Delegates from Australia and New Zealand visited Hawke's Bay last week to look at ways to reduce indigenous incarceration.
The Corrective Services Administrators' Council Senior Officials Working Group on Indigenous Issues Conference visited several units at Hawkes Bay Regional Prison last week, starting with a powhiri in Te Whare Tirohanga Maori unit.
Department of Corrections Maori strategy and partnerships general manager Neil Campbell said representatives from the Northern Territory, New South Wales, Canberra, South Australia and Victoria as well as New Zealand met to identify focus areas, propose solutions and share best practice to reduce the over-representation of indigenous peoples in corrective services.
Reducing reoffending by Maori offenders is an important priority for Corrections and research has proven that programmes, activities and therapy have the most impact when matched with a person's cultural background, he said.
"We understand the importance of partnership with Maori and we are committed to working with Maori in good faith to reduce reoffending.
"This is reflected in a range of important work at different levels of the department as part of our developing plan to reduce reoffending among Maori."
A strategy to align, integrate and initiate work across the justice sector to improve Maori justice outcomes was established in late 2015, co-developed with iwi/Maori alongside Corrections, Police and the Ministry of Justice.
This plan has set a target of reducing Maori reoffending by 25 per cent by 2025.
A Maori Advisory Board was also introduced in 2015 to provide advice and input on the design of policy and services impacting Maori offenders, he said.
Membership is comprised of iwi with significant numbers of tribal members under the management of Corrections.
"In March this year, Corrections signed a kawenata (accord) with the Kiingitanga that provided a framework supporting co-operation between us."
The accord focuses on the health and wellbeing of Maori offenders in custody, the rehabilitation and reintegration of Maori offenders, and reducing reoffending among Maori.
Corrections and the Kiingitanga are working together to share information and develop initiatives that will support these areas of focus, Mr Campbell said.
Potential ideas that are in the early stages of discussion are: a community-based reintegration centre for female prisoners to be run by iwi providers, Waka Taua cultural intervention for Maori male prisoners in the greater Waikato District and Kiingitanga facilitating iwi collaboration for the Waikeria Prison expansion project.
The delegation received taonga as a reminder of their visit, one of which was a purerehua (wind instrument) carved by men in Rimutaka Prison.