Northland's Ngawha prison has won an Arts Access Awards 2016 for leading the way in providing arts programmes to inmates.

The Northland Region Corrections Facility received the Arts Access Corrections Leadership Award 2016 for its innovative, comprehensive arts and cultural programme, which supports a well-structured pathway to rehabilitation and reintegration into the community on release.

The prison offers theatre, music, creative writing, painting and carving programmes. It also provides access to NZQA courses and qualifications through Te Aho o Te Kura Pounamu-The Correspondence School and NorthTec.

The judging panel praised the facility's shared vision, tikanga-based philosophy, education outreach and community partnerships.

One of the award-winning artworks by a Ngawha Prison inmate.
One of the award-winning artworks by a Ngawha Prison inmate.

"Also impressive are its community partnerships, which have resulted in the annual exhibition at Mairangi Arts Centre, the provision of art in the community and, most recently, the Shakespeare Behind Bars initiative with the University of Auckland," the citation said.

Whangarei-based Awhi Tautoko was also highly commended in the Community Award category for its grassroots programme that gives community-based offenders a way to express themselves and their world through art.

The awards were presented in the Banquet Hall of Parliament. The ceremony, hosted by Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage Maggie Barry, celebrated the achievement of individuals and organisations providing opportunities for people with limited access to engage with the arts as artists and audience members.

Richard Benge, executive director of Arts Access Aotearoa, said that one in four people in New Zealand - more than one million - live with a disability or impairment.

"That's a lot of people, who all have the right to enjoy the arts as artists, participants, audience members and gallery visitors," he said. "Tonight, we celebrate the achievements and contribution of people and communities who make Aotearoa New Zealand a rich, diverse and creative country."