Celebrating success and hope for our young people was the theme of the visit by Mental Health and Addiction Inquiry panel members to the Youth Unit based at Christchurch Men’s Prison.
Panel members Dean Rangihuna and Josiah Tualamali’i visited young people at the facility today to talk with them about their successes as part of the Inquiry panel’s ongoing meetings with community and stakeholder groups across Aotearoa.
Recently several of the young people in the unit received their Duke of Edinburgh awards and earlier this year completed a marathon inside the prison fence. Josiah Tualamali'i, the youth voice on the Inquiry panel, says he was moved by these achievements and wanted to find out more about the successes of the young men at the unit. “My first thought was what’s going on for these young people. They have found hope and achieved some amazing accomplishments. Completing a marathon is no simple task and these young men have shown incredible determination and character in doing this.
“We know that over 90 per cent of prisoners have mental health or addiction issues. Our Inquiry is looking at what can help transform the really difficult situation that some young people find themselves in across Aotearoa, and all of our communities with their mental health and addictions and support services around them.
“Dean and I have visited today to hear directly from the young men about what has worked for them, the challenges they have confronted and the ideas they have that will help them see a better future.”
For Dean Rangihuna, the consumer voice on the Inquiry panel, today’s visit was uplifting. “These amazing whanau have looked adversity in the face, having sometimes experienced chaotic personal situations including mental health and addiction challenges and have done the hard yards to achieve truly great things. Running a marathon and gaining Duke of Edinburgh awards, designing and maintaining their own veggie gardens and their artistic ability shown in their murals are huge achievements.
“I am familiar with the backgrounds many of these young people have come from so to see them taking up these opportunities makes me immensely proud. From the open and honest kōrero today, they have shared with us inspirational ideas that will help us as panel members,” says Dean.
Josiah and Dean also spent some time with Department of Corrections staff working in the unit. “We are grateful for Corrections facilitating the visit today and sharing their insights. Hearing about their recently launched Mental Health Strategy will help inform the panel in its work. As part of our brief we are asking people what is working, what isn’t and what could be done better so the ideas and insights will be invaluable.
It was an honour to meet these young people who are working so hard, to grow into awesome young men, and the awesome staff supporting them,” say Josiah and Dean.
Corrections has dedicated youth units at Hawke’s Bay Regional Prison and Christchurch Men’s Prison. The units provide a supportive youth focused environment designed to set them up to lead a crime free life when they leave prison.