Tikanga Māori environment. Through the practice of Māori values and disciplines, and specialist Māori programmes, the unit aims to bring about positive changes in thinking and behaviour.
Corrections has a commitment to offering a wide range of services to Māori offenders, and to further strengthen the MFU model to reduce re-offending amongst Māori.
Research has shown that using the Te Ao Maori (Maori world view) approach, such as that applied in an MFU, strengthens the cultural identity of Maori offenders, improves their attitudes and behaviours and motivates them to participate in rehabilitation opportunities.
A recent review into the effectiveness of the MFUs was conducted and key findings of the evaluation indicated:
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