An attempt to address Māori reoffending rates launched

The biggest problem with Māori imprisonment levels is that too many Māori get involved in crime in the first place.

People identifying as Māori make up about 15% of the new Zealand population, but just over half of those in prison are Māori.

Ethnicity of Prisoners (March 2019)

However it is very difficult to deal with problems before they manifest themselves as criminal activities.  High recidivism rates are also a major problem.

Corrections: Re-imprisonment rates by ethnicity

The re-imprisonment rate over 48 months for Maori offenders (55%) is considerably higher than the rate for both NZ Europeans (45%) and Pacific offenders (36%).

graph-6

Overall recidivism rates are bad, but especially so for Māori

So the Government are trying to break the cycle of Māori reoffending and imprisonment with a new plan. It will take time to tell how effective it will be, but different ways of addressing the problem have to be tried to try and turn things around.

Announced yesterday:


A whānau-centred pathway to break the cycle of Māori reoffending

The Government has today announced it is taking action on the long-term challenge of Māori reoffending rates and delivering on its target to reduce the prison population by 30 per cent, with the creation of a new Māori Pathway at Hawke’s Bay Regional Prison and Northland Region Corrections Facility.

This initiative will be co-designed and implemented by Māori, with Corrections, Te Puni Kōkiri, and the Ministry for Social Development (MSD) working together in partnership with hapū and iwi. It will initially focus on Māori men under 30 years of age, as this group has the highest reconviction and reimprisonment rates. The Pathway will enable people to experience a kaupapa Māori and whānau-centred approach for all of their time with Corrections, from pre-sentence to reintegration and transition in their community.

Corrections Minister Kelvin Davis says the $98 million Wellbeing Budget investment is a major first step in changing the way Corrections operates to help break the cycle of Māori reoffending and imprisonment.

“We are acknowledging that our system does not work for the majority of Māori. The answer is not another programme. This is a new pathway for people in prison and their whānau to walk together. This is a system change and a culture change for our prisons – and that change starts today,” Kelvin Davis said.

“The Māori Pathway delivers on a number of our Government’s priorities. It’s about reducing reoffending so there are fewer victims of crime, building closer partnerships with Māori, and enabling us to keep delivering on our target to reduce the prison population by 30 per cent.

“This is a great example of the Wellbeing approach in action, with a number of agencies working together to target long-term change.”

Whānau Ora Minister Peeni Henare acknowledges his colleagues Kelvin Davis and Carmel Sepuloni for being bold and taking a whānau-centred approach to their mahi.

“This is real progress towards incorporating Whānau Ora into their portfolios and agencies, extending Government support and buy-in to the Whānau Ora approach, as recommended by Tipu Mātoro ki te Ao,” Peeni Henare said.

“Whānau Ora successfully supports positive outcomes for whānau because it recognises the power of the collective and promotes self-determination. It is a holistic and strengths-based approach, allowing whānau to define and work towards their own aspirations. This is an important step for Government to improve whānau wellbeing.”

Minister for Social Development Carmel Sepuloni says MSD is committed to supporting the person and their whānau to achieve their goals.

“This is an exciting initiative which aligns with recommendations in the Welfare Expert Advisory Group’s report to improve outcomes for Māori and enhance support for people in prisons,” Carmel Sepuloni said.

Should the government take care of people, or enable people to take care of themselves?

Or both to varying degrees?

Is there a natural progression of community and care (for some) from whanaua to hapu to iwi – to Government?

Everyone wants health care provided, and education, a protective police force and a bunch of other things. And many people like financial assistance and housing assistance, if not to be fully provided for.

Richard Harman raised this in his coverage of Labour’s conference in the weekend:

The most eloquent outline to the conference of what that might be came not from her  but from her deputy party leader, Kelvin Davis.

He said that the Labour party was in government to take care of people.

“As a government, we are not only changing policy and legislation,” he said.

“We are changing the way we see ourselves as a country.”

The same idea; that this was a government that was changing things ran through a speech from Finance Minister, Grant Robertson.

From Kelvin Davis’ Speech to the 2018 Labour Party Conference:

We are tackling many hard issues as a government. Housing, child poverty, prison numbers, climate change, improving the wellbeing of our country. None of the answers are easy. But we know taking on these challenges is the right thing to do.

Because, unlike the other lot, when we talk about eradicating child poverty, helping those whanau that are struggling the most, we are not just talking about percentages, headlines and numbers on a spreadsheet.

Poverty has a face. It has names.

We are talking about our neighbours, our friends, our whanau.

And that is what sets a Labour Government apart from the rest.

In the end we are in Government to take care of people

From Grant Robertson’s Speech to the 2018 Labour Party Conference:

Next month the Treasury will release its first Living Standards Dashboard.  This will show a range of indicators of our current wellbeing as a nation.  It includes the tangible, like incomes and home ownership, but also the intangible like life satisfaction and cultural wellbeing.  It is a work in progress.  We need to make sure it is truly reflective of Aotearoa New Zealand, and all that makes us unique. It will evolve over the coming years. But it is a great start to a new way of thinking about what counts as success.

How much should the Government provide for the wellbeing of New Zealanders?

Moreover, people voted for Labour because they knew that we cared about them, we were part of the community and they trusted us to look out for their families.

Is the Labour Party a part of a caring community? Should the Government be seen as a caring benefactor? To some extent that’s expected. The question is, how much?

Some people want the Government to intervene and to provide for them, they want the Government to help them and care for them.

Others want the Government to keep out of their lives as much as possible, to not interfere, to be a provider of health, education and services in the background only.

We can’t avoid the Government having a major effect on all of our lives, through tax gathering, provision of infrastructure and services. Those of us who survive to 65 get universal superannuation for the rest of our lives.

No one argues against having prisons for those who offend against the wellbeing of others.

Some people need more care than others, Some are genuinely disadvantaged through illness and disability. Their families and caregivers deserve some assistance.

How much should the Government care for the people? Of course we hope that politicians care, but how much care should they actually provide? We don’t pay enough tax to enable the Government to provide the care that people want.

To an extent it is a question of how much we want the Government to be a visible and engaged provider or care, or whether they making things available with a more background role.

Many of us have moved to a more satellite self sufficient society, but some want more provided.

Perhaps there are different cultural expectations. Do Maori (generally) expect the Government to be a more community engaged caregiver? They may think that there’s a natural progression from whanau to hapu to iwi to Government.

That’s quite different to how I see things. That doesn’t mean one is right or wrong, just that there are widely varying needs and expectations.

Should Government be the umbrella caregiver?

Parata: families and society must step up

As she ends her tenure as Minister of Education Hekia Parata says that the responsibility for education goes beyond schools.

NZ Herald: Schools can’t teach everything, outgoing Education Minister Hekia Parata warns

Outgoing Education Minister Hekia Parata says a push for schools to cover all civic and social responsibilities needs to be resisted – saying families and society must step up.

Parata highlighted the issue during an exit interview with the Herald before she steps down from the role on May 1, with Associate Education Minister Nikki Kaye expected to take over.

“We should demand a lot from our education system because we have a quality one. But we shouldn’t demand everything,” Parata said.

“Financial literacy, sex education, bullying – any number of issues – whenever they emerge in the public domain the first response is, ‘This should be taught by schools’. I think there needs to be a much fairer shared responsibility here between parents, family, whanau.

“Schools are there to deliver an education. They are not there to take over all the roles and responsibilities of families or society. The more there is balance in those expectations the more the schools can have the space to be the best that it can be.”

Parata makes an important point.

Curiosity and diligence and a willingness to learn has to start at home, with parents and with wider whanau.

By the time kids get to school – or even to early childhood education – they will have learnt off those they live with.

But how parents and whanau learn how to teach their children better?

And right through a child’s school it is important for parents not to just leave education up to the Government or to schools.

More important than learning stuff is the gaining the ability and desire to learn. A babbling teacher will struggle without a curious child.

There is a growing tendency for some to expect schools to feed the kids, parent the kids, provide social support, and try to fit in a bit of the three ‘R’s.

Most of what most animals learn is from observation, by copying, mimicking, learning off those they associate with. Especially off those they are close to and trust.

Education begins at home, and needs to continue at home. Schools can be a major help, but they will never replace the essential role of parents and whanau.

Reaction to Family and Whanau Violence Bill

The Family and Whanau Violence Bill that was introduced into Parliament yesterday.

Family violence is a big issue. Violence not only affects the well being of adults and children in families, it has adverse flow on effects in health, education, crime, imprisonment rates and employment.

I can’t find any reaction from Labour.

Green MP Jan Logie in Stuff – Overhaul of family violence laws goes before Parliament:

Green Party women’s spokeswoman Jan Logie said the Government’s reforms were “an important first step”, but she still had concerns about inconsistencies in ensuring the safety of children.

Logie wanted the reinstatement of the Bristol clause, which would refuse abusive former partners access to their children until their safety was assured, and was also concerned about a lack of funding for support services like Women’s Refuge.

“If we’re going to be asking these organisations to do this extra service and they’re struggling to stay open and meet the demand, then it’s not going to work.”

Justice Minister Amy Adams…

…said the safety of children was an “absolutely paramount consideration” both in existing law and the family violence reforms.

“We’ve done a lot more in these reforms, but broadly speaking, the underlying rationale still remains, which…has always and continues to put the safety of children right at the forefront of decision-making.”

Then-Prime Minister John Key announced the overhaul last September…

…saying the Government would not “shy away” from tackling family violence.

“The challenge of reducing family violence lies with all of us, with the Government, the police, social agencies and with everyone who knows that violence is occurring.”

Police Commissioner:

At the time, the announcement was welcomed by Police Commissioner Mike Bush, who said being able to identify family violence offenders more easily would make it easier for police to provide support.

Women’s Refuge media release:


Women’s Refuge welcomes The Family and Whānau Violence Legislation Bill

The introduction of the much anticipated Family and Whānau violence legislation has been warmly welcomed by family violence organisation Women’s Refuge. The legislation introduced to parliament today places a far greater emphasis upon victim safety – a long overdue and applauded move. This change will see the justice sector required to place victim safety at the heart of much of their decision making, especially in to care of children and bail issues.

Women’s Refuge Chief Executive Dr Ang Jury says “we are very pleased to see the government has taken seriously the concerns and suggestions from those working at the coal face in crafting this comprehensive piece of family violence legislation; the strong emphasis on the safety of victims and their children is a great move”

Under the proposed legislation, processes around the granting and policing of Protection Orders by the Courts have been significantly strengthened. Information including risk factor information will now be made available to Police Districts when an Order is granted and breaches of Protection Orders will now be treated as aggravating factors at sentencing. In addition all bail applications before the Court must include careful consideration of victim safety.

“Incidents of family violence and abuse including breaches of Protection Orders are rarely isolated or ‘one off’ incidents, they are deliberate and frequently repeated. To see this reflected in the way the courts sentence is a significant step towards ensuring a victim’s safety is paramount”

Legislation changes will also include better recording and acknowledgement of family violence, better information sharing provisions between government and family violence agencies, the introduction of a code of practice across the sector, and the inclusion of new classes of offences. While Women’s Refuge has yet to see the details of all of these, they are positive about the proposed changes.

“We are pleased to see focused attention to strangulation and marriage by coercion with the introduction of these new offences. The inclusion of animal abuse in the new definition is also extremely pleasing as we know that threats of harm to pets are a frequent control tactic utilised by perpetrators; to see this explicitly recognised is a great step forward.”

The Family and Whānau Violence Legislation Bill was introduced to Parliament today to overhaul the Domestic Violence Act, amend five Acts and make consequential changes to over thirty pieces of law.

Overhaul of family violence laws

Yesterday the Government introduced the Family and Whānau Violence Legislation Bill, which aims at overhauling the Domestic Violence Act, amend six Acts and make consequential changes to over thirty pieces of law.

Press release from Minister of Justice Amy Adams:


Family violence laws introduced to Parliament

Legislation that overhauls the family violence system is a core part of reducing New Zealand’s horrendous rate of family violence, says Justice Minister Amy Adams.

The Family and Whānau Violence Legislation Bill was introduced to Parliament today to overhaul the Domestic Violence Act, amend six Acts and make consequential changes to over thirty pieces of law.

“It’s undeniable that one of the most concerning and most difficult social issues facing New Zealand is our unacceptably high rate of family violence. Part of this is the ingrained and insidious nature of the problem. But it’s also in the fact that there’s no easy or quick fix,” Ms Adams says.

“To properly tackle family violence we need to create an effective, integrated system for addressing it. We need a system that acts early to stop perpetrators hurting their families, protects victims, and breaks the cycle of re-offending.

“The omnibus Family and Whānau Violence Bill is an important part of building a new way of dealing with family violence. It implements our Safer Sooner reforms announced in September 2016 aimed at breaking the pattern of family violence and reducing the harm and cost inflicted on those who suffer violence and on the wider New Zealand society.

“These reforms will strengthen family violence laws and build the legal framework necessary to deliver the wider component of the work programme.

“There is no doubt that making a difference in family violence is hard. But I’m proud to be part of a Government that’s prepared to take on the big challenges.”

Key provisions of the Bill includes:

  • getting help to those in need without them necessarily having to go to court
  • ensuring all family violence is clearly identified and risk information is properly shared
  • putting the safety of victims at the heart of bail decisions
  • creating three new offences of strangulation, coercion to marry and assault on a family member
  • making it easier to apply for a Protection Order, allowing others to apply on a victim’s behalf, and better providing for the rights of children under Protection Orders
  • making evidence gathering in family violence cases easier for Police and less traumatic for victims
  • wider range of programmes able to be ordered when a Protection Order is imposed
  • making offending while on a Protection Order a specific aggravating factor in sentencing
  • supporting an effective system of information sharing across all those dealing with family violence
  • enabling the setting of codes of practice across the sector.

A copy of the Bill is available at https://goo.gl/HSnwza

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