The Government is hoping "a for Māori, by Māori approach" will reduce reoffending and the over-representation of tangata whenua in prison.
Māori make up about 15 per cent of the general population but more than 50 per cent of the prison population in New Zealand.
Corrections Minister Kelvin Davis says "taking on" that over-representation has been one of his top priorities and today unveiled a series of initiatives under the Māori Pathways programme to try to achieve it.
"This is a system change and a culture change for our prisons – and that change starts today," Davis said.
"It's about reducing reoffending so there are fewer victims of crime, building closer partnerships with Māori and enabling us to keep delivering on our target to reduce the prison population by 30 per cent."
The new Māori Pathways initiatives include a kaupapa Māori approach to prisoner rehabilitation called Tēnei Au, which will assist Māori men in high security prisons. Prisoners aged 30 and under will take priority as the Government says those men have the highest recidivism rates.
Announced by Davis at Hawke's Bay Regional Prison (HBRP) this morning, Tēnei Au was developed by Māori experts in tikanga and trauma-informed care.
Tēnei Au will include:
• Tikanga a Iwi – an effort to lift the use of tikanga Māori in a way that is transformational and therapeutic, connecting men to their whānau and local iwi;
• Ngākau Ora – a kaupapa Māori approach to healing trauma, underpinned by mātauranga Māori;
• Kaupapa Māori Wānanga - a customised approach to respond to the priorities that matter to each individual
A kaupapa Māori approach will also mean a significant change in staff and leadership roles.
Davis said wherever there is a prison, there is an expectation of a strong partnership with mana whenua and he made today's announcement alongside Ngāti Kahungunu chief executive Chrissie Hape.
The iwi-Māori partnership will help to bring together whānau members of inmates as disconnection from families has been proven to impede rehabilitation process.
Since 2019, an initiative to kickstart te ao Māori in prisons was established and a kapa haka competition introduced.
Eight prisons were involved in that competition, which will be expanded to include 18 correctional facilities this year.
Another initiative announced today under Māori Pathways will see a Whānau Ora navigator workforce join forces with iwi.
"Kaiarataki navigators will play a critical role as advocates, supporters and guides for whānau in the Corrections system," Minister for Whānau Ora Peeni Henare said.
"We know our most positive changes come through people, not systems, and navigators are key to providing the right package of support.
"This is part of extending the Whānau Ora approach into other agencies and working alongside the individual and their whānau to improve outcomes for Māori," Henare said.