Musical performance by members of the Christchurch Symphony Orchestra (CSO) and men in the Christchurch Men’s Prison.Around 80 guests; Navigate Unit Tu Ora (paihere), whanau, supporters, funders and prison staff have enjoyed a musical performance by members of the Christchurch Symphony Orchestra (CSO) and men in the Christchurch Men’s Prison Navigate Initiative.

The event was a showcase of creativity from the unit, where the proud Tu Ora demonstrated newfound skills and ways of expressing themselves through art and music, including the prison’s impressive staff/paihere combined kapa haka group.

The CSO performance is the showcase of an eight week music project where the orchestra’s musicians, in partnership with Pathway Trust, have worked with the players to learn and develop their instrument skills and to express themselves creatively.

“This is an important part of the broader Navigate programme which has strong elements of culture, connection and personal discovery,” says Prison Director, Jo Harrex. “Through the programme with the CSO, in addition to learning some music skills and percussion and ukulele pieces, the men learn key competencies for lives within and especially beyond prison. They develop skills to overcome fear of failure, the ability to work in a group, to communicate constructively and support their colleagues, to control their frustrations and to concentrate for longer, to believe in yourself and trust others. They learn more about each other through shared experience and ultimately feel the ‘buzz’ of pride from taking a risk and achieving a quality performance.”

Two men presented original songs written for the programme. They told the stories behind their music, tales of sadness and hope, and then performed these for the audience supported by their peers and the CSO team. The were justifiably proud of themselves and it was even more special for those who had whanau in the audience.

Men in the unit’s art classes also presented original screen-print tee-shirts as part of a social enterprise and limestone sculptures and spoke of the personal journey and understanding that drove their creativity. These projects were undertaken with the support of artist volunteers. These works demonstrated strong cultural elements and growing awareness  which the men spoke to. Most pieces were being gifted to Pathway to auction in support the Navigate community partnership in the Unit.

The Navigate Initiative is a new way of working in prisons, for both Corrections and community partner Pathway Trust. Through this partnership, the Navigate Initiative supports offender’s successful reintegration; working with men who have completed their rehabilitation programmes, are close to their expected release date, and are on track for parole or release.

The prisoners move into a specialised unit where they take part in an employment and an immersive reintegration support programme, headed by Pathway Trust and supported by a number of community groups. Community supports are also provided in the areas of physical health, mental health, drug and alcohol support, anger management and communication skills development, life skills, whānau meetings, employment preparation, arts development, cultural development, educational tutoring, restorative justice conferencing, and other opportunities are made available during the men’s time in the unit.

The CSO project is part of the orchestra’s outreach programme and is an important part of the wider Navigate Initiative. Te Ao Tara Aitu ki te Ara Matua – from the world of calamity to the path of clarity.