(L-R): Tēnei Au Tēnei Au staff Diana (Puru) Heremaia, Leeanne Makea, Zhinnetra Pekepo-Wallace, CO Sukhwant Singh, CO Harmen Bakkerus, and Sonia Paul in hongi with programme participant.

Three groups of men successfully graduated from Tēnei Au, Tēnei Au at Hawke’s Bay Regional Prison in early November.

Tēnei Au, Tēnei Au has been developed in partnership with Ngāti Kahungunu Iwi Inc and is delivered by an iwi provider. The programme encompasses Māori Pathways approaches for men in high security at Hawke's Bay Regional Prison, Ngākau Ora (Māori Trauma Informed Care), Tikanga a Iwi (Tikanga Programme), and Wānanga (Kaupapa Māori programme for High Security), which centre around wellbeing.

November also marks one year since the programme began. Since then more than 100 men have graduated. The graduations are a unique opportunity to celebrate the achievements of men in high security. The value is clear when speaking to the graduates. “Tēnei Au gave me a sense of purpose when I woke up in the morning. I would think, mean, I have class today.”

Another participant shared how Tēnei Au, Tēnei Au has helped shape his identity. “I used to think I was gang first, before anything else, now I know I am Māori first, before anything else. I try to encourage all the young ones to sign up to Tēnei Au, I want them to know who they really are.”

Tēnei Au, Tēnei Au has provided the platform for the men, facilitators, and frontline staff to walk alongside each other on the pathway to healing. Principal Service Designer Maori Pathways George Reedy says the programme was "a remarkable shift" in the way we work. "When we walk alongside these men, we become part of their healing and journey to rehabilitation."

Corrections Officer Sukhwant Singh used the graduations as an opportunity to debut the pepeha he first created in Tēnei Au, Tēnei Au class. The tautoko (support) he received from the men as he spoke was heart-warming. “When I started Tēnei Au, Tēnei Au I was nervous, but the men encouraged me to be comfortable when we did karakia and waiata. They guided me on how to pronounce the words. They asked me about my culture, we found similarities between our cultures, it’s great. Next up I want to learn a haka!”

George spoke directly to the men. He spoke of their shared ancestry and how the gift of Tēnei Au, Tēnei Au, the mātauranga Māori they have learned, gives them the opportunity to change the trajectory of their lives. “I see the miracle in them. The taonga that’s been handed to them through their ancestors in present time. They have the ability to do better with this knowledge, be the changemaker in their family, be the cycle breaker.”

General Manager Reintegration and Housing Support Rebecca Barson attended one of the graduations. She was full of praise for the mahi that the Māori Pathways team has delivered in the unit. “The forum enables tāne to reflect on what they have learnt from the programmes. For most of them, this was the first time they had done anything like this. In my opinion, Māori Pathways would be a blueprint for all our high security units.”