Māori to address "racist" justice system

By Kereama Wright

Māori experts in justice are being welcomed on to Te Papaiouru Marae in Ohinemutu. The pōhiri kicks off a three day long hui.  

Te Ohu Whakatika (TOW), a group of representatives from eleven regions across Aotearoa, was established and mandated to convene the hui Māori. 

In a press release, TOW says, "This is a hui by Māori for Māori voices, government ears, and collective action.  We must have brave, uncomfortable conversations to reform our system of injustice."

"At the Criminal Justice Summit held in Wellington last year, Justice Minister Andrew Little reaffirmed his commitment to ensuring that the voices of Māori are at the heart of the criminal justice reform work that the government is undertaking.  The summit was attended by over 600 people, 200 of whom were Māori."

Last year's attendees called for space to discuss a Māori response to the reformation of the Justice System.

From that caucus, a call was made for a national hui Māori to be held.  The minister supported the call and made a commitment to enable the hui to take place.

The theme for the hui is "Ināia Tonu Nei - now is the time.  We lead, you follow".

“The theme drives the hui Māori programme and unapologetically declares the space as Māori-led.” a TOW spokesperson says. 

"The shift from whānau Māori who are surviving to whānau who are thriving requires the realisation of the Treaty partnership- this hui is a step towards that," says hui organiser, Katie Murray. 

Keynote speakers include Justice Joe Williams [and] Moana Jackson who will provide an update on his report.

"All participants are speakers and listeners of change.  Our focus is Inamata, Onamata, Anamata- to celebrate the past and understand the present and how do we look at the future," says the TOW spokesperson.

"The hope of this hui is to address this key issue that is faced by Māori.  Our hope is to influence people with levers, who can make the change through the whole justice pipeline."

The stated purposes of the hui are to:

1.    Contribute to and influence the reform programme.

2.    Build and strengthen relationships within te ao Māori.

3.    Build and strengthen accountability of the justice sector with Māori.

4.    Recognise and advance the critical space Māori must hold, which is central to any justice reform and indeed transformation.

5.    Be heard in ways that lead to actions (by the government) that Māori have called for.