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Watch NZH Local Focus: 'For a moment they're not inmates'

Kaysha Brownlie

Te Whare Tirohanga-Māori is a unit within Hawke's Bay Regional Prison - where inmates create carvings for the community.

The latest is an instalment for Port Ahuriri Playcentre.

Hawke's Bay Regional Prison officer Brenda Fergusen says carving for a playcentre made the work have "even more aroha, because it was giving back to the tutors and the kaiako of the playcentre, because they're grateful for the hard work that they do working with our next generation".

The carvings were unveiled at an earl morning ceremony to coincide with the rising of the sun, which is thought to give the carvings life.

Currently 4,989 Māori are incarcerated in New Zealand - that is more than half of the total prison population. Including activities that these inmates can relate to, like music, art and sport in their day-to-day lives, plays a huge role in their rehabilitation.

"The time they spend doing the carvings is the very small time that they have to themselves and it's probably more value, because it's giving back to them from them, not something they're made to do," Ms Fergusen says.

The carvings also play a role in the children's development.

Port Ahuriri Playcentre kaiako Kathryn Wakelin says "Arts are so important for children's learning that they can see what a carving actually is."

According to Department of Corrections rules the inmates must remain anonymous, and so they didn't attend the ceremony, but they weren't forgotten.

Port Ahuriri Playcentre past president Louise Schroder says the work the inmates have done, their love and thought that was put into it is a "restorative process".

"In that moment they're not inmates they're carvers."

Which is the aim of Te Whare Tirohanga-Māori - to give inmates options to help re-integrate into the community - when they are released.

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- NZ Herald

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