A damning report about New Zealand's justice system says there is urgent need for Māori-led rehabilitation for Māori offenders, like the tikanga programme Rotorua's Billy Macfarlane runs.
The He Waka Roimata - A Vessel of Tears report, released last Sunday by Te Uepū Hāpai i te Ora, is calling for urgent change.
It says rehabilitation for Māori offenders and victims needs to be Māori-led but iwi members currently trying to do this feel unsupported, disempowered and constrained by the Government.
Today Te Uepū Hāpai i te Ora – the Safe and Effective Justice Advisory Group's report, #HeWakaRoimata is released, sharing what they’ve heard from New Zealanders about the criminal justice system. Watch @ChesterBorrows's summary below || Read the report: https://t.co/eMja7cjAUM pic.twitter.com/2kyXk0MJkF— Safe and Effective Justice Advisory Group (@NZJusticeIdeas) June 8, 2019
Macfarlane, who leads a Pūwhakamua tikanga programme in Rotorua to help offenders change their ways, made a submission to the advisory group last year.
His course includes te reo classes, kapa haka, and fitness and has been widely supported by Rotorua police, judges, Te Arawa kaumātua and community groups.
However it has been challenged by the Department of Corrections.
It is not government-funded and relies on Macfarlane's own financial backing and donations from community organisations.
Following the report's release, Te Uepū Hāpai i te Ora advisor Julia Whaipooti told the Rotorua Daily Post Macfarlane's work was a prime example of a Māori-led initiative that was working well but was undervalued because of the justice system's "risk-averse approach".
In her opinion, the report had been a confronting surprise for non-Māori, particularly because Te Uepū Hāpai i te Ora was led by a Pākehā man - former National MP Chester Borrows.
"He has given oxygen to the calls for change, on a wider, and in some ways 'whiter' platform... He is not doing this for his own interests."
The report shows Māori need better resourcing and funding to do what Whaipooti described as "the hard mahi, dealing with so many layers of generational trauma".
"This does not just mean funding a few pocket pilots... We need to focus on upskilling iwi and hapū to build their own capability to support their own people, not Ministry of Justice staff."
Macfarlane said it was good iwi had been heard but whatever came from the advisory group's report, he was always going to continue leading his programme.
"I want to just focus making a positive difference in my hometown, because we know this approach is working where. That doesn't mean it's going to work for everyone, but I've got to try."
He welcomed any future government money for programmes like his, and said this was needed immediately.
"Regardless of when or if ministry funding arrives, I will continue to find a way to make the course happen. If we all waited around for funding to achieve our dreams we would all just be dreamers."
Rotorua lawyer and activist Annette Sykes also submitted to the advisory group.
She told the Rotorua Daily Post every time she visited Rangipō, Waikeria, Springhill and Rimutaka prisons, she saw Te Arawa hapū members she wished could be provided an iwi-led rehabilitation pathway.
"Māori need our own systems of caring, of healing, of prevention and of kindness to be brought to bear on this".
She said the issues were not easily solved, but Macfarlane was not waiting around for others to solve them.
"I have witnessed Billy go out on call outs at all hours of day and night to address and prevent suicide and domestic incidents escalating. I have witnessed both a spiritual and cultural awakening among those members of his rōpū that he has reconnected with their hapū and their whānau."
The Department of Corrections' operations director for the central region, Louise Wood, said "staff have had positive and constructive meetings with Billy Macfarlane".
"These have been focused on our shared goals and how we can better understand each other's work... We are committed to continuing to talk to each other and work collaboratively for a common goal."
Justice Minister Andrew Little said the report was sobering reading, with many upsetting stories from victims and offenders but he welcomed it.
"The overwhelming sense is that we can make change for the better."
Last month the Government announced $98 million would go towards a Māori pathway initiative to reduce reoffending, as part of the Wellbeing Budget.
It will be co-designed and implemented by Māori, with Corrections, Te Puni Kōkiri, and the Ministry of Development, working together in partnership with hapū and iwi.
It will be established at Hawke's Bay Regional Prison and Northland Region Corrections Facility, and will initially focus on Māori men under 30.
Report's findings on Māori rehabilitation
Must be Māori-led, locally, not imposed by those with no connection to community
Prioritise tikanga-based solutions
Communities should not have to pay for this, as they are already struggling with deprivation.