Kia ora koutou katoa. At the beginning of the year, I sent a survey to members of the Arts in Corrections Network. Despite it arriving in people’s inboxes during a hectic back-to-work period, we received enthusiastic participation.

To date, 27 responses from various members across the country have provided insights that are so aligned they gave me goosebumps.

The survey, which won’t close until the end of August, aims to gather a broader understanding of what the Arts in Corrections Network believes should be its core aims and values.

I encourage all of the members to share their perspectives and complete our survey. If you haven’t yet participated, please take a moment to fill out the survey. Your input is invaluable and will help shape our initiatives and focus.

Respondents so far have highlighted that the Network should advocate for the arts as a basic human right and provide a voice for those behind bars. They emphasised the importance of strengthening community ties and ensuring cultural inclusivity, particularly upholding te ao Māori practices.

In addition, they stressed we should foster opportunities for self-expression and personal growth, nurturing the belief that the arts can help break down barriers and inspire significant societal change.

Support from custodial officers

Another great discovery in my role has been the support from custodial officers, a group we may not associate with arts advocacy. During my visits, I’ve met officers who keep approved art supplies in their offices and offer them to prisoners at appropriate times and others whom I’ve witnessed pivoting on a dime to facilitate and support opportunities for creativity.

In this photo, my colleague, Andy Glanville, and I pose with an artwork gifted to us on a visit to Waikeria Prison. To me, it demonstrates what's possible when corrections officer are willing to support creativity in their units. 

I believe this desire to support the development of men and women in their care is the embodiment of Ara Poutama Aotearoa’s Hōkai Rangi Strategy.

To honour and encourage this involvement, Arts Access Aotearoa is designing a special award for custodial staff who champion the arts. This award will recognise their crucial role in the rehabilitation and reintegration of prisoners, highlighting the positive changes they bring about – a testament to their ability to unlock the world of creativity for those in their care.

Please watch this space for updates about the upcoming custodial award, which will speak directly to the mana and aroha of the special people who work in this space. It’s been a joy to share this news with you all.

Turning to the stories in this latest e-newsletter … The belief that the arts can break down barriers and inspire significant societal change is echoed in a powerful blog written by Dr Sally Richards, a theatre practitioner and teacher who volunteered with the Bedtime Stories programme for women at Arohata Prison in Wellington. Read Sally's blog, With aroha, stories can create change

Exploring and sharing stories through performance

TellIn her blog, Sally comments: “I’m drawn to the central idea of aroha in these arts programmes and theatre performances. Canadian theatre director Yvette Nolan (Algonquin) writes: ‘Indigenous theatre artists make medicine’ through reconnecting and nurturing communities.

“Can the strong connection of Māori and Pacific peoples to their ancestors and the past, and to aroha/alofa, make ‘medicine’ for the future, and reduce the cycle of harm and incarceration?”

Alongside Sally’s blog, we have an interview with Auckland addictions counsellor and performing artist Chris Ranui-Molloy. You can read about Chris in Exploring stories to change the narrative.

I’m delighted that Chris (Ngāti Manawa, Tuhoe) will attend our wānanga in Wellington next month. The wānanga will support arts practitioners, like Chris, wanting to develop and deliver arts programmes in prisons.  

Also among the dozen participants is Hone Fletcher, who will share his knowledge of te ao Maori and the Hōkai Rangi Strategy. Hone and  his colleague Lawrence Ereatara received the Arts Access Accolade in 2021 when they worked at Hawkes Bay Regional Prison.

Now a Principal Advisor, Ropu Toi Ora, at Ara Poutama Aotearoa, Hone talks to me on our latest Art Inside podcast episode, Elevating the voices of people in the frontline. Enjoy his insights.

Ngā mihi nui, e hoa ma.



Arts in Corrections Network insights aligned


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