The Department of Corrections' tikanga-based programmes

Neil Campbell
Director Māori, Department of Corrections

Author biography:

Neil has been employed as the Director Māori for the Department of Corrections since July 2012. Before this, he held a number of positions within different Māori-focused teams including the Director Māori Rehabilitation and Reintegration, the Manager Māori Services (Southern Region), Partnership Manager Northern Region, and the Regional Adviser Māori Service Development. In his 21 years with Corrections, he has worked at every level of interaction with offenders including design, development and delivery of interventions. He currently has responsibility for the Māori Services Team and strategic relationships with Māori.


The Department of Corrections is committed to delivering better outcomes for Māori offenders and their whänau. It is well known that Māori are over-represented in all stages of the criminal justice system. Corrections works to reduce the rate of Māori re-offending through the delivery of both mainstream and tikanga-based motivational, rehabilitative and reintegrative programmes.

Mainstream programmes ensure that all offenders, including Māori, gain access to interventions that are proven to be effective. All mainstream programmes are designed to be responsive to Māori, as a large number of Māori offenders will be eligible to attend them. We receive cultural input into the design of the programmes through cultural advisory groups and consultants. We also apply a Māori cultural framework when designing mainstream programmes so the Māori perspective is considered from the outset. Our evaluation results prove that in mainstream programmes Māori perform just as well, and in some cases better, than non-Māori offenders.

Although mainstream programmes are effective for Māori, we are very aware that there is not a “one size fits all” approach to reducing Māori re-offending. As a result, Corrections also offers tikanga-based programmes, which suit some Māori. These programmes incorporate Māori customs and Te Ao Māori (the Māori world view). They are designed to strengthen an offender’s cultural identity, change their behaviour and reduce their likelihood of re-offending. The programmes can also address cultural distortions that encourage offenders to misuse aspects of Māori culture as justification for their criminal behaviour.

Corrections recognises that we cannot address the high rate of Māori re-offending on our own. Accordingly, we collaborate with Māori groups to improve the way we work with Māori offenders, and improve the way we design, implement and deliver programmes. Our dedicated Māori Services Team is responsible for developing and maintaining strong relationships with iwi (tribes), hapü (sub-tribes), kaitiaki (guardians), and other Māori community groups. These relationships include collaborative operational agreements, formal partnership agreements, and relationships based on Treaty of Waitangi settlement obligations.

In recent years Corrections has significantly increased the number of mainstream and tikanga-based programmes available to offenders, and also increased our efforts to evaluate their effectiveness. There has never been such a high level of investment directed towards reducing re-offending, particularly for Māori. The development of our key tikanga-based programmes is outlined below.

Motivational programmes

Motivational programmes are designed to help offenders overcome barriers that prevent them from participating in rehabilitation programmes. Corrections’ key tikanga-based motivational interventions are the Specialist Māori Cultural Assessment, Tikanga Māori Programmes, and the Te Ara Māori units.

Specialist Māori Cultural Assessment

The Specialist Māori Cultural Assessment is a tool to address an offender’s responsivity and motivational barriers. The tool is currently available to prisoners and community-based offenders in the Northern Region and at Waikeria Prison.

The assessment is undertaken by independent, contracted Māori assessors to encourage offenders to consider a culturally-enhanced pathway out of offending. The assessors engage in körero (talk) with the offender about who they are, how they see themselves, what it means to be Māori, and how that knowledge can help them. The assessors will körero with offenders about their place in their whakapapa (genealogy) and how to reconnect positively to it.

The assessors use the findings from the assessment to produce a detailed report that contains recommendations for Corrections staff and the offender. The recommendations for the offender are generally to engage in self-directed activities such as researching whakapapa or registering with their tribal authority or organisation. The recommendations for Corrections staff are generally to refer the offender to activities such as the Tikanga Māori or Te Tirohanga programmes.

A 2007 evaluation of the tool found that it immediately improved an offender’s motivation in areas such as: participation in cultural programmes, learning whakapapa, developing whänau relationships, completing rehabilitation programmes, and addressing offending.

Tikanga Māori Programmes

Tikanga Māori Programmes comprise a range of culturally-responsive motivational programmes for offenders who identify as Māori. The programmes are delivered by local providers and vary from site to site. They are designed to motivate offenders to engage more fully in rehabilitation programmes by helping them understand their cultural identity, and by encouraging them to embody the kaupapa (principles) and tikanga (customs) of their tipuna (ancestors). They cater to a variety of learning styles, and activities include discussion, role play, the practice of Māori protocol, and kapahaka (performing arts).

In 2012, Corrections sought feedback from a number of local providers on the delivery of the programmes as part of a wider review of all interventions. The feedback suggested that the programmes would benefit from greater consistency of purpose and approach. As a result, Corrections worked with Māori programme experts to develop a new framework and assessment tool.

The new framework, Te Ihu Waka, has been designed to ensure consistent and measurable outcomes for offenders who participate in prison and community-based programmes. All programmes delivered under the framework are now structured around the four kaupapa of manakitanga (hospitality), whänaungatanga (attaining and maintaining relationships), rangatiratanga (autonomy) and wairuatanga (spirituality and wellbeing).

Te Ara Māori

Te Ara Māori are prison units that provide a tikanga-based environment to support male prisoners in strengthening their cultural identity. This is achieved through the delivery of Tikanga Māori programmes.
The units are particularly beneficial to prisoners serving short sentences who would otherwise not be eligible for an intervention. The units can also benefit prisoners who are serving longer sentences by encouraging them to attend the Te Tirohanga national programme. The first Te Ara Māori was established in a 20-bed unit in Manawatu Prison in 2015.

In October 2016, the first Te Ara Māori for women was established in an 18-bed unit at Auckland Region Women’s Corrections Facility. We are currently developing another unit at Christchurch Women’s Prison.

Rehabilitative programmes

Rehabilitation programmes are designed to help offenders address the causes of their anti-social behaviour, and develop strategies to prevent them from committing further offences. Corrections’ key tikanga-based rehabilitation interventions are the Te Tirohanga national programme, Mauri Tu Pae, and Te Kupenga.

Te Tirohanga national programme

The Te Tirohanga national programme refers to a range of tikanga-based services delivered in five dedicated units at Waikeria, Tongariro, Hawke’s Bay Regional, Whanganui and Rimutaka prisons.

The history of the programme

The Te Tirohanga units were previously known as “Māori Focus Units”. The first Māori Focus Unit opened in Mangaroa Prison (now Hawke’s Bay Regional Prison) in 1997. By 2002, dedicated units had also been established at the other four prisons mentioned above.

In 2009, Corrections evaluated the Māori Focus Units and the Māori Therapeutic Programme (which is discussed in more detail below). In 2010/11, the therapeutic outcomes of the units were also specifically evaluated. The reviews found that the units provided a pro-social environment, but were not reaching their full rehabilitative potential. As a result, Corrections initiated the “Māori Focus Unit Improvement Project” to revitalise the therapeutic model operating in the units.

In order to progress the project, Corrections created a Māori Governance Board comprising iwi-mandated representatives from the areas where the five units were located. The Board worked alongside the project executives, being the director Māori and the regional commissioners from the Central and Lower North regions. In December 2012, the Board and the project executives approved the revised Te Tirohanga programme. In October 2013, the new programme was implemented at Waikeria, Tongariro, and Hawke’s Bay Regional prisons. The programme was later implemented at Rimutaka Prison in January 2014 and at Whanganui Prison in April 2014.

Te Tirohanga in operation

Te Tirohanga is a six phase programme that includes whänau support, education and rehabilitation services. In developing the programme, the Māori Governance Board identified kaupapa values that provide the basis for interactions within the units. Staff and prisoners are expected to model these values on a daily basis.

The five Te Tirohanga units contain 258 beds in total; however, the rolling nature of the programme means that, if quarterly intake is at a maximum, 172 prisoners will complete it each year. Forty-six prisoners are expected to begin the first phase of the programme every quarter across all five sites.

Whānau support is primarily delivered by pou arataki (previously whānau liaison officers), who are responsible for assessing and improving the quality of the relationship between prisoners and their whānau. Pou arataki work with each prisoner to conduct a whänau assessment in the first three months of the programme. The assessment categorises relationships into three distinct groups: whānau toiora (positive), whānau tawhiti (disengaged) and whānau kore (non-existent). Pou arataki then support prisoners assessed as having whānau kore or whānau tawiti relationships to reconnect or establish positive relationships with their whānau.

Education services are primarily provided by Te Wānanga o Aotearoa, who are contracted to deliver the Level 2 National Certificate in Māori within the units. The certificate is intended to improve a prisoner’s literacy and numeracy skills, strengthen their cultural identity and provide a pathway towards vocational qualification.

As discussed below, rehabilitation services are primarily delivered in the units through the Mauri Tu Pae programme. Prisoners who meet the eligibility criteria will also attend a three-month intensive alcohol and other drug treatment programme at the Te Tirohanga unit at Whanganui Prison.

Mauri Tu Pae programme

The Mauri Tu Pae programme is a three month medium-intensity rehabilitation programme delivered by Māori service providers in the Te Tirohanga units and at Northland Region Correction Facility (NRCF). The programme is designed to help prisoners alter the behaviours that led to their offending, and to help them develop strategies for maintaining positive change. The programme includes: constructing an “offence map” which outlines the actions and decisions that led to their offences; challenging attitudes that support offending; guidance on managing emotions, conflict and relationships; and developing safety plans.

The Mauri Tu Pae programme was previously known as the Māori Therapeutic Programme. In 2000, the Māori Therapeutic Programme was piloted at the Māori Focus Unit in Hawkes’ Bay Regional Prison. The programme was designed as a culturally enhanced rehabilitation intervention to better meet the needs of offenders participating in the units. Soon after the pilot, the programme was expanded to all other Māori Focus Units, and was also later implemented at NRCF.

The Māori Therapeutic Programme was not originally considered equivalent to, or as effective as, the Department’s mainstream Medium Intensity Rehabilitation Programme (MIRP). In 2012/13, Corrections worked with the Māori service providers to review the programme, which led to the content being strengthened and the duration being extended. The revised Mauri Tu Pae programme is now considered equivalent to the MIRP.

Te Kupenga

Te Kupenga is a highly tailored multi-agency approach to reducing intergenerational whänau offending. The programme focuses on collaboration and relationship – building to develop and achieve goals. Whänau are responsible for establishing their own goals and identifying the support people to help achieve those goals. Agencies help with processes to ensure the support is effective.

The programme started in 2014 and is currently in place in Kaikohe and Manurewa. At Kaikohe, for example, three Corrections staff established and led the multi-agency approach to providing rehabilitative services to a whänau of two parents and their six children, all of whom were either on a community or prison-based sentence.

Although Te Kupenga has only been delivered to a small number of whänau members, the approach has the potential to change the way Corrections manages complex intergenerational issues. Early indicators suggest the approach can successfully reduce whänau members’ frequency and seriousness of offending. The programme can also change whänau members’ attitudes and encourage them to engage in pro-social activities, including training and work; better engage with probation staff; cease alcohol and drug use while on parole; and reconnect with their marae.

Reintegrative programmes

Reintegration programmes are designed to provide offenders with the tools and support to transition back into the community after a sentence of imprisonment. Corrections’ key tikanga-based reintegration interventions are the Whare Oranga Ake and Tiaki Tangata.

Whare Oranga Ake

Whare Oranga Ake were established in 2011 to help Māori prisoners reintegrate into the community by using a kaupapa environment to strengthen their cultural identity. The Department has two Whare Oranga Ake; one 24-bed unit at Hawke’s Bay Regional Prison and one 16-bed unit at Spring Hill Corrections Facility. While Corrections provides security for the whare, the management and day-to-day operation is contracted to local service providers.

Whare Oranga Ake are designed to help prisoners train for employment; find sustainable employment and accommodation on release; and form supportive networks with iwi, hapu and community organisations. While other programmes have reintegrative aims, the whare are intended to be distinct in three respects:

  • The activities and overall running of the unit is underpinned by a kaupapa Māori environment. Māori practices and values are integral in the day to day life of prisoners in the unit.
  • The emphasis on reintegration involves education, training and employment, and taking the offender into the community to establish positive connections.
  • An iwi-based Māori community service provider leads the services delivered in the communities.

The Whare Oranga Ake are located outside the secure perimeter of the prison. Only prisoners with a minimum security classification, and between three and six months left on their sentence of imprisonment, are eligible for placement.

The whare are similar to external self-care units, but with communal rooms. Prisoners do their own shopping, cooking and housework. Temporary releases during the day are encouraged to allow participants to seek or take up employment. During day releases, participants also seek post-release accommodation and take part in other activities to enable their successful reintegration. Prisoners from other prisons who intend to reintegrate into the Hawke’s Bay or Waikato communities may be referred to participate in the programme.

Tiaki Tangata Reintegrative Programme

In 2015 Corrections implemented the Tiaki Tangata programme, which is a wrap-around case management service that supports long-serving Māori prisoners to reintegrate into the community.

Tiaki Tangata is delivered by the National Urban Māori Authority in the Northern Region; the Wera Aotearoa Charitable Trust in the Central Region; Orongomai Marae, Tupoho Trust, Te Ikaroa Rangitahi and Te Runanganui O Ngati Porou in the Lower North Region; and Nga Ngaru Rautahi O Aotearoa in the Southern Region. The providers are contracted to deliver individualised support to offenders. They help offenders develop a comprehensive pre-release assessment and reintegration plan. The providers also help offenders after they are released from prison to find accommodation and employment, and to connect with iwi, hapu, whänau and other support people.


Reducing re-offending is Corrections’ foremost priority. We know that success in reducing re-offending means success in reducing Māori re-offending. We have come a long way in recent years and now offer a wide range of mainstream and tikanga-based programmes, yet there is still more we can do. We will continue to develop strong relationships with Māori groups, review our existing programmes, and look to develop innovative initiatives. We believe we can continue improving the lives of Māori offenders and become the international benchmark for success with indigenous populations.