A $10 million programme that is expected to change the lives of Māori women prisoners has been announced by the Government.
Minister of Corrections Kelvin Davis, Minister for Whānau Ora Peeni Henare and Minister for Māori Development Willie Jackson made the announcement today at Christchurch Women's Prison.
The Government is investing more than $10 million over four years into Wāhine Māori Pathways.
It includes a Kaupapa Māori whānau-centred operating model - with culturally appropriate space for women and their families.
It will also deliver whānau-centred services to women and their families and increased cultural practice for frontline staff.
The pathways will be available at Christchurch Women's Prison and to those serving sentences in the community, with priority given to Māori and those who have a connection though their whānau.
"It's Kaupapa Maori from the time someone enters the prison until the time they leave and beyond.
"Which is why we need the whānau ora side of things. We can't just work with prisoners on their own in the prison and then they emerge and they're strangers to their families," Davis said.
Davis told the prisoners they needed support so they can contribute to society.
"The right place for these women is to be at home with their children and their grandchildren. Being mothers and grandmothers and working.
"Not here, there is such a waste of human potential."
Irene Whittaker manages an 11-bed unit for wāhine in the justice system.
She was a former inmate in 2012 and said it was when she held her first granddaughter in prison when she was turned her life around.
She said it took her years to reconnect with whakapapa - mainly out of fear.
"Push yourself past the fear and go and do it. It may be the thing that will save your life.
"Tapping into who I am in terms of wāhine Maori was the pinnacle. It was a part of me I had denied for a long time. Once I opened my heart to that, I felt whole for the first time/"