A judge-led initiative which provides a new approach to young adults appearing in court has had its official launch, but more than one milestone was marked by the Porirua community at the event.
A pilot of the Young Adult List began at the Porirua District Court in March 2020, and the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions delayed its official launch till 31 July.
Local iwi Ngāti Toa gifted a name, Iti rearea teitei kahikatea ka taea, to the Young Adult List at a ceremony held at the court and attended by more than 100 guests.
The name symbolises overcoming challenges by applying the same determination as the iti rearea (little bellbird).
As the Northern Wellington Manager Justice Services Steve Gunson explained, iti rearea is amongst the smallest in the forest, and by sheer determination it manages to fly over the top of the kahikatea, one of the tallest trees. In a similar way, the Young Adult List has been established to help those in this critical age bracket to overcome their challenges and reach great heights in their future lives.
The Young Adult List separates out those aged 18-25 and provides extra support to identify any particular health needs or disabilities the participants may have, adapting an approach used in the Youth Court.
Judge John Walker, the Principal Youth Court Judge, has led development of the Young Adult List court with the support of the Ministry of Justice, Judges from the Porirua District Court and the local Porirua community.
He told the guests that the new approach recognises that a high percentage of young adult offenders suffer from neuro-disabilities such as dyslexia, acquired brain injury and foetal-alcohol spectrum disorder.
“None of the challenges we see in the Youth Court expire when they come into this [adult] court, yet we have been in the habit of treating them as fully functioning adults when demonstrably they are not,” Judge Walker said.
Even those without the specific challenges had immaturity that made them vulnerable, he added.
Judge Walker especially thanked Steve Gunson, Porirua Service Manager Renee Higgison and Donella Gawith from the Ministry of Justice, who led the project team which helped develop the Young Adult List concept.
Justice Minister Andrew Little also attended the launch along with the Chief Justice, Dame Helen Winkelmann, the Chief District Court Judge, Heemi Taumaunu, the Principal Family Court Judge, Jacquelyn Moran, and the Secretary for Justice, Andrew Kibblewhite.
Renee Higgison paid tribute to Judge Walker’s leadership and his integral role in making the Porirua District Court part of its community from the time he was resident judge, and told of the beginnings of the Young Adult List concept.
As part of the launch, five new carved panels (above) were unveiled in the main courtroom telling of the links between the Crown and Ngāti Toa, and other communities who have made a home in the city from as far afield as Austria, the Pacific and Asia.
The panels are the latest addition to a set of panels installed in 2009 by local carver Hermann Salzmann (Ngāti Toa Rangatira, Ngāti Koata, Ngāti Raukawa), depicting the history, people and communities of Porirua.
A sixth panel was carved in honour of Judge Walker and his association with the Porirua District Court community.
Before the court ceremony Ngāti Toa kaumātua Dr Taku Parai led a pōwhiri at the Takapūwāhia marae.
|From top: Principal Youth Court Judge John Walker addresses the official launch.
Porirua Service Manager Renee Higgison explains the integral role Judge Walker has played in the court’s connection to its community.
Ngāti Toa kaumātua Dr Taku Parai gives a karakia before the name of the Young Adult List court is revealed.
Carver Hermann Salzmann and Judge Walker display the sixth panel, carved in the Judge's honour.
Judge Walker and Renee Higgison with the surprise taonga.
Joining the celebration with Principal Youth Court Judge John Walker are (L-R): Secretary for Justice Andrew Kibblewhite, Chief Justice, Dame Helen Winkelmann, Justice Minister Andrew Little, Chief District Court Judge Heemi Taumaunu and Principal Family Court Judge Jacquelyn Moran.
Below: Senior Judges and special guests gather for a pōwhiri at Takapūwāhia Marae before the main ceremony at the court.