Those were the words of Police Deputy Commissioner Wally Haumaha, who visited Nga Kete last week, along with several police colleagues, to talk about Iwi Community Panels and ensure the necessary systems and people were in place to guarantee its success in the south.
Nga Kete Matauranga Pounamu Charitable Trust is launching the new service Huarahi Hou (New Directions) Iwi Community Panels in collaboration with the New Zealand Police and local iwi, as an alternative resolution process for low-level offenders.
In his presentation to police and Nga Kete staff Mr Haumaha said Iwi Community Panels are a great opportunity to reduce reoffending or to look at taking people out of the criminal justice system, and look at how the panel can work with an offender around changing behavior.
Iwi Community Panels have been operating in three areas since 2014 (Gisborne, Manakau and Wellington), and in Christchurch since 2009 and were implemented because of the volume of Maori in the justice system.
“We would like to see a 25% reduction in Maori reoffending by 2025. That’s a huge, lofty goal but it’s one we think we can achieve by working with key providers such as Nga Kete and other organizations across the country. These organizations have really stood up and shown their willingness to be able to work and provide the right services in the right places to direct and challenge people into something positive where they can have better outcomes in their life.”
The programme has shown a reduction in reoffending within the 17-24 year age bracket of 11.9%. This was also a cost saving to the Government. For every $1 Government invested in the programme there was a return of $5.96, he said.
The panels have provided tons of inspirational stories.
Mr Haumaha gave an example of a young woman who had committed a theft offence. Rather than placing her back into the court system she was referred to the panel, where she walked into the room with “the swagger”, the defiant and anti-authority look, and slouched in the chair.
The panel members, rather than talk about her offence, discussed her wellbeing, her whakapapa, where she come from and what her family do. Through this it was revealed her partner had been beating her and sending her out to steal food and clothing for their three-year-old son, as well as money for his drug addiction.
With whanau support the young lady broke down. She was just a young person looking for help. The panel provided her with Whanau Ora services, looked after her tamariki and gave her options to put the child into Kohanga Reo.
Mr Haumaha is excited about expanding and said by the end of December there should be at least 10 Iwi Community Panels operating throughout the country.
About Iwi Community Panels:
People who are referred to the ICP are referred to as participants.
Police can refer a participant to the ICP if they are aged 17 years or over, the offence carries six months’ imprisonment or less (and is not an offence related to family violence or methamphetamine use) and the participant admits guilt. ICPs aim to target offences that can be resolved without charge and prosecution and where a pre-charge warning is not considered a sufficient response.
The participant will come before a panel made up of trained volunteers, and an independent observer takes notes and minutes the process. Nga Kete’s newly appointed ICP coordinator Mana Wright will oversee facilitation of ICP panels, keep all parties informed, and follow reparation through to completion.
In addition, Mana will assist by linking participants to Whanau Ora navigational approaches so goal setting can take place and pathway plans created. This can assist the individual in transformational change moving towards improved wellbeing and independence i.e. employment, training and health.
The process involves a meeting between panel members, the participant and whanau to discuss the offence committed. If there is a victim, they are also given the opportunity to attend.
The panels take a problem-solving approach, decide the level of reparation, i.e. community work, fine etc, and makes recommendations set to address factors that contribute to offending, and redress the harm caused by the offending.
* The panels are not exclusive to Maori.