Māori must have genuine leadership role in criminal justice system overhaul, report says

by Sol Dolor26 Jul 2019

Māori must have a genuine leadership role in the overhaul of New Zealand’s criminal justice system, the Ināia Tonu Nei – The Time is Now: We Lead, You Follow report said.

The report that stemmed from the national hui Māori held in April in Rotorua echoes longstanding calls for true reform of the country’s justice system. It captures the kōrero at the hui, where 200 attendees discussed Māori experiences with the system.

The hui was organised after the Safe and Effective Justice Summit last year found that there was frustration over the lack of a genuine voice for Māori in the wider justice system reform program spearheaded by the government.

The report features several recommendations for the system’s reform, including the abolition of the current prison system. It also recommended that the Oranga Tamariki be abolished.

Ināia Tonu Nei also called for the Crown to take responsibility for intergenerational hurt.

“For generations Māori have suffered disproportionate adversity from a justice system that has been imposed on our people,” said Katie Murray, spokesperson for the report. “It is absolutely clear from any measure you look at that the justice system hurts Māori more than any other group in New Zealand. This is a crisis for Aotearoa, reflected in the highest ever numbers of Māori being caught in the justice pipeline than any other time in the history of Aotearoa.”

 She said that from the hui, the call was clear for the Crown to take responsibility for the legacy of colonisation and intergenerational trauma.

“The lived experience for Māori in the justice system is that it is racist and it is biased against Māori,” she said. “We say that anyone who believes that bias does not exist within the justice system does not truly understand the daily injustices faced by Māori in the justice system and we challenge them to engage with us with an open mind and a compassionate heart.”

The report said that a genuine partnership between Māori and the Crown, with Māori leadership, must be formed to reform the criminal justice system. The desire for a real partnership is strong, despite intergenerational trauma, said Tā Mark Solomon, a spokesperson for the report.

“The justice system cannot be reformed without leadership from Te Ao Māori. The Hui Māori called for the Crown to finally share power with Māori and for Māori-led responses to be central to the reformation of the justice system,” he said. “Māori have the knowledge, the relationships, the experience and capability to lead reform of the justice system.”

“We are calling on the Crown to join with Māori, build on the great initiatives that are already providing hope and better outcomes in our communities, and design a system that is fit for purpose in modern Aotearoa, New Zealand,” he said. “We can, and must, grasp this opportunity together to build a justice system that is safer and more effective for all New Zealanders. Ināia tonu nei, the time is now.”