Judge Heemi Taumaunu who led the development of Rangatahi Courts, Ngā Kōti Rangatahi o Aotearoa, has been acknowledged for his pioneering work. He received the prestigious Veillard-Cybulski Award recognising work with children and families in difficulty.
Judge Taumaunu chaired and developed New Zealand’s first Rangatahi Court in Gisborne in 2008 and encouraged other judges to form their own marae-based youth courts. There are now eight judges running Rangatahi Courts at 14 marae.
Judges of the award commended Judge Taumaunu’s leadership skills in developing a comprehensive system where Māori children learn who they are and where they have come from in order to change their behaviours and realise their potential.
The prime focus of the Rangatahi Courts is to provide the best possible support and rehabilitation for young offenders by reconnecting them with their cultural identity, involving local Māori communities in the process.
Unaware of his nomination, Judge Taumaunu says, “I see this as a shared honour which recognises the commitment of all the judges involved in Rangatahi Courts and those communities who have embraced the concept of marae-based courts so their young people are offered more culturally appropriate access to justice.”
Principal Youth Court Judge John Walker said Judge Taumaunu’s hard work and vision had helped embed the Rangatahi Courts in the New Zealand criminal justice system.
The Veillard-Cybulski Fund Association honours the work of husband-and-wife magistrates Maurice Veillard-Cybulski and Henryka Veillard-Cybulska, who both worked to advance the rights of children in the justice system.
Source: Maori TV