The judge who pushed for the development of the Rangatahi Courts, Ngā Kōti Rangatahi o Aotearoa, has been recognised internationally for his Māori youth justice advocacy.
Judge Heemi Taumaunu has been given the 2016 Veillard-Cybulski Award by the International Institute for the Rights of the Child.
The first of the Rangatahi Courts was established in Girborne in 2008, with Taumaunu overseeing the development of the court’s protocols and encouraging other judges to establish other marae-based youth courts.
Eight judges currently run Rangatahi Courts at 14 marae, including in Auckland and Christchurch.
The judges of the biennial award said the practice put into place by Rangatahi Courts, which includes helping Māori youth better understand their individual and cultural identities, has been highly effective and useful.
The Rangatahi Courts process includes group conferences that adhere to tikanga or Māori protocols held on marae where a collective decision is made on what happens to a young person.
The Rangatahi Courts, adapted by the Auckland-based judge from the Koori Courts system that cater to indigenous youth in Australia, meaningfully involves local Māori communities and the youths’ whānau in the process of rehabilitation.
Taumaunu now sits in Rangatahi Courts at Orākei in Auckland, Hoani Waititi in Waitakere, Ōtautahi in Christchurch and Te Poho-o-Rāwiri in Gisborne.
According to New Zealand Chief District Court Judge Jan-Marie Doogue, Taumaunu was unaware he had been nominated for the award.
“I see this as a shared honour which recognises the commitment of all the judges involved in Rangatahi Courts and those communities who have embraced the concept of marae-based courts so their young people are offered more culturally appropriate access to justice,” the judge said in a statement.
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