New cultural arts-based programmes and initiatives are under way or planned at Hawkes Bay Regional Prison, supporting Ara Poutama Aotearoa Department of Corrections’ Hōkai Rangi Strategy for 2019 to 2024.
This includes two new Offender Employment learning programmes, Toi Māori and Toku Haerenga Māori, a wood manufacturing programme weaving the values of manaakitanga, whānau, wairua, kaitiaki and rangatiratanga into the learning.
Another new programme, Heretaunga Haaro o te Kaahu, aimed at men in the prison’s Te Ara Māori (High Security Unit), is also planned and will employ a local artist as an arts kaiako/co-ordinator to facilitate it.
Tony Denton, Assistant Prison Manager (Acting), says Hawkes Bay Regional Prison is always thinking of new and innovative ways to work that will enhance learning opportunities and enable rehabilitation.
“Within the art programmes, you can see and feel the men’s attitudes and engagement towards learning improve,” he says. “When they’re passionate about what they’re doing, they’ll complete a course and are keen to know what’s next.
“There’s a motivational uplift to do more, which comes from learning opportunities that enhance their mana. This often leads to increased engagement within other education and rehabilitation interventions.”
Hōkai Rangi aims to address the over-representation of Māori in the corrections system by reducing the number of Māori in prison from 52 per cent down to 16 per cent to match the overall Māori population in New Zealand.
In the strategy’s foreword, Minister of Corrections Hon Kelvin Davis says the current state of New Zealand’s prison system is a “social and economic cost” that the country cannot afford.
“The statistics represent our mothers, our fathers, our grandmothers, our grandfathers, and, worst of all, our children and grandchildren. These statistics also represent a magnitude of untapped potential amongst our people.”
At the heart of the strategy is the concept of oranga or wellbeing. Everyone who participated in the strategy’s development was clear that this needed to be the focus, says Rachel Leota, National Commissioner, Ara Poutama Aotearoa.
Kotahi anō te kaupapa, ko te oranga o te iwi
“The strategy puts the whakatauki ‘Kotahi anō te kaupapa, ko te oranga o te iwi’ (There is only one purpose to our work, the wellness and wellbeing of people) at the centre of everything we do,” Rachel says.
“Providing creative space in the prison environment is an essential part of humanising and healing those in our care and involving their whānau in the journey.”
Rachel says that art plays an important role in realising Hōkai Rangi’s wellbeing outcomes and encouraging rehabilitation. “Through art and creative expression, people serving sentences can explore traditional skills, connect with their cultural identity and be supported by an environment that respects and enhances their mana.
“The Arts in Corrections sector plays an important role in supporting the implementation of Hōkai Rangi by providing opportunities for whānau involvement, incorporating a Te Ao Māori worldview through different art mediums and subject matter, and encouraging connection with whakapapa to foster a sense of belonging.”
In the first two years of Hōkai Rangi’s implementation, Corrections will focus on building the foundations needed for this new direction, Rachel says. This includes deepening critical relationships, investing significantly in health services and focusing on building workforce capability.
“This will enable major improvements to the way we work in years three to five and set the foundations for long-term, transformative change.”
"Access to culture is a fundamental right"
Hōkai Rangi has six key strategic areas for change, including “Incorporating a Te Ao Māori worldview” (see p17). Here, it states: "Access to culture is a fundamental right, not a privilege, regardless of a person’s circumstances such as security classification, behaviour, gang affiliation, gender or therapeutic needs.”
Chris Ulutupu, Arts in Corrections Advisor, Arts Access Aotearoa, says that for Māori, the arts – whakairo, waiata, kapa haka, toi atea – are integral to Te Ao Māori.
“Arts Access Aotearoa and members of the Arts in Corrections Network are keen to work with Corrections to develop a national arts strategy to complement Hōkai Rangi,” he says.
In Hawkes Bay Regional Prison, Rachel says, the men participating in Te Tirohanga kaupapa (Māori Focus Unit) and other cultural arts-based programmes and initiatives work across many different mediums, including whakairo.
“The men are proud to develop their carving skills and achieve qualifications in carving with the support of their instructors,” she says. “Seven whakairo panels were donated to Oranga Tamariki for display. It’s just one example of the many ways that art brings value to the community and restores mana for the people we manage.
“We are grateful to Arts Access Aotearoa for co-ordinating or promoting other donations that give back to the community. This includes raranga by men in Whanganui Prison, donated to Whanganui Hospice for fundraising, and art created at Otago Corrections Facility, donated to the Dunedin Art Show to fundraise for the White Ribbon campaign to raise awareness about the impact of family violence.”
Rachel Leota has been a member of the judging panel for the two Arts in Corrections leadership awards in Te Putanga Toi Arts Access Awards a number of times. In a blog she wrote about the 2018 recipients, she says:
“There’s a lot of talented people who we manage. But for many, they haven’t been successful in traditional educational forums, or the broader workforce and communities where they come from. And yet they are often intelligent people with a huge amount of creativity and the ability to achieve.
“The arts are a fantastic medium to explore this creativity and ability, and give people an opportunity to think how they might be able to provide for their whānau in the future. If we look at the arts as an access avenue to personal and whānau sustainability, then that’s a great thing and we should definitely be doing it.”