Decolonizing Youth Justice: Addressing the Inherent Criminality of Rangatahi Māori and the Mainstream Education System

Pukepuke, Reegan Poutama
Tunufa'i, Laumua
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Master of Criminology and Criminal Justice
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Auckland University of Technology

This thesis explored the impact that the mainstream education system has had on the prevalence of anti-social and deviant behaviours within rangatahi Māori, and the consequent overrepresentation of rangatahi Māori in the criminal justice system. The euro-centric New Zealand school system has failed rangatahi Māori by neglecting cultural-specific components that prove vital to the success of rangatahi Māori when learning. Moreover, in recent times we have seen the benefits that te ao Māori and all its teachings can provide rangatahi Māori in their general well-being and development. Alternative education programs grounded within Kaupapa Māori theory have demonstrated significant progress with the engagement and achievement of rangatahi Māori in their learning, sporting, and personal endeavours.

The aim of this study was to understand how and why these phenomena exist and the specifics of the mainstream school system and Kaupapa Māori-run programs from the eyes of rangatahi Māori themselves. In doing so, this research sought to extract the experience and realities of four rangatahi Māori who were currently participating in a Kaupapa Māori alternative education course in Ōtautahi, Christchurch. Korero highlighted vast disparities between the two systems and a wealth of knowledge was gathered which affirmed the original propositions of this study, that the mainstream education system fails to attend to the cultural specific needs of Māori students. This research also employed the mātauranga of two kaumātua participants, who both contributed tremendous insight to the theoretical development of the research topic. The study followed a qualitative research approach that utilised personal face-to-face interviews that were audio-recorded and subsequently transcribed by the primary researcher. and a kaupapa Māori methodological framework guided the entirety of this research.

This research found that western, mainstream education systems fail to provide rangatahi Māori with individualised, cultural-specific tools and processes of learning. This, in turn, hindered their capacity to achieve to the best of their ability. This research also identified that alternative education pathways that are grounded within te ao Māori encourage heightened enjoyment, engagement, and achievement amongst rangatahi Māori with their education. Concepts of whakawhānaungatanga, manaakitanga, Māoritanga and mana Motuhake were observed to validate these findings.

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