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Prison Staff Honoured for East Timor Work

Prison Staff Honoured for East Timor Work

New Zealand prison staff who worked in East Timor as part of the United Nations peacekeeping forces were today presented with medals to honour their work.

Forty-three Department of Corrections staff went to East Timor in the last two years to rebuild that country’s prison system, including the 15 staff who received their medals from Corrections Minister Mark Gosche today.

Mr Gosche said the New Zealanders helped the United Nations transitional administration in East Timor run three prison facilities. In total, four contingents of Corrections staff were sent to East Timor, most serving six month tours of duty.

“The challenges they faced included, on arrival, a total lack of adequate facilities in which to house the inmates. Buildings were gutted inside and overgrown with vegetation outside.

“Despite being new to the country, its culture, its climate, its languages, not to mention its prison facilities – or lack thereof - just twelve days after arrival the New Zealand staff had a working prison facility.

“Reports from international bodies such as the Red Cross and Amnesty International were fulsome in their praise of the New Zealand contribution. The Red Cross representatives said they had rarely witnessed the responsiveness and understanding of the UN mandate reflected in the New Zealand Corrections contribution.

“These Corrections staff have been a vital part of New Zealand’s peacekeeping efforts in East Timor. Those efforts have helped win New Zealand respect, not just in East Timor but around the world.”

Today’s ceremony for Auckland and Waikato/Central region staff was the first of three presentation ceremonies. Other Corrections staff who served in East Timor will receive medals in ceremonies in Christchurch on December 9 and in Wanganui on December 16.

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