Rangatahi Courts initiative Human Rights Commission comment

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“A test of any justice system is how well it deals with its indigenous peoples. What we know is that young Maori who are connected to their identity and culture dont offend anymore than non Maori.

Principal Youth Court Judge Andrew Becroft, keynote speaker at the launch of the Manurewa Marae youth court, 23 September 2009.

Marae based Rangatahi Courts are a judicially-led initiative. Their purpose is to better link Maori young offenders with their culture and the local Maori community. The Rangatahi Courts arose from profound concern with the disproportionate involvement of young Maori in the Youth Justice system. Recently the Human Rights Commission enquired into the Rangatahi Courts initiative and observed a hearing at the Manurewa Rangatahi Court in Manukau. Some key human rights elements of the Rangatahi Court process emerge:

  • The responsibility to respect the rights of others and be accountable. Through the whole proceedings from the powhiri to the end of the hearing, marae pakeke and community people are present. Relationships with the community are made more real through tikanga elements including powhiri, hariru, sharing kai and whanaungatanga. The Rangatahi Court calls for the young person to be responsible not just to the victims or the law but also to the marae and the community.
  • The right to be treated with dignity and respect. Each hearing begins with the young person receiving a direct mihi from a kaumatua. Marae protocol accords respect to that young person and acknowledges their whanau and hapu links. This inherently places a responsibility on the young person to reciprocate with dignity. The Rangatahi Court provides a better opportunity for young people to engage and reflect than what they might have in a normal court environment.
  • The right to positive youth development. Through the Rangatahi Court process an explicit emphasis is placed on the positive development of that young person.
  • The right to identity and belonging. The young person is strongly supported to link to their cultural identity. Each young person is given the opportunity, and even challenged, to show pride in their cultural identity when they respond to the court. In pathway planning and judicial recommendations, encouragement is given for the young person to develop their cultural identity.
  • The right to cultural development. Cultural structures are given further validity by working in partnership with the judiciary. The marae as a cultural construct is acknowledged as essential for the positive development of that young person, the wh?nau and the whole community.
  • The right to participation and the responsibility to provide care. The Rangatahi Court encourages whanau to play an active role in the court monitoring of their young person. Whanau accompany the young person to the hearing and are given an opportunity to address the judge and marae. Affording whanau this voice also calls on the responsibility of whanau to provide positive guidance for their young people.
  • The responsibility to work together and the right to govern. The Rangatahi Court approaches a partnership model aspired to under the Treaty of Waitangi. Designated pakeke of the marae support the presiding Judge. Judiciary and pakeke strengthen a decision making process where each authority respects the distinctive but complementary rights and responsibilities of the other.

The legal reality affirms that the Rangatahi Court is not a separate system of justice. It works within the existing legal framework but adds value by using marae as a venue and tikanga Maori as an incorporated approach. The sustainability of the Rangatahi Courts relies on ongoing collaboration across government, marae, agencies and service providers, community and whanau. Of note to the Human Rights Commission is whether a review is needed of current recruiting systems to encourage Maori into careers at all levels of the judicial and court system. One area of need is where the demand for M?ori Youth Court Judges will surpass supply by the end of 2010. This recruitment review may be needed along-side a stock-take of professional development opportunities to relevant personnel, to ensure that they can deliver the tikanga expertise required for the marae setting.

Although already enjoying immediate outcomes, the profound outcomes of the Rangatahi Courts initiative will present themselves further into the future. The Human Rights Commission considers the expansion of Rangatahi Courts around the country to be a positive programme that aligns with important human rights principals.

The following waiata Te Kooti Rangatahi was written at the time of launching the Hoani Waititi Rangatahi Court in March 2010. Youth Court Judge Hemi Taumaunu – with assistance from others – wrote the waiata which greatly captures the essence of the Rangatahi Court principles.

Te Kooti Rangatahi/ (translation)

Tenei matou/Here we are

Te whakatipuranga/This generation

O tenei Ao/Living in todays world

Te nui o/(Alas) the great number

Nga rangatahi Maori/Of our Maori youth

E raru nei/Who are in trouble (with the law)

Ko te anga whakamua nei/The vision for the future

Kia whakahoki tatou e/is for us to return

Ki te Reo me ona Tikanga/To our Maori language, its customs and protocols

Kia mohio mai/So that our Maori youth will know

Ko wai? No whea?/Who they are, and where they are from

A tatou rangatahi e

E whai nei m?tou/We are seeking

I te ara tutuki pai/The pathway to achieve success

Aratika/The right path

Mo nga tamariki/For our children

Mokopuna e raru nei/And grandchildren who are in trouble (with the law)

Kia ora ai/To secure their well-being (for the future)

Ko te anga whakamua nei/The vision for the future

Kia whakahoki tatou e/ is for us to return

Ki te Reo me ona Tikanga/To our Maori language, its customs and protocols

Kia mohio mai/So that our Maori youth will know

Ko wai? No whea?/Who they are, and where they are from

A tatou rangatahi e

Te Kooti Rangatahi/The Rangatahi Court

(E) whakahoki nga taiohi/Returns the young person

Ki te marae/to the marae

Ka pu te ruha/On the basis that

Ka hao te rangatahi/the old worn out net is cast aside

Te kaupapa/and the new net goes fishing

Ko te anga whakamua nei/The vision for the future

Kia whakahoki t?tou e/is for us to return

Ki te Reo me ona Tikanga/To our Maori language, its customs and protocols

Kia mohio mai/ So that our Maori youth will know

Ko wai, No whea?/Who they are, and where they are from

A tatou rangatahi e

Kia mohio mai/So that our Maori youth will know

Ko wai? No whea?/Who they are and where they are from

A tatou rangatahi e

Whakamutunga Conclusion

Tuturu whakamaua kia tina. Tina!/Make it secure, make it tangible

Hui e, Taiki e!/Join together and be united

Many thanks to Marama Davidson for this amazing korero. The following is a profile on Marama.

Marama Davidson is a mokopuna of Te Rarawa, Ngapuhi and Ngati Porou iwi.

Marama works for the Human Rights Commission as an Advisor seeking to empower people with human rights. She has a particular focus on indigenous rights and working with Maori. She also has a passion for working with young people in strengthening their own accord to take up their responsibilities and make good decisions for themselves.

Marama lives in Tamaki Makarau with her husband and their six tamariki life is richly chaotic and fun!

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