Kaupapa Maori and Restorative Justice: Bridging the Gap in Aotearoa

In a captivating joint presentation, Dr. Lorna Dyall, Raewyn Bhana, and George Ngatai took to the stage to delve into the profound relationship between the Kaupapa Maori paradigm and restorative justice in Aotearoa (New Zealand). The trio, who have been instrumental in supporting the integration of restorative justice within Maori communities, offered a perspective that highlighted the need for systemic change and how restorative justice can play a pivotal role in this transformation.

Titled “Kaupapa Maori and Restorative Justice: Kanohi ki te Kanohi”, the presentation began by elucidating the essence of working from a Kaupapa Maori standpoint. Dyall and her colleagues painted a vivid picture of how addressing harm from a victim’s perspective opens up a broader perspective on the continual victimization of Maori and other vulnerable groups in the community. It was a poignant reminder of how certain narratives have been overshadowed for decades, and how the Maori, despite being the indigenous people of the land, often find themselves marginalized.

The presentation didn’t just focus on the past and present; it boldly envisioned a future where Maori lives are recognized and valued. Dyall stressed the urgency of structural, social, justice, and political reforms that would allow the Maori to lead lives without the looming shadow of victimization. This powerful message underscored the alarming reality of how the Maori community has been disproportionately impacted, becoming mere statistics for police, courts, judges, and corrections facilities. It was a stark critique of how the system has, in many ways, failed the very people it’s supposed to protect and serve.

As the presentation progressed, the speakers didn’t shy away from addressing some of the most pressing global issues. The COVID-19 pandemic, which had gripped the world, was discussed in relation to its implications on the Maori community. Moreover, the tragic death of George Floyd in Minneapolis and the subsequent global outcry against racial injustice resonated deeply with the issues faced by the Maori. The decision to station the Armed Response Unit specifically in Maori and Pacific communities, without proper community engagement, was criticized as a glaring example of systemic discrimination.

However, it was the profound question posed by the presenters that truly gave food for thought: “What contribution does restorative justice offer to Maori?” Restorative justice, with its roots in addressing harm and ensuring healing, offers a ray of hope for the Maori community. It provides an avenue for not just retribution, but rehabilitation and reconnection.

The trio emphasized the idea that true justice for the Maori isn’t just about punishment, but also about ‘Aroha’ – love and compassion. They posited that in a land like Aotearoa, which boasts rich cultural heritage and history, every individual, regardless of their background, deserves justice, compassion, and most importantly, a fresh start.

In conclusion, the presentation by Dr. Lorna Dyall, Raewyn Bhana, and George Ngatai was a clarion call to re-evaluate and reform the systems in place. It was a testament to the resilience of the Maori community and the unwavering belief in a future where they aren’t just statistics but individuals with stories, dreams, and the undeniable right to justice and equality.