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Ngā Kōti Rangatahi

 Whakanuia Tekau Tau — Celebrating 10 Years

Ō tātou mate tūātini, i takoto mai ai i runga i ō tātou marae maha, i runga i ō tātou papa kāinga, i roto i ō tātou whare, kua uhia rātou ki ngā taumata kōrero e tika ana hei poroporoaki i a rātou. Nā reira, me kī pēnei ake te kōrero, tukuna rātou kia okioki i runga i te moenga roa. Āpiti hono, tātai hono, ko te akaaka o te rangi ki a rātou; āpiti hono tātai hono, ko te akaaka o te whenua ki a tātou te hunga ora.

We remember those who have passed on, those who have been mourned, acknowledged, and bid farewell on our many marae and throughout the many districts of our country. Therefore, it is customary to say, release those who have been joined in the long sleep of death, let them remain together, and those of us who remain, let us remain together in the world of the living.

On 30 May 2008, the first Rangatahi Court was convened at Te Poho o Rāwiri Marae in Gisborne. It was a watershed in youth justice in Aotearoa.

Youth Court judges led the initiative to offer rangatahi and their whānau, hapū and iwi a restorative option that integrates tikanga Māori into the court process, in a marae setting.

Scroll forward 10 years to February 2018 and a 15th Rangatahi Court opened at Terenga Paraoa marae in Whangarei. In the intervening years, the concept of Ngā Kōti Rangatahi – Rangatahi Courts has flourished. Māori communities have generously embraced the opportunity to contribute to holding their rangatahi to account, and to guide them in drawing strength from their culture to turn away from a path of crime.

Rangatahi Courts also operate at three marae around the Auckland region and in Hamilton, Huntly, Rotorua, Taupo, Whakatāne,

Tauranga, Gisborne, New Plymouth and Christchurch. Two Pasifika Courts have adapted the model for Pasifika communities in Auckland.

The kaupapa of the court is derived from the traditional whakataukī (proverb):

Ka pū te ruha, ka hao te rangatahi – the old net is cast aside, the new net goes fishing. In this proverb, “rangatahi” means both “the new net” and also, “the youth”, reflecting the ability of young people to redeem themselves from past behaviours and turn to healthier futures.

“The rule of law will be enhanced if the same law is applied but it speaks in the language of the Māori people it serves and it acts in accordance with their protocols”

A key aim is to connect young offenders to a better sense of who they are and where they are from. In turn, this encourages greater respect for themselves, their heritage, and for others in the community.

Kaumātua and kuia are closely involved in the court’s monitoring of a young person’s Family Group Conference plan to address the rangatahi’s offending. They sit alongside the judge to provide cultural insight and advice to young people and their whānau. While the focus is on young Māori who have offended, the opportunity of referral to the court is open to non-Māori.

Images of Manurewa wharenui, Owae wharenui and Te Poho o Rawiri wharenui.

Judge Heemi Taumaunu has led the Rangatahi Court movement with a vision to draw on the healing spirit of the marae. He believes that the rule of law will be enhanced if the same law is applied but it speaks in the language of the Māori people it serves and it acts in accordance with their protocols. He is now National Rangatahi Court Liaison Judge.

Image of Judge Taumaunu addressing kaumatua at Orakei Marae.

Judge Heemi Taumaunu addresses kaumātua at Orākei Marae during AIJA award celebrations in 2016.

Ngā Kōti Rangatahi are a response to the disproportionate numbers of young Māori appearing in the Youth Court. Reaching the 10-year milestone provides an opportunity to reflect on the courts’ impact. During these 10 years, more than 2,600 rangatahi have chosen to be dealt with in a marae setting, and the high levels of attendance by both rangatahi and whanau indicate the option is seen as valuable.

Image of Kaumatua and participants entering Te Poho o Rawiri Marae in 2008.

Kaumātua lead participants on to Te Poho o Rāwiri Marae in 2008, for the first Rangatahi Court sitting.

While improved access to justice is an important consideration, evidence suggests that those who have taken part are 11 percent less likely to commit new serious offences in the following 12 months than those in the mainstream Youth Court.

Image of a young person appearing before the Rangatahi Court.

A young person appears before a Rangatahi Court.

These positive outcomes have resulted in support for the further establishment of Ngā Kōti Rangatahi, and also for the principles to be extended into the adult jurisdiction in the form of the Matariki Court.

Over the decade the initiative has gained international accolades, including the Australasian Institute of Judicial Administration’s Award for Excellence in 2015.

Judge Taumaunu and the judges of Ngā Kōti Rangatahi thank all those who helped develop the courts.

Nō reira, ka nui ngā mihi maioha ki a koutou ko ngā kaumātua, ngā kuia me ngā kaitautoko o Ngā Kōti Rangatahi o Aotearoa. Tēna koutou katoa.


Image of Rangatahi Court hearing in Whakatane.

Judge Louis Bidois and Principal Youth Court Judge John Walker preside at a Rangatahi Court hearing in Whakatane.

Image of Judge G Davis and Judge D Clark.

Judge Greg Davis and Judge Denise Clark, the presiding judges at the 15th Rangatahi Court at Terenga Parāoa Marae.

Image of Terenga Paraoa marae on the opening of the 15th Rangatahi Court.

People are greeted on to the Terenga Parāoa marae in Whangarei for the opening of the 15th Rangatahi Court.