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Ngā kākano mo āpōpō (the seeds of tomorrow)

12 July 2021
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Establishing a pro-social lifestyle and securing sustainable employment is a major challenge for many people in prison upon their release.

Ngā Kākano Mo Āpōpō, a new Release to Work programme at Northland Region Corrections Facility (NRCF), aims to give men nearing release the second chance they need. The department has recently partnered with KiwiRail to provide work placements on Northland’s rail line.

KiwiRail plays a critical role in New Zealand’s freight and supply chain industries. The organisation has a strong Māori network which aims to inspire the next generation of leaders while strengthening relationships with local communities. KiwiRail aims to provide training and support for 20 prisoners within Northland by the end of 2022, and offer full-time employment at the end of the programme. Eligible prisoners must meet strict criteria and have demonstrated that they are genuinely motivated to work.

The initiative was launched in October 2020, where the first participants completed a two-week induction course on health and safety, track maintenance and personal development. This was followed by a six-month work placement at KiwiRail’s Whangarei Rail Depot for further training.

We had some fantastic feedback from the men:

“The best part about working with the Kākano team was they never judged us… they saw our weaknesses and then they found something better to make us feel good about ourselves.”

“I learned better communication skills within a team environment, working together as a team to do the mahi and realising I’m only gonna get out what efforts I choose to put in to anything.”

“I saw a chance to take part in an employment opportunity with KiwiRail and to come out with more than a Prisoner Record Number and a conviction. I now have a chance to carry on my mahi with KiwiRail once I’m released, and to slowly build myself a solid foundation so I don’t end up back in jail.”

Four of the men in the final stages of the programme have been released and have now secured full-time employment at KiwiRail. They returned to NRCF to take part in KiwiRail’s Toi Toi Leadership Programme. The programme is designed to grow leaders who are making a difference in their workplace.

Toi Toi facilitators Jake Barbarich and Logan Kahui from KiwiRail thanked the men for the vulnerability and humility shown in sharing their stories.

NRCF Release to Work Broker Max Cochrane, Kākano Programme Director, Stephen Thomas and Kākano Kaumātua/Mentor Sam Rihari were also recognised for their efforts in making the programme so successful and supporting the men through their placement.

“Here we have planted five seeds that will flourish throughout our motu. The courage that has been shown by these guys has been awe-inspiring,” says Logan.