Māori makes up over half of NZ prison population, but unlike Māori male inmates, Māori women have never had culture-based programmes as a rehabilitation tool, until now.

Christchurch Women's Prison has introduced a new Māori cultural environment strategy and its backers say it's already bearing fruit.

The Mana Wahine Strategy was first implemented in February.

According to kaiāwhina Puawai Swindells-Wallace, for some, prison is where they learn about being Māori.

“The name of the Christchurch Women's Mana Wahine unit is Hine Ahuone, who, of course, is the first wahine to come into existence.”

Hine Ahuone is the first place that a kaiāwhina was employed to help prisoners navigate their new Māori environment which engages art, song, storytelling and Māori practices to encourage wellbeing.

Current stats say Māori women account for 56% of female prisoner rates in NZ but Swindells-Wallace says she's seen the positive progress first hand.

“I’m not measuring those outcomes by numbers; I’m just observing the prisoners. They want to be good; they want to be well behaved, so those are the kinds of behaviours that I’m seeing now that I wasn't seeing before.”

While it's a Māori environmental strategy, all prisoners are welcome to take part, and corrections say they are confident that Mana Wahine can help these women move forward.

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