Episode 2, Art Inside

Elevating the voices of people in the frontline with Hone Fletcher


 Neil Wallace:

Today we have the honour to kōrero with Hone Fletcher, who started working at Hawkes Bay Regional Prison in 2015 after a career in education, counselling, addiction and mental health services. He's also spent more than 40 years as a professional musician. In 2023, he changed roles within Ara Poutama Aotearoa, the Department of Corrections, to become the Principal Advisor, Ropu Toi Ora. Kia ora and welcome to the podcast, Hone.

Hone Fletcher:

Ka nui te mihi e te rangatira, pai kei te kite i a koe. Gosh, what an introduction. Bit of pressure to live up to that, my man. So, thank you. Thank you so much. Still just a Māori boy from Ngāpuhi and Ngāti Kahu from up north.  But thank you.

Neil Wallace:

Awesome. Awesome. Thanks so much for being with us.

Hone Fletcher:

No problem.

Neil Wallace:

Awesome. Okay. In our first episode, we discussed the Hōkai Rangi Strategy with Beth Hill, who spoke to her experience and knowledge of it, but if my sources are correct, you were a big part of the founding of the strategy. So maybe we can begin with the whakapapa of the Hōkai Rangi Strategy and how it came about, and then maybe we could take a look at how it's implemented into your mahi.

Hone Fletcher:

Well, thank you. Well, I don't know if I started it. I was fortunate enough to be around the time the Department of Corrections wanted to respond to what was happening. So in 2015,  Matua Tame, uh, Tom Hemopo, took the Department to the Waitangi Tribunal, basically calling it out for not being able to serve Māori in the way that we needed to.

The high rates of incarceration, of re-offending, recidivism, of course, are there for all to see. Called out the Department, and from that te Tiriti o Waitangi Tribunal claim, Tū Mai te Rangi was born. In 2017 … 2017, 2018 … Ngāi Taki Māori was formed to address the recommendations of that Waitangi Tribunal … so Tū Mai te Rangi.

And then we had the wonderful, wonderful Nashwa Bakr (Boyes) back here as part of Rautaki Māori to be on hand to start addressing the recommendations from Tū Mai te Rangi. We were really fortunate too, cos at the time, we had Christine Stevenson as CEO and Jeremy Lightfoot was the sponsor as DCE for this Māori strategy.

And so he said, right, let's get all of these subject matter experts, both from the community and within our own organisation, together. And that was to gather like-minded folks to say our system isn't working. And we agree with Matua Tame's Waitangi Tribunal claim and the findings of Tū Mai te Rangi. What can we do differently?

And so, this Māori strategy was put together with a bunch of stakeholders. And we said, ‘Actually, this is really, really good stuff’. It needs to be bigger than a Māori strategy. It needs to be the strategy for Ara Poutama Aotearoa. And from that, Hōkai Rangi was born in 2019. We released it.

And of course, Kelvin Davis, our Minister at the time, it really resonated for him with Māori ways of being with the six pou of Hōkai Rangi addressing and looking at restoration of lives from a Māori perspective. So hence Hōkai Rangi was born. We find ourselves in 2024, five years later, with the strategy now being solidified, being put in place to be able to implement in some spaces what better practice looks like, according to those principles.

Neil Wallace:

Wow, what a whakapapa that was! Thank you so much for sharing that with us. You spoke of six pou. Could you elaborate on those six pou?

Hone Fletcher:

We talk about humanising and healing.

Foundations for participation, that anybody, no matter where they were, were able to participate in activities that gave healing, along wherever they sat in the journey and for whatever they needed. Whakapapa to be seen as a protective factor and not one that is a problem. So it becomes suddenly one of positivity.

Whakapapa is not a pathology. Whānau are part - and whānau have their own pou - whānau are part of the solution, not of the problem. And when we look at whakapapa and whānau, when we look within whānau, who are the leaders there or what processes need to be in place in terms for restoration of relationships to occur for intergenerational trauma to be addressed.

Whakapapa was about identifying. We don't come from a whakapapa of offending, it is one that comes from a divine source and from knowing who we are, where we come from, makes us accountable. I know I'm Ngāpuhi, I'm Ngāti Kahu, Ngā Tātou  Waka,  Mamarute Waka. My mountain gives me the strength to actually say, I can make better choices.

I have the supports around me to be able to make better choices, more informed choices. Or I don't know what that means for me. This is where I start the journey of recovery. We looked at Te Ao Māori ways. The majority of our people [in prisons], you know, I think it's almost 56 per cent at the moment, identify as Māori.

Well, that would tell us they need methodologies and approaches to address their issues in ways that make sense. So if you're Māori, you need to tell Māori approaches to help with that, right? And that healing and connection and accountability can come through that. Bringing in things like rongoa, um, and knowing that rongoa  is more than just potions and lotions.

It is our reo, it is our ability to look after people, to manaaki, to be values-led in all that we do. Our, you know, our five values. Manaaki, kaitiaki, wairua, whānau, rangatira, and what does that look like in our everyday practice, both as kaimahi, but also for our men and women and our young adults in our care and management?

And, even more importantly, what does that look like for them upon release, to be able to say, these are the skills I've got to keep my family safe? That I'll never leave them again and to create better futures for our mokopuna and their mokopuna. So all of those six pou would contribute to a journey along that whole continuum of care.

Actually, not just for when they're in corrections – from when they first appear in court, for when they're arrested, maybe at police or interactions in police. Ideally, the solutions can be put in place when they come to attention, say with police in the first instance, and they can be dealt with at lowest level.

They don't have to come to prison. However, if they do, this is the journey that whānau are able to manage for themselves along that whole continuum to when they have served their time and are able to function positively, supportively, collectively, collaboratively, uh, with whomever is going to make their lives better along their whole journey, till death, actually.

Foundations for participation was no matter where you were, such as remand or high security, you could still have opportunities for addressing your trauma, no matter what unit, whether it's maxi, high, medium or low, security settings. And that was the aspiration of that. 

Neil Wallace:

That was perfect. Thank you so much.

I have been honoured to be in the company of those that have been through this transformational hikoi. Um, so I have been able to witness the benefits of the process that you are talking about and that you and the people with you lay down. And this would be a good time to say, thank you for what you've contributed to the work at hand.

If it's all good Hone, we'll dig a little deeper into the day to day of what your role looks like. You were sharing just before we started about hikoi around Christchurch. Can you share a little bit about that with us and what your role day-to-day looks like? 

Hone Fletcher: So currently my role is Principal Advisor, Toi Ora, for Te Waipounamu, so I look after Te Waipounamu.

And my mahi is really about elevating the voices of the frontline practitioners, mostly in our health teams, our custodial teams, our case management, where I am able to speak with them; of our sites, to create opportunities for their voices to be heard. at a higher regional level. And it's those voices of experience in the front line, direct the way that we work, tell us the issues that need to be told, and how do we resource that? How do we provide opportunities and create space for all of that magic to occur?

I guess this approach for me really comes from Hōkai Rangi. I still, in 2017, have the voices of the men, the women, the young people that we spoke to during the formulation of Hōkai Rangi about what those six pou were. They didn't come from us, they came from the people in our care and management and their family.

And I still have their voices on my shoulders to tell me, “Hone, you need to be working towards those things because our issues five years later are still the same. We still need housing when we leave prison, or our families are still struggling when we're in here. How can we support them? We still need employment, you know, how can we have skills in order to survive in this changing world?

Otherwise, actually it's easy just to re-offend and come back to this secure place. How do we give hope?

So with those voices of people in our care and management and their families and the community, the voices of people in the frontline who get to work with our men, women, young people every day. It's elevating their voices, their needs, their solutions, and their celebrations of what's working to those regional and national levels to be able to find approaches that are led from them.

These wouldn't be possible if we didn't have champions, you know, such as at the time Leonie Aben. There were pockets of excellent work happening at Hawkes Bay Regional Prison. And those were the things that we started talking about with Nashwa and the Rautaki Māori team to begin formulating our approaches to formulating Hōkai Rangi.

We had, you know, as I spoke about with Nashwa leading from national office, like minds like Leonie. George Massingham had been seconded but he still supported us to be able to work in this way as the PD from Hawkes Bay Regional Prison. Lawrence Ereatara with all of his custodial experience to be able to say, “Hone, that's pie in the sky stuff. The practicalities of running a site are these”’ and bringing me back to earth to say, this is what's practical. The practicalities of what we can do within that environment.

The support on high from Leonie, from George, allowed us to be in that space of this concept design, service design. And then over all of that, Matua Tom Hemopo, who had begun this whole journey for Corrections, was part of our team to be in consultation with him.

So that was just from Hawkes Bay. And there were all these pockets of subject matter experts pulled together in this one space to help formulate it. And then it got backed up from a Treasury bid to one that the government supported to one that Jeremy was very courageous, and Christine Stevenson too, to say, “We're going to do this. We're going to roll with it.”

So the culmination of where I am today begins with that whakapapa. And what does that look like today? I'm still trying to elevate the voices of people in this front line, also being directed by the voices of lived experience. 

Neil Wallace:

What a, what a mahi. I can see this role that you have is a bit of a waka huia in the sense that you're taking the voices which are taonga from one place to another and sharing them, which is just an incredible role.

Can you share a little bit about the implementation of the Māori Pathways Programme with Lawrence? 

Hone Fletcher:

Well, Lawrence's expertise, and with Leonie too, at Hawkes Bay Regional Prison was one of a custodial nature. But however, they're both very Māori in their approach, you know. And so they saw the benefit of being able to have a relationship with our tāne based on mutual respect, one of reciprocity, one of sharing whakapapa, one of attachment to whakapapa, to whenua, to hapu, to iwi, to whānau.

And we saw those in some of the tikanga programmes, of the benefits of that. Our tāne were so much more settled and willing to participate and be motivated to learn new skills, even when at times Māori had been something they had never wanted to do. Maybe their parents, grandparents had had bad experiences.

And so being able to work with them both has been a highlight of certainly my career in Corrections. But what it taught me too, is that you don't have to be Māori to work in this way of caring. Some of our greatest champions of Kaupapa Māori Pathways at Hawkes Bay Regional Prison have been South Asian, have been South African. And it's the heart and the wairua that they bring and willingness to engage authentically with people in our care that makes the difference.

If it works for Māori, it's going to work for everybody. And do you have to be Māori in order to do this? No, you don't. We talk about being tika and pono to do things correctly and right and in the right time, but the third part we speak about is to do things with aroha. Sometimes we have to ask ourselves how do we build strength and resiliency if not by learning from the lessons that are really difficult.

With Lawrence and Leonie, they're champions of restorative practice. So where some violation has occurred of somebody else's tapu, what does the restorative process look like in this case? How can we allow that to happen rather than our tāne be punished for it in that instance? So how do we have the consequence and then the restoration to make things right?

So it's a very Māori way of being. So with Leone and Lawrence, both were pivotal mentors for me to champion that way of being. So you need that too when you're working in this way. 

Neil Wallace:

 Hone, I've had the honour of visiting the Waikeria Prison not too long ago and received the most beautiful whakatau as we arrived, and I got to see the transformation that was occurring from the Māori Focus Unit there, and I was hoping you might share a little bit about how those units are structured and their kaupapa.

Hone Fletcher:

Sure, well, certainly from my time in the Māori Focus Unit, those units are special units that have a criteria for the tāne to come into. They have a taumata, if you like, made up of both the officers, the apiha, of our pou arataki, and then also including the men, um, who would be able to look at who is ready, and then they would be interviewed to be able to come into that environment.

When people aren't ready for whatever reason, it's really apparent that they might be challenged, and that's fine. You have an opportunity later on when you are ready to come back. But through that process, we then have an environment of more motivated and participative people who would come in and they'd start off on the Whare Tirohanga pathway, basically, and they'd undergo a three-month programme of te reo and tikanga, and they'd end up with qualifications in NZQA.

From there, they'd then go into the Mauri Tū Pae programme, which would deal with the risks around reoffending, but explaining in terms of a Māori perspective.

And so they'd spend six months with us in the unit and then go on into another programme, which is a Māori Focus Unit, usually at Whanganui, and then hopefully they'd have the skills to be ready for reintegration back to their whānau and their communities.

And so what I saw there was the creation of a space for our tāne to finally reconnect in a safe way to culture, to identity.

And we had many who weren't Māori. But the concepts of reconnection and restoration was still the same. Right down to one of the tāne I remember vividly, in his mid-fifties, a white supremist. And here he found himself, I don't want to go in there, I don't want to do this. And the healing he found in that environment, he became one of the biggest advocates for te whare Tirohanga Māori, and there was this, you know, man who'd been to, you know, his own life, had his own experiences, and there he was performing  pōhiri, mihi mihi, karakia, mau rakau, and when he left that unit, the whole unit just congratulated him and they gave him a taiaha that they'd made for him to keep.

And he still has that today. What we saw was healing of families when, because in the Mauri Tu  Pae programme and certainly the Tikanga one, family coming in for whānau days, the ability for the whānau to see their whānau.  and these roles of leadership and mana. I talk about that environment with love and with pride for myself, being a part of it, because the staff were handpicked to be part of that environment too, who could awhi and tautoko that kaupapa.

But seeing the families see the changes, that was the point. However, you know, because often times our whānau are left behind while the men are given all of these activities and opportunities to grow. So it gave an opportunity to show the whānau what they were up to. And when a job was done well, how do we bring the whānau along on that journey so they're both going along in their own space?

And when we did that properly, were able to do that properly, the results were astounding.

Neil Wallace: That's awesome. That's so cool. Hone, can you please share with us how you infuse your mahi with creative practice?

Hone Fletcher: Oh, that's a really good question. I was always encouraged to be my authentic self. I'm a musician. I come from a whakapapa music. My dad was a muso. My grandmother was a muso with her sisters and beforehand. My grandfather was a tohunga, which knew all the moteatea for healing. So I was blessed that I was given the opportunity to be who I wanted.

But also, and this is a personal thing for me, my way to have contact with my creator, for whomever that looks like. I believe in Atua, I believe in Io, and God to be the one person for me, and the times that I feel most connected and closest to that.  is “I sing because I'm happy. I sing because I'm free”. And to be able to do that process in this environment gave strength to be able to connect and then be who I needed to be to serve the needs of those men and their family in our care.

So showing them a way to be vulnerable, showing them a way to be authentic, Through the use of music, through the use of performance, through the use of reo, you know, Ko Mamaru te waka, Ko Maungatanuwha te maunga, Ko Tokerau te moana, Ko Oruru  raua, o Wai whero  ngā awa, Ko Kauhanga te marae, Ko Te Pātu  te hapū, Ko Ngāti Kahu te iwi.

Being able to perform that, if you'd like, to give confidence to tell the world, this is who I am, this is my place in the world, and this is where I come from, but more importantly, this is the better future that I'd like to create for myself and for my whānau. For me, music is my avenue to be able to make that connection.

For our tāne, it can be through reo, it can be through writing, the writings of poetry, of moteatea, of waiata, the performance of it. It can be through the carving, you know, mahi whakairo, the mahi toi, the using of raranga techniques, you know, and what we perceive as art is actually a rongoā. A healing tool to be able to take our whānau on those journeys of healing, of, of reclamation, to say, this is who I am.

I'm not to be seen only as an offender. I've made a mistake, but actually moving forward, I want to claim who I was born to be. So the music for me is a vehicle to be able to give permission for everyone else to remember where they come from and where they need to go to, and what restoration looks like.

Neil Wallace:

I'm honoured to be part of this mahi with you and this has been a richly rewarding kōrero today. Hone, can you maybe finish it up by sharing some of the benefits that you might experience if you were to consider becoming a creative practitioner in a correctional space and the rewards that are likely to come from that mahi.

Hone Fletcher:

Yes, I mean, two come to mind. The first is a young man that was incarcerated at 13 for a terrible crime. But he'd had a terrible life too, and that doesn't justify what occurred. At 16, 17, he came into our care. And through care, through kōrero, this young, angry young man found security and support through learning, firstly learning about his whakapapa, what it was that he valued in life and that was about whānau.

Cut to four years later, when he came up for his first parole, he'd done so many activities. Mau rākau. He'd climbed to the top of how far he could in the different levels of being a mau rākau practitioner. He then had to go to school. do a placement at one of our units with psychology so they could assess him to be ready for the first parole board.

And his motivation from those Māori ways of being, of being able to be a leader, he became very fluent. He is fluent in te reo and a practitioner of tikanga. He's a  carver, a sportsman, a brilliant sportsman, can sing, can play the guitar. With all of that there, he went to the psychological programme who said, actually, we can't teach him any more.

He has achieved all of the outcomes that we would expect from him through this way of being. Today he is in a long-term relationship. He got out on his first parole board because he'd done all the mahi that needed to be done and shown that he could be safe and contributing. He owns his own business.

This year he's having his first baby. He still calls, calls me Matua, hey we're doing this, come over, still reaches out for support and I'm so proud of him. I didn't make that journey for him, but I'm proud to support him on his own journey of finding who he was. Most importantly, to support him in his own self-determination of a better life.

So when you say reaching out to other creatives, what can this offer? It offers hope for the future. We had, uh, a gentleman who'd heard about what we are doing at Hawke Bay and the way we were doing it. And he says, right, I'm coming down from Northland. And he went through the programmes, you know, uh, for about five years and did everything he wanted to do, not just needed to do, but wanted to do to, to turn his life around, to gain the tools he needed.

He was an engineer by trade. He's become a master carver. He was a master carver in there. He, he led the council, you know, in the Whare Tirohanga. Anyway, today he has moved back to Dargaville and he is owner, operator, manager of his own art gallery in Dargaville.  And working with schools, working with people in the community about how they can enrich and enlarge and empower their own lives through this medium.

Neil Wallace:

Bro, I must shush you there. And I must shush you specifically because he's our next interviewee. I can't have you giving the game away too soon. But beautiful, beautiful.

Hone Fletcher:

Excellent. So it's a lovely segue. 

Neil Wallace:

 No, this is, this is amazing work. And I'm privileged to be able to share, sharing it with you. Um, thank you so much for being with us today and sharing your insights. Really appreciate it, Hone. Thank you.

Hone Fletcher:

 Well, kia ora, te rangatira. And, you know, a lot of the mahi that Arts Access has been able to do in no small way has been due to the awhi, the aroha, the tautoko of Iona McNaughton, who was really supportive of our sites. And then, of course, of Richard Benge, of the mahi and aroha that he fights every day for us to be able to provide this in the space that you guys are working in.

So this isn't a work of one person. It's all of us working together for the kaupapa, right? And that's of the joy of the healing of the restoration of the painful lessons that occur on this journey as well. To know that to be around like-minded souls and hearts is what makes it worthwhile for the betterment of our people.

Neil Wallace:

And that wraps up another episode of Art Inside. A huge thank you to Hone Fletcher for joining us today and sharing his knowledge of the transformative power of creative practice in prisons.

We've heard how Hone's role at Ara Poutama as the Principal Advisor Toi Ora for Te Waipounamu involves integrating Māori cultural practices into rehabilitation programmes. Through Hone's experiences, we've learned about the impact of the Hōkai Rangi Strategy, and the importance of humanising and healing, restoring connections to whakapapa, and fostering participation and accountability.

But our journey doesn't end here. Next up, we delve into the story of Mark Lang, a man who refused to let his past define his future. From prisoner to gallery owner, Mark's journey of transformation through artistic practice is one you won't want to miss.

Join us next time for another episode of Art Inside. Until then, kia pai te haere.

This podcast was written, edited and produced by Iona McNaughton, Sophie Macdonald and myself, Neil Wallace. The title track is Halftime Groove by Andrew Dixon. 


We invite you to listen to the following episodes.

Beth Hill

Hone Fletcher

Mark Lang


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