Kaupapa Māori approaches to youth offending

Kaupapa Māori approaches to youth offending
12 Dec 2019


Oranga Tamariki Youth Justice (YJ) Services supports young people who offend to reduce the seriousness and frequency of their offending and ideally stop offending before adulthood. Tamariki and rangatahi Māori are disproportionately represented in the youth justice system. The offending rate per 10,000 population more than halved for rangatahi Māori between 2010 and 2018 (from 1,483 to 652). This represents a significant improvement, but as the offending rate for European and Pacific Peoples dropped even more, rangatahi Māori are at present 4.3 times more likely to be proceeded against by Police than non-Māori. Māori who appear in the Youth Court are also 1.3 times more likely to reoffend than non-Māori (Ministry of Justice, 2019, YJI 1.1 and 3.2). Oranga Tamariki has a responsibility to support this group effectively.

Using kaupapa Māori models that make sense to Māori is vital in supporting the youth justice system to respond in ways that reduce disparities between Māori and non-Māori (Williams et al., 2019). This fits with the new responsibilities Oranga Tamariki has under section 7AA of the Oranga Tamariki Act 1989 of ensuring its’ policies and practices improve outcomes for tamariki and rangatahi Māori. Hence Oranga Tamariki is interested in exploring kaupapa Māori approaches that could support rangatahi Māori in the youth justice system. This paper provides an overview of kaupapa Māori approaches that have been applied in contexts related to youth offending.


In May 2019 the Evidence Centre undertook an environmental scan looking for information about
kaupapa Māori2 approaches that are being used in the areas of:

  • conduct problems
  • reducing re-offending
  • remand
  • rehabilitation
  • mental health and substance abuse.

Programmes working with tamariki and rangatahi were preferred, however programmes for adults were included when they were related to offending. Models of wellbeing and clinical tools were out of scope for this paper so were not included. Our information sources were scientific publications, grey literature (e.g. government agency reports and evaluations), websites of Māori providers of community services and news articles.

The characteristics of each approach we identified through our time-limited internet search are shown in the table below. The level of detail provided about each approach varies due to the amount of readily available information we found.

We used an inclusive search strategy because we wanted to gather information about a wide range of approaches. This means some approaches in the table have not been evaluated. We did not assess the effectiveness of any of the approaches. We have described the cultural elements of each approach in the table.

Key Results

The paper provides an overview of 22 kaupapa Māori approaches and four approaches adapted to include te ao Māori (the Māori world) perspectives.

The findings indicate that key considerations that promote a kaupapa Māori approach in the development of services are:

  • the holistic nature of the service
  • seeing the young person as part of a wider whānau
  • connecting them to their culture.

Rangatahi Māori are significantly overrepresented in the Youth Justice system. Oranga Tamariki has responsibilities under section 7AA of the Oranga Tamariki Act 1989 to ensure its policies and practices aim to reduce disparities and improve outcomes for tamariki and rangatahi Māori who come to the attention of the Ministry.  

The paper provides informative insights for the Oranga Tamariki Youth Justice work programme, which is currently undertaking the design and implementation of evidence-based Youth Justice intervention services.

Page last modified: 03 Nov 2023