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"Prison Priorities All Wrong":

"Prison Priorities All Wrong":
Tariana Turia, Co-leader, Maori Party
Thursday 30 November 2006

Prison PR campaign a higher priority than Family Support for Inmates

Whanau Development Spokesperson for the Maori Party, Tariana Turia, today expressed concern at yet more Government cuts to Maori services.

Mrs Turia was alarmed to learn the Department of Corrections has pulled the majority of programmes outlined in the strategy to "include and engage Maori whanau and hapu".


"The Department seems to have been spending all their time on an elaborate branding exercise to dream up Maori names for their prisons, while at the same time sacrificing real projects that could assist whanau and hapu in supporting Maori inmates" said Mrs Turia.

The 2005/2006 Annual Report states that three of the five initiatives for whanau involvement were withdrawn due to a "shift in focus ...for initiatives of a higher priority" ; the project was 'unfeasible' or initiatives 'already existed'.

"All that is left, is a departmental booklet on 'working with whanau'; and a review of a job description" said Mrs Turia.

"What on earth will that do to address the urgent need to make a difference for the 48.8% of the prison population who are Maori?"

"And what are the initiatives of a higher priority? The answer it seems, is all in a name" said Mrs Turia.

"I can't get past the fact that when the Department actually asked Maori what they thought of the practice of using Maori names for prisons, most of the participants surveyed in a nationwide consultation expressed concern" said Mrs Turia.

"The report, Let Maori take the journey, included a very clear statement which was supported in the 38 submissions and 7 hui held" said Mrs Turia. "That statement was :

"I shudder every time I look at any of our prisons, because I see time and again that they bear the names of our tipuna. I was pleased when the name Witako was taken away from the prison in Wellington, and Sir Ralph Love was pleased because his tipuna, his name, was no longer being revered in a prison. But what happened? You turn around and name it after a maunga that is sacred to our iwi of Kahungunu ki Wairarapa; Rimutaka!" (Christchurch community hui)

"We know too, of the extreme objection that mana whenua took in the process of establishing a name for the Waikato based prison, at Spring Hill, early last year" said Mrs Turia. "Iwi had objected to the name, Puke Puna as they did not want Maori culture associated with the facility" recalled Mrs Turia.

"And yet still the Department persists with a whole new vocabulary of Maori names for their jails: Arohata (Tawa), Te Piriti, Te Wairere, Te Mahinga (Paremoremo), Kia Marama (Rolleston), Te Hikoinga, Rangipo (Tongariro), Kareo (Youth unit at Northland); and I'm sure there's plenty more where they come from" said Mrs Turia.

"Then we have all of the elaborately named programmes, such as 'Te Wairua o Nga Tangata (community probation programme) or even the expensive branding exercise to create a Maori sub-title for the Department".

"Is it meant to seduce us all into thinking these places are actually good for Maori, by virtue of having a Maori subtitle?" asked Mrs Turia.

"Or is this just political correctness taken too far?"

The Department of Corrections spent $4800 to create themselves a new name, Ara Poutama Aotearoa, which they translate as "towards wellness and wellbeing".

"The Maori Party believes that wellness - a laudable goal by anyone standards - is not going to be achieved by a new signpost at the prison gates" said Mrs Turia.

"Taking responsibility for one's actions in the pursuit of collective wellbeing is best achieved with the support of whanau and families" said Mrs Turia.

If the Department took better note of the meanings of the Maori titles they bandy around, this would be more than obvious".

Background

The projects cut from the Whanau Involvement Plan are:

* Develop an interagency framework to improve access to services for inmates' whanau, within the context of the ongoing pilot reintegration initiatives; * Investigate the feasibility and key features of a mentoring model for youth (tuakana / teina); and * Undertake a facility stock-take to determine opportunities for more effective engagement between offenders and their whanau in corrections facilities.

ENDS


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