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Award For Judges of the Rangatahi Courts Celebrated

30 May, 2016

Award For Judges of the Rangatahi Courts Celebrated

International recognition for the work of Judges of the New Zealand District Court and the contribution of kaumātua from 14 marae in developing Ngā Kōti Rangatahi o Aotearoa, the Rangatahi Courts and the Pasifika Courts, will be conferred at Auckland’s Orakei Marae today.

The Australasian Institute of Judicial Administration has awarded these innovative marae-based Youth Courts its 2015 Award for Excellence in Judicial Administration.

AIJA Director Professor Greg Reinhardt will present the award to all eight Judges who established and lead the 14 marae-based Rangatahi and two Pasifika Courts: National Rangatahi Court Liaison Judge Heemi Taumaunu, Judge Louis Bidois, Judge Denise Clark, Judge Francis Eivers, Judge Greg Hikaka, Judge Alayne Wills, Judge Eddie Paul and Judge Ida Malosi. Kaumātua representing each marae will also be honoured for their support and contribution to the Courts.

The award recognises the contribution of the Judges and Court Staff who developed the courts and the Māori communities who embraced them to help their young people access justice. Although the award was announced late last year, this is the first opportunity for so many of those involved in the courts to come together to accept the award.

The courts aim to provide the best possible rehabilitative response for young offenders by reconnecting them with their cultural identity, and meaningfully involving local Māori communities in the process. The courts met the award criteria for improving access to justice, demonstrating innovation and delivering real benefits for the justice system. The selection panel said it was particularly impressed by the way in which local Māori communities have been engaged in assisting their own young offenders to achieve youth justice.

The Judges were nominated for the award by Chief District Court Jan-Marie Doogue and Principal Youth Court Judge Andrew Becroft. They wanted to recognise the tireless personal and professional efforts of the eight Judges in developing the genuine and enduring relationships with Māori communities required to sustain such an initiative.

Chief Judge Doogue and Judge Becroft say this is an honour that warrants celebration:

“We can all feel proud that those who developed this uniquely New Zealand way of delivering justice into the heart of our communities have been honoured. These Judges have taken courageous and significant steps on behalf of their own people to develop this innovative and culturally appropriate response to Māori and Pasifika youth offending.

“To pioneer these courts, at times they have placed their individual mana and standing within their own communities on the line. They have been challenged by both the legal community and their own communities, and have been accountable to both. We are delighted their commitment has been recognised in this way.”

This is the second time New Zealand Judges have won the AIJA Award for Excellence.

In 2013 the District Court at Christchurch shared in an award for efforts made to ensure the efficient administration of justice in Christchurch after the 2011 earthquake. The AIJA is a research and educational institute for judicial officers and court administrators, and is associated with Monash University.

The award ceremony is being held at Orakei Marae, 59B Kitemoana St, Orakei, Auckland

The Official Welcome and Ceremony begins and 5pm, preceded by a Pōwhiri

BACKGROUND:

Nga Koti Rangatahi o Aotearoa, Rangatahi Courts of New Zealand and Pasifika Courts

• Rangatahi Courts are a Judge-led initiative operating within the Youth Court using a marae-based environment to better link young Māori, their whānau and communities with the justice system. The Pasifika Courts run on a similar model adapted for Pacific Island cultures.

• The first court was launched at Te Poho o Rāwiri Marae in Gisborne eight years ago (30 May 2008), with Judge Heemi Taumaunu presiding. Judge Taumaunu had adapted the concept for New Zealand from Koori Courts in Western Australia and Victoria which also cater for indigenous youth offenders. There are now eight Judges and a single Pasifika Judge running 14 Rangatahi and two Pasifika courts. They operate around the Auckland region and in Hamilton, Huntly, Rotorua, Taupo, Whakatane, Tauranga, Gisborne, New Plymouth and Christchurch.

• The courts aim to provide the best possible rehabilitative response, by reconnecting young offenders with their cultural identity, and meaningfully involving local Māori communities in the youth justice process. They incorporate Māori language, protocols and customs. Kaumatua and kuia are heavily involved in holding the young people to account, and sit alongside the Judge to provide cultural insight and advice to young people and their whānau.

• The courts’ development has involved strong collaboration and partnership with the Ministry of Justice. The courts are not separate to the Youth Court, and apply the same legislation. The input of lay and community advocates is provided for in the Children, Young Persons and their Families Act 1989. They harness a provision in the District Courts Act which allows a court to sit in any place a Judge deems convenient.

• The courts provide an alternative sentencing and monitoring path for those who choose to take it after a first appearance in the Youth Court and have completed a Family Group Conference, and the option is not restricted to Māori or Pasifika. Rangatahi Courts monitor Family Group Conference plans and young offenders’ progress, placing emphasis on whānau, hapū and iwi resources to help guide them away from a life of crime. The overall vision is to promote better engagement with, confidence in and respect for the youth justice processes among young Māori and their families and communities.

• This Australasian Institute of Judicial Excellence award is international recognition of the significance and progress over the past eight years of the initiative. The courts met a set of criteria: ability to improve access to justice; to demonstrate innovation; and to deliver real benefits for the justice system. The selection panel said it was particularly

impressed by the way local Māori communities have been engaged in assisting their own young offenders to achieve youth justice. The Judges along with elders representing each marae will individually receive an award during the ceremony.

• The eight Judges were nominated for the award by Chief District Court Judge Jan-Marie Doogue and Principal Youth Court Judge Andrew Becroft who wanted to recognise their personal and professional efforts in pioneering the courts and in developing the genuine and enduring relationships with local Māori communities required to sustain such an initiative.

QUESTIONS & ANSWERS:

Q: Why does the AIJA award matter?

A: It is international recognition of the significance and progress over the past eight years of a uniquely New Zealand, judicial-led initiative within the Youth Court that collaborates with Māori and Pasifika communities to improve young people’s access to justice. The award affirms the importance of engaging with communities, whānau, hapū and iwi to provide culturally adapted processes that reconnect young people with their identities and roots.

Q: Why were the courts established?

A: Young Māori feature disproportionately in crime and prison statistics, reflecting the effects of inter-generational urbanisation on New Zealand’s indigenous people, and the associated loss of a sense of belonging and self worth when tribal, community and cultural connections are broken. Almost two out of three young people who appear in Youth Court are Māori. In 2008, the then Chief Judge, the late Judge Russell Johnson, and Principal Youth Court Judge Andrew Becroft asked Judge Heemi Taumaunu to visit Koori Courts in Perth and Victoria to investigate how Australia adjusted its court processes for aboriginal youth offenders. It became clear that New Zealand’s specific indigenous context, cultural infrastructure and legislation provided an opportunity to learn from and develop the Koori Court model on the marae, on a case-by-case basis, and an opportunity to reconnect alienated young people.

Q: Who can go to a Rangatahi Court?

A: The option is not restricted to Māori but is designed primarily to target Māori youth offenders who feature disproportionately in crime statistics. However, the option is only available to those who have admitted their wrongdoing or where a case has been proven, and after an offender has first appeared in Youth Court and a Family Group Conference has framed a rehabilitation path which has been approved by the Court.

Q: How is Rangatahi Court different to Youth Court?

A: It is not separate to the Youth Court. It provides an alternative path for sentencing and monitoring within the Youth Court framework for those who chose to take it. The monitoring of Family Group Conference Plans is culturally adapted for the marae but Rangatahi Courts apply the same sentencing options available to the Youth Court. This is not a soft option.

Young people are expected to take part in a pōwhiri and whakawhānaungatanga, a process for establishing relationships. Elders and marae resources are called on as the young people prepare and deliver a pepeha (when their case is called), detailing their ancestry and ancestral home.

Q: How many young people are appearing in Rangatahi Courts?

A: In 2015, of the more than 1800 young people who went through the Youth Court, 270 or 15 percent opted to appear in a Rangatahi Court, and 46 young people (3 percent) appeared in a Pasifika Court.

Q. Do these courts reduce reoffending?

A: The primary aim of Rangatahi Court is to engage young offenders, their whānau, hapū and iwi in the youth justice process as mandated by the Children, Young Persons and their Families Act 1989. The resulting community and family engagement enhances the quality of Family Group Conference Plans. It is the strength of these plans that may impact on reoffending. However, reoffending rates should not be the measure of Rangatahi Courts’ success or failure. To the extent that reoffending rates are even relevant, the cohort that has gone through the Rangatahi Courts is too small to draw any final conclusions, but preliminary results are encouraging.

Q: Who are the Judges and where are the courts?

A: There are five Rangatahi Courts in the Auckland region, plus courts in Gisborne, New Plymouth, Hamilton, Whakatane, Rotorua, Huntly, Tauranga, Taupo and Christchurch. The Two Pasifika courts are in Avondale and Mangere in Auckland. Judge Heemi Taumaunu is the National Rangatahi Court Lisaison Judge; Judge Louis Bidois, Judge Denise Clark, Judge Greg Davis, Judge Francis Eivers, Judge Greg Hikaka, Judge Alayne Wills and Judge Eddie Paul preside in Rangatahi Courts and Judge Ida Malosi runs the two Pasifika Courts, with assistance from Judge Philip Recordon.

Q: What does “Rangatahi” mean?

A: The literal meaning of the word “rangatahi” is youth. It also means “new net” as expressed in the whakataukī (Māori proverb), “Ka pū te ruha, ka hao te rangatahi” - The old net is cast aside and the new net goes fishing. The name Ngā Kōti Rangatahi reflects the expectation that young people will cast aside the old, and work out behaviours that have led them to appear in te Kōti Rangatahi, and that they will adopt a “new net” of positive, social attitudes and behaviours to put them on the right track for the future.

ENDS

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