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Māori pathways for wāhine

1 June 2021
Mana Wahine announcement hongi v2

Cheers greeted Corrections Minister Kelvin Davis at Christchurch Women’s Prison when he told women that access to their culture was a right, not a privilege.

“Many women who come into prison don’t have a strong sense of their identity, therefore, we want to ensure that a woman’s journey into all kaupapa Māori programmes stays with her wherever she goes,” he said

The Minister was at the prison to announce details around Te Mana Wāhine Pathway which was part of Budget 2021.  $10 million was allocated to provide a seamless end-to-end kaupapa pathway for women in the wider Canterbury region being managed by Corrections.

“Supporting women from when they enter the system to when they leave will help break the intergenerational cycle of Māori reoffending and enhance community safety and wellbeing,” he said.

Te Mana Wāhine Pathway includes:

  • A new Kaupapa Māori whānau-centred operating model across prison and community
  • Culturally appropriate space for women and their families
  • Wraparound support delivering whānau-centred services to women and their families
  • Increased cultural practice for frontline staff working in prisons and the community
  • Kaupapa Māori programmes that are whakapapa and whānau-centred for women
  • Kaupapa Māori accommodation services.

Te Mana Wāhine Pathway lays the foundation for longer term system changes required across the prison network.

“Our corrections system has largely been designed and developed to provide for men, however, women have specific needs that require a unique approach and research shows that tailoring services to them will achieve better outcomes,” said the Minister.

The audience included several Government Ministers, mana whenua and prison kaumatua, the prison’s kapa haka group, community and government partners, members of the programme’s co-design team, and Corrections staff. All were warmly welcomed by Chief Executive Jeremy Lightfoot who MC’d the event.

“Over recent years Corrections has been making positive headway to support the aspirations of Government to safely reduce the prison population and address the over representation of Māori in our system,” said Jeremy.

“Māori Pathways will enable us to realise transformation and achieve better outcomes for Māori. The pathways allow us to drive change, involve whānau to a much greater degree in our rehabilitation efforts and to partner with iwi Māori in much more effective ways – based on our shared goals and aspirations. As a Department we are up for the challenge and opportunity ahead of us.”

Nikita and Irene spoke as both members of the co-design team and women who have lived experience of prison and community services. They said how reconnection with their culture had been a key part of their life change and how this had ‘saved their lives’. They expressed their appreciation for being part of the design of the new pathway services, and challenged the women in the prison to make the most of their time in prison to make change for their whanau.

Irene, now a manager at Odyssey House drug and alcohol abuse treatment centre, says she used her experience at CWP to inform design approaches that will be part of the Wāhine Māori Pathways.

She shared her story with Tahu News and Radio New Zealand saying she believed the changes would help lower the number of Māori women in the Corrections system.