Prison sites across the country are opening up again to visitors, volunteers, art programmes and artist tutors after they faced necessary safety restrictions due to COVID-19.
So what’s changed since 2020 and the impact of COVID-19? And looking ahead, what does the future hold for Arts in Corrections programmes across New Zealand’s 18 prisons?
At Arts Access Aotearoa, we’re focused on ensuring the strategic delivery of consistent, high-quality Arts in Corrections programmes. Ultimately, one-off, piecemeal arts projects are unsatisfying for both the deliverer and the recipient. Projects need to meet the cultural and educational needs of participants and be delivered by tutors qualified in their field.
I feel positive about the developing role of Arts in Corrections in Aotearoa as we move away from visitor restrictions.
Much-needed financial investment in the Arts in Corrections sector
Responding to the negative impact COVID had on the professional and community arts sector, the Government provided much-needed financial investment in the Arts in Corrections sector.
This means Arts Access Aotearoa is now working with Ara Poutama Aotearoa Department of Corrections and Manatū Taonga Ministry for Culture and Heritage on two significant initiatives that have strategic implications.
- The Creative Arts and Cultural Wellbeing Prison Initiative, where Manatū Taonga invested $3 million, has enabled Corrections to fund a dozen arts programmes to be delivered over 2022 to 2024/2025. These are exciting programmes, ranging from whakairo and raranga to music therapy, creative writing, theatre and visual art. They are being delivered in 13 prison sites from Invercargill and Otago through to Tongariro, Auckland and Northland. Read the list of recipients
- The Regeneration Fund via Manatū Taonga has provided Arts Access Aotearoa with funding for a project to be implemented over 2023/2024. Using a collaborative wāngana format, this project will build the professional standards and capability of artist tutors and provide resources for Arts in Corrections practitioners. We want to support and build a cohort of artists with the necessary skills to deliver high-quality arts projects in prisons, youth justice facilities and Community Corrections. This is about looking to the future.
The dozen programmes being delivered through the Creative Arts and Cultural Wellbeing Prison Initiative will all be evaluated by research companies Point and Associates Ltd and Awa Associates.
This evaluation programme will demonstrate meaningful data about the value of consistent, high-quality arts programmes and provide the reason for ongoing investment. Instead of relying on international evidence, New Zealand will for the first time have its own data.
Illustrating the positive impact of the arts as a rehabilitation and reintegration tool
Over the years, Arts Access Aotearoa has written many blogs, news stories and articles illustrating the positive impact of the arts as a rehabilitation and reintegration tool. This year, we’ve written several stories highlighting some of the programmes being undertaken through the Creative Arts and Culture Wellbeing Prison Initiative from 2003 to 2005.
Toi Māori to support healing and rehabilitation: whakairo and music programmes at Tongariro Prison
- Wāhine wake up their creative talents: the Awe Māreikura programme in Christchurch Women’s Prison
- Music therapy for Hawkes Bay tāne: facilitated by a music therapist from Raukatauri Music Therapy Centre in Hawkes Bay Regional Prison
Let me quote Anaru Baynes, who is the Reintegration Manager at Pathway Trust in Christchurch. In April 2023, Anaru wrote a blog called Therapeutic impact of music in prisons, describing the positive impact of Christchurch Symphony Orchestra musicians delivering workshops to the men in the Navigate Unit at Christchurch Men’s Prison. Pathway Trust was one of the dozen recipient of the Initiative funding.
“I wanted to write this reflection of the project to encourage other agencies to use the arts as a great way to achieve therapeutic and social goals. The positive outcomes are undeniable when you’re at the coal face: you see, feel and experience the difference these projects make – and not just for those we are supporting.”
Corrections has also been working with Arts Access Aotearoa to develop a national framework that will umbrella all of our work in Arts in Corrections. And Arts Access Aotearoa is forging ahead with its own Arts in Corrections strategy, following on from its 2021 Arts in Corrections Literature Review and based on the six arts practices outlined in the review.
This is essential strategic work and we are grateful for the trust of our funders and community partners, artists tutors and prisoners who engage with us.
Working strategically with adequate funding for key projects is a positive development for Arts in Corrections in Aotearoa now and in the future.