Māori Wardens are now working at the Wellington District Court.
The initiative was introduced by Sue Little, Manager Justice Services, and Noelene Smiler, Operations Manager of Te Korowai o Te Whanganui a Tara Watene Māori, earlier this year to help break down barriers between court users and the court system and to improve responsiveness to Māori.
The Māori Wardens Joe Keith Onekawa and Hune June Kerehoma have been regularly supporting the courts three days a week, and provide invaluable support to the many court users and their whānau and supporters.
“They provide a service that is non-judgemental, empathic and understanding, being able to communicate with and listening to the many visitors” says Sue.
“Māori Wardens have been able to exercise their collective life skills including understanding, knowledge, wisdom and experience to dispel any threats of potential disruptions during court hearings.”
Although not the intent of the service, since taking up their duties court staff lawyers, police, corrections and court security have experienced a decrease in security incidents within the courts on the days they are present.
The Māori Wardens have been able to break-down barriers between the visitors, their families and the various government agencies working in the courts and provide a calming influence.
They have developed their positive relationships with court management and court security and considered to be an invaluable asset to the operation of the court process and are proving to be a credit their organisation should be very proud.