A graduation ceremony has been held at Tauranga Community Corrections for ten participants who successfully completed the new Te Rongoa programme.
Te Rongoa is the traditional Maori medicinal use of plants. This includes the recognition and care of native plants, as well as an understanding of their healing properties.
The initiative is part of the Corrections' Work and Living Skills programme for offenders who are serving sentences of community work and was held at the local community garden at the Tauranga Community Corrections Site for four hours a week for six weeks.
Participants also visited Kaiate Falls to see native plants in the environment and received instruction from a Department of Conservation ranger about protecting the native bush.
One of the participants found the programme particularly rewarding:
"I grew up in Tauranga, however lost contact with a lot of my whanau and culture. This course showed me that it (Maoritanga) is still there for me and I'm taking steps now to reconnect myself."
Another mentioned how the skills gained will help in everyday life and they intend to share their new knowledge with their whanau.
"During the course I had a boil on my leg and I remembered how the leaf of the kawakawa plant can aid in treating it. When I went to the pharmacy the lady there also commented how using the kawakawa plant first had taken a lot of the inflammation out of it."
Bay of Plenty district manager Pauline Moran is thrilled with the feedback received:
"It's always good to hear when you are helping offenders to turn their lives around. It's especially rewarding when our staff have been working so closely with others in the community to deliver that change. It is a real reflection of the way we can all contribute to reducing re-offending."
Pauline also values the importance of helping people reconnect with culture:
"This course is effective because it also covers aspects of tikanga, including the correct protocols for planting and harvesting rongoa. This is important because it gives facilitators the opportunity to start having those conversations that enable people to develop connections that can have a positive influence in their lives."
More offenders will have the opportunity to take part in this programme with the next course having already started.