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No. 15 (July 1956)
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How can we
help the young
who ‘get into
trouble’

Picture icon

Moana Raureti (N.P.S. Photograph)

This year the Maori section of the National Council of Churches of New Zealand met at Ruatoki during February. The meeting was one of the most successful that the section has held. Discussions took place on a great variety of subjects, including Maori schools, segregation, delinquency, and the drink problem.

Many key people in social work spared time to come along and contribute to the discussions.

Maori clergy and lay workers were generous in their support for this year's gathering but it would be an advantage if families, individuals and tribal communities sent along representatives to listen to the discussions, even if they do not take part.

The first thorough survey of the Maori Borstal population has just been completed. Details of it were given to the conference of the Maori section of the National Council of Churches at Ruatoki by the Rev Hohepa Taepa, of Otaki, and Mr M. Raureti, District Maori Welfare Officer for Waiariki.

In many cases the inferences made by the two men coincided and were confirmed by others engaged in redemptive work at the institutions. The survey showed, significantly, that all causes of deliquency cannot be loaded on housing. More than half the Maori borstal inmates come from fair or excellent homes.

The Rev Taepa said Maoris were 31 ½ per cent of the inmates of Invercargill Borstal and Burwood Girls' Home, in Christchurch. Between 60 and 70 per cent of them were below average intelligence. Eighty per cent had no direct contact with Church or clergy.

The results of the survey are not regarded as conclusive but as being a valuable guide in future examinations of the position and providing a sound basis for more work along these lines.

Following are some of the trends which Mr Raureti's examination of 67 Borstal cases revealed:

* Maori crime is mainly against property. Breaking and entering, theft, and conversion accounted for 43 of the 67 cases. The difference between the Maori and pakeha attitude to property is attributable to differences in cultural background. A communal way of life has dictated the Maori's different attitude. But both are subject to the pakeha law so that a conflict ensues and many Maoris are gaoled for theft of property committed unknowingly because of their different cultural background.

* There is an alarming increase in conversion. This trend does apply to Maoris alone. It is due largely to the carelessness of car owners who are inclined to think of the law only in terms of the protection which it affords. The culprits are subjected to temptation which they cannot resist so that their crimes are unpremeditated and spontaneous.
* About half the inmates, 31 out of 67, had come within the scope of a welfare organisation at some stage. Twenty-eight had previously been in institutions.

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* Seventy-two per cent of the crimes were committed when the culprits were away from home and 28 per cent when at home. Most of these crimes were committed in urban areas, with Auckland the main trouble spot.
* More than half the inmates (37 out of 67) were in private board when they committed their crimes. Of the rest, 21 were at home, seven were away from home with relatives, and two were in hostels.
* The average time for adolescents to get into trouble was found to be 15 months after leaving home.
* Only 13 out of the 67 Maoris had legal defence when they appeared in court. That is when the delinquent needs all the moral support possible. Therefore, welfare officers should attend court cases involving Maoris whenever possible. Most Maori prisoners do not know how to plead and some plead guilty to escape quickly from the environment of the court.
* Whereas pakehas avail themselves of the right of appeal, Maoris do not (four out of 67 used the Borstal appeal service). In 10 cases they had the services of probation officers at the court sitting, in seven the Child Welfare organisation helped and in 5 welfare officers of the Department of Maori Affairs.
* Maori delinquents have less assistance from parents than do pakeha delinquents. When the magistrate asks the whereabouts of the Maori parent he or she is rarely there. On the other hand the pakeha father or mother is in court to fight for their child.

Mr Raureti pointed out that the year after the adolescent leaves Borstal is the most crucial year in his or her rehabilitation. Either they commit another crime in this time or they fight, with the help of others, the pressures of the outside world. In order that the delinquent gets this assistance, welfare officers should co-operate with the probation officers.

Mr Raureti reminded members of the public who might be in a position to help in this rehabilitation, that the boys receive excellent farm and trade training in Borstal and can, with advantage, be employed on back stations where they are away from temptation. Prejudice against them must be broken down if they are to get a chance to reform.

To relatives, Mr Raureti pointed out that it was important that they keep in contact with their children in Borstal. Only four out of 67 had any visits from relatives in a year. Some had no contact with the outside world and it was from these that the institution received the group which returns for another term.

Regarding parental control, Mr Raureti said it was wrong to allow the grandmother to bring up the children. They should not be under the elders' control after a certain age when they must learn to face the outside world. Too often they received everything they wanted from the grandparent and when she had gone and they could not get money they stooped to crime.

The discussion on Mr Raureti's conclusions was led by the chairman, the Very Rev J. G. Laughton. He said he was pleased to see Maori men like Mr Raureti equipped and qualified to grapple with the delinquency problem. It was most important that the problem should be viewed from the Maori angle.

As a Justice of the Peace with the law in front of him and an obligation to administer it to the best of his ability, Mr Laughton was conscious of a tremendous stress when a Maori appeared before him. How much greater was the strain for a member of the judiciary without the knowledge of the Maori which he (Mr Laughton) possessed.

Mr G. T. Ford, senior lecturer in education at Canterbury College, said the significance of Mr Raureti's survey was the lead which it gave to forestalling delinquency. It might give a lead toward determining when a boy was heading for crime. That was the time to deal with the problem. The theft might be the precipitating cause of a boy's commital but there were other predisposing causes. To take the one cause was to overlook the essence of the case. Every case of delinquency had a large number of causes.

Miss K. Scotter, superintendent of the Burwood institution, emphasised the need to build up the self respect of the girl inmates. There should be a close link between the section and Burwood and the Invercargill Borstal so that those who were discharged could be looked after immediately they returned to their districts.

“It would indeed be remarkable if Maori people remained uninfluenced by the drinking habit. On the other hand it is easy to see the dangers when alcohol becomes wedded to any expression of the Maori spirit of aroha … The pakeha host determines what and how much his guest shall have, while the Maori host's attitude is that of the father to the prodigal son: ‘All that I have is thine!’ Liquor is a problem amongst the most stringent of individualists but it is a multiplied problem amongst a warm-hearted, hospitable, friendly people with a strongly developed sense of community.” Extract from report on drink among the Maori people presented to the Maori section of the National Council of Churches conference at Ruatoki in February.