A new Tai Tokerau youth remand service, Mahuru, which was launched at Kaikohe's Kohewhata Marae last week, has been described as the call of the pīpīwharauroa (shining cuckoo) providing positive pathways and opportunities for young people who have offended.
Mahuru — Te Aranga o te Ao Marama, a unique initiative between Ngāpuhi Iwi Social Services (NISS) and Oranga Tamariki — Ministry for Children, is a Ngāpuhi-led kaupapa Māori remand service designed to reduce the risk of youth re-offending through one-on-one care, cultural values and tribal connections.
Both organisations have recognised an immediate need for better ways to care for and support taitamariki in Te Tai Tokerau, including those who whakapapa to Ngāpuhi, to make more positive life decisions and help reduce their risk of re-offending.
"This is an opportunity to provide an innovative, bespoke and values-based response driven by our own Ngāpuhi values, principles and narratives," NISS general manager Liz Marsden said.
"As a new approach, we can elevate our own cultural practices and networks to help reduce re-offending and enhance the opportunities for young Ngāpuhi to lead positive lives.
"This is a positive step for Ngāpuhi taking greater responsibility of Ngāpuhi taitamariki who have seriously offended, something we have long advocated for," she added.
"It's a huge responsibility, and one that we take very seriously."
The name 'Mahuru' drew on the pīpīwharauroa as the messenger heralding spring and a change of season, a time for new growth and beginnings for taitamariki, speaking of a journey and awakening for taitamariki to be supported to make positive choices.
Aroha Tahere, Youth Justice manager for Oranga Tamariki in Te Tai Tokerau, said the ministry was very excited to be partnering with Ngāpuhi Iwi Social Services to support tamariki on remand in making positive life decisions and cultural connections for their future.
"Mahuru enables us to keep more of our young people within their communities in Te Whare Tapu O Ngāpuhi, and with their people, instead of placing them in Youth Justice facilities around the country where they have no existing relationships or connections," she said.
Mahuru gave the police, Youth Court and Rangatahi Court judges another option to consider when a young person committed a crime and needed to spend time away from home in a safe and stable environment while they awaited their court hearing.
Each young person would first be assessed in a range of areas, such as the level and nature of their offending, their mental health, and any concerning behaviours. Careful consideration would be given when pairing taitamariki and kaimanaaki to ensure everyone involved would be safe, including taitamariki, kaimanaaki, any victim/s of their offence and the community.
NISS project manager (remand service startup) Aroha Shelford was very optimistic about the new Ngāpuhi-led service.
"Where possible we want to connect young people with their cultural and tribal identity to reignite being Māori and Ngāpuhi as a positive thing. Ngāpuhi tikanga is therefore at the forefront in the delivery of this service," she said.