Sir Kim Workman named Knight Companion in New Year Honours

By Talisa Kupenga

Ngāti Kahungunu ki Wairarapa and Rangitāne descendant Kim Workman has been named a Knight Companion in the New Year honours. He is recognised for his services to prisoner welfare and the justice sector.

Sir Kim Workman is happy he'll still be called dad even though he's earned a new title.

Son Matiu Workman says “I don't think Dad would appreciate [us calling him Sir]. Even if I did I'd probably have the mickey taken out of me."

Sir Kim was “gobsmacked” when his family received the news but says it's an honour.

"My wife Carolyn received the letter and called me all excited on the phone.

“I don't think anybody in Ngāti Kahungunu ki Wairarapa has been Knighted before so it's a first and I'm really pleased for that for my iwi, for my marae at Pāpāwai. I also through of all the people who have supported us over the years."

Matiu says "I know he feels this is not just about him and our family, but for the iwi as well and the next leaders that will come after him."

After experiencing severe depression in 1995 Sir Kim says he wanted to change attitudes towards the criminal justice system.

“That was a turning moment for me. Over that period I started to think about what was happening and realised that was going to be my role, to get involved in changing attitudes in the criminal justice system and I started to formulate ideas about justice reform.”

Sir Kim has served in the Police, the Office of the Ombudsman, The Department of Māori Affairs and the Ministry of Health.

He was the recipient of a Queen's Service Order in 2007 and has held roles including the National Director of Prison Fellowship New Zealand and Families Commissioner.

He says “I’ve been involved in the justice system in one way or another for most of my life … there was concern about the number of Māori ending up in prison and dealing with issues affecting Māori in the areas of unemployment, poverty and so forth for many years and all of those things impacted on me.”

One of his proudest achievements was establishing the youth criminal justice organisation JustSpeak in 2011.

“I thought only five or six people would turn up but about 44 turned up and within two months we had this amazing group of young people writing submissions, holding public meetings and writing marvellous reports, all evidence based.

“The way that they did it struck me as being so right. They did it with respect, they didn’t abuse people and they hosted everyone and anyone but they treated all opinions as if they were worth listening to.”   

Sir Kim says tikanga Māori is the way forward to improve the justice system but in the past Government has tended not support a Māori approach and not given Māori appropriate opportunities to participate.

“I think we’re starting to move towards thinking that perhaps we need to give Māori a greater say and power in developing approaches that work for Māori.

"Pakeha see how that works and want to be part of it. We've seen it more recently with iwi community panels like 'Pae Oranga' that a lot of Pākeha offenders want to be part of that system and have opted to be dealt with through that system because it has so many different elements. It's more postive it's not so much about assuming that all offenders are risky as a danger but seeing them as the potential to change."

Sir Kim says it would be great to be Knighted at his marae Pāpāwai near Greytown.