'We are shocked' – funding cut to Pasifika training provider forces it to close down

One of New Zealand's biggest tertiary providers for Pacific people is to shut its doors after having all its funding cut.

Around 20,000 students have graduated from Best Pacific Institute of Education over 30 years – but today 150 campus staff were told the bad news.

In 2014 the Tertiary Education Commission funded the institute $15.5 million but this dropped to $8.7 million this year – mostly due to falling enrollments.

Several years ago the roll numbered well over 3000 – but it's dropped to 1200 this year.

The chief executive of the Tertiary Education Commission says Best Pacific has a high fixed cost structure so low roll levels means the business structure is not viable.

"Best has been a strong contributor to the market over the last 25 years so we have been working extensively with them to see if we can fund them going forward but that just isn't possible".

Best Pacific chief executive Rachel Skudder says they are shocked, as like other tertiary providers it's had a couple of challenging years, but things had started to turn around for them this year.

She said in three decades Best Pacific Institute of Education has made a difference to people's lives, as many had never thought they could achieve a qualification.

"You only have to come to one of our graduations to see the numbers of students who are the first in their family to cross the stage with a tertiary qualification," she says.

Ms Skudder says the priority is to work with NZQA and The Tertiary Education Commission to make sure that the current students, some of them halfway through specialised courses, will have somewhere to go next year and that their coursework will be recognised.

Staff at Best Pacific Institute of Education were told today that they are out of a job, and students are also in limbo. Source: 1 NEWS

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Israeli court fines two Kiwi activists $23,600 over Lorde boycott letter

An Israeli court has ordered two Kiwi women to pay about NZ$19,000 in damages for writing a letter to Lorde asking her to not perform in Israel due to its occupation of Gaza.

Justine Sachs and Nadia Abu-Shanab appealed to the singer in an open letter in December asking her to "join the artistic boycott of Israel".

Lorde acknowledged the letter and cancelled her show days later, saying, "I have had a lot of discussions with people holding many views, and I think the right decision at this time is to cancel the show".

Three Israeli ticket holders, Shoshana Steinbach, Ayelet Wertzel and Ahuva Frogel, then filed a lawsuit in January under a law that allows civil lawsuits against anyone who calls for a boycott against Israel.

All three ticket holders had received refunds for the tickets, the Jerusalem Post reports, but despite that, they claimed their "artistic welfare" had been harmed by the cancellation - "and above all damage to their good name as Israelis and Jews".

Yesterday, NZT, Judge Mirit Fohrer agreed and imposed fines of NIS$45,000, plus NIS$11,000 - this equates to about NZ$23,600 in total.

Their lawyer, Nitsana Darshan-Leitner of the Shurat HaDin advocacy group, said the decision sends a message that "no one can boycott Israel without paying for it."

Darshan-Leitner said she intended to enforce the judgment through "international treaties" and go after the women's bank accounts, either in New Zealand or if they try to travel abroad.

The ruling is believed to be the first time the 2011 Israeli law has been applied.

Ella Yelich-O'Connor, better known as Lorde, with her six Tui Awards at the Vodafone New Zealand Music Awards 2017.
Ella Yelich-O'Connor, better known as Lorde, with her six Tui Awards at the Vodafone New Zealand Music Awards 2017. Source: Luke Appleby/1 NEWS

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'Heartbreak upon heartbreak' - one Māori woman's experience of the criminal justice system

Awatea Mita's earliest memories of the police aren't favourable ones.

"My brother was beaten up on the front doorstep of our house more than once," she said. "Our mother was strip searched for no other reason that we could think of than to humiliate her."

Her mother was a filmmaker, documenting the Springbok protests.

"It was scary for us we were just children," Ms Mita said.

As an adult, she spent two years in jail for non-violent drug offending.

"Eleven months into my sentence, my 13-year-old passed away in a swimming accident at Whakatane. That was five years ago but I still carry that pain with me."

As a minimum security prisoner Ms Mita said she was eligible for three days' leave to attend her son's tangi. But the prison bungled the paperwork and she was granted just 12 hours instead. After travel time, there was little left.

"I got to spend 10 minutes with my son before we put the lid on the coffin. We took him up to the urupā, he was buried, I got to eat with my family, then back on the road to Gisborne," she said.

In total she spent just four hours with her whānau that day.

"It was just heartbreak upon heartbreak," she said.

The prison staff never apologised, she said.

Awatea now works in restorative justice, as well studying psychology, criminology and Te Reo Māori fulltime.

"As a sister and as an auntie of so many nieces and nephews whom I love," she said. "I want to dedicate the future direction of my life towards creating a better future for them."

THE COLONISATION FACTOR

New Otago University research on Māori perceptions of the criminal justice system echoes Ms Mita's story.

Of the 900 Māori surveyed, 90 per cent blame colonisation and racism for their higher rates of imprisonment.

More than half of those who responded had whānau in prison at some point. Nearly all knew someone who had been to prison.

Māori make up 15 per cent of the general population, but more than half the country's prisoners.

Over-representation of indigenous people in prisons is also seen in the United States, Canada, and Australia.

Lawyer Moana Jackson of Ngāti Kahungunu, Ngāti Porou says colonisation was the common denominator.

"The base relationship from which every other relationship flowed was the relationship with the land. You are tangata whenua because you had whenua to be tangata upon.

"If the land is the basis of a people's existence and the base of who they are, then if you take away that base you cause trauma, you cause heartache, you cause suffering.

"When that's overlaid with all of the other things like punishing people for speaking their language and so on, then that compounds the trauma," he said.

The criminal justice system was also at odds with Māori culture, Dr Jackson said.

"We had no word for guilty in our language, so if someone caused harm, rather than asking, 'do you plead guilty or not guilty', the question asked was 'do you understand the harm you have done', and 'do you know who you have harmed'," he said.

A STUBBORN ISSUE

Thirty years ago, Dr Jackson published his research on Māori and the criminal justice system, he said all that's changed, "is that the rate of Māori women in prison has risen to 64 per cent".

"[That] makes our women per capita the most imprisoned group of women in the world. I think that's a shocking, shameful figure. It's particularly shocking that's the only change since the 1980s," he said.

Dr Jackson's now updating that research, finding 80 per cent of the former Māori inmates he spoke to were placed in care as children. Of that, 80 per cent were physically and sexually abused while in care.

"I think how we're doing criminal justice in NZ is at odds with the goals we hope to achieve by having a criminal justice system," Ms Mita said.

She summarised those goals as repairing harm, reducing re-offending, and helping people with their mental health, addiction and other problems before they got into trouble.

The Government is set to consider ideas gathered at the justice summit by the end of the year.

So stories like Awatea's will not continue for another 30 years.

Mita was sent to prison for non-violent drug offences and got just ten minutes with her son when he died. Source: 1 NEWS

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Inter-generational dance project explores women's movement in New Zealand

Dancers as young as 12 have teamed up with those as wise as 80, to create a dance exploring the women's movement in New Zealand.

The inter-generational project called "RESPECT: Perspectives in Motion" will be performed at Auckland's War Memorial Museum this weekend.

It's a response to a current exhibition, called "Are we there yet? Women and Equality in Aotearoa".

The collaborative performance has been organised by the New Zealand Dance Company, featuring ladies from their seniors dance classes and students taking part in their spring school holiday dance programme.

Professional dancer and tutor Katie Rudd says the two groups "bring some really unique energies and wisdom and experiences to the work".

"It's exploring the ideas around supporting and embracing all individuals in society."

"I wouldn't say it's a strong feminist movement of anything, it's more about looking at creating everyone as equals," she said.

Tutors have worked with the dancers taking part to choreograph the piece, incorporating a range of ideas and personal experiences.

"We had to write a letter to our younger self and then we took some key words out of that and created moves" said Felicity Learnan, one of the senior dancers.

"It's amazing how you can make the dance so meaningful."

Gail Alex, another senior dancer, says the project's been challenging.

"I'm far out of my comfort zone doing this, but getting more and more out of it as we go along" she said.

Their public performance will take place in the atrium of Auckland's War Memorial Museum, at 1pm on Saturday.

The international creation will be performed at Auckland Museum. Source: 1 NEWS


Search suspended for crew member missing from Sealord vessel off Wairarapa coast

The search for a missing crew member from a Sealord vessel off the coast of Wairarapa has been suspended due to deteriorating weather conditions today.

Sealord said they realised yesterday morning the crew member did not report for duty, and reported this to authorities immediately.

The crew member was not on active duty at the time of disappearance and the reason for the disappearance is still unknown at this stage, said the company.

Four vessels were sent out and involved in the search last night, however, due to deteriorating weather conditions this morning the search has been stopped until further notice. 

A decision will be made later on whether to resume the search.

Sealord's Otakou
Sealord's Otakou Source: Sealord