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Partnership With Prisoners Carved Out In Albany

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

27 May 2009 - Students from Albany Junior High School and prisoners from Auckland Prison's peer tutored carving group have been hard at work carving out a collaborative partnership.

Students at the newly built school were set the task of researching the history of Albany, with a view to building relationships in the area.

"We are looking at what can bring local communities and their facilities closer to allow the various communities involved to grow together in a win win scenario," says Albany Junior High School Science Faculty Manager John Cluett, the teacher behind the project.

"The students' research into the history of Albany uncovered that the school is sited where there was once native forest, and later orchards. The students wanted to find a way to acknowledge the past history of the land where the school now sits, while at the same time working to provide a more sustainable environment that could meet the needs of the current occupants and the local communities.

"We approached local kaumatua Des Ripi with a proposal to work with the prison, and he helped us present our vision to the prisoners, who jumped on board immediately.

"Three students from the school volunteered to present the findings of their research to a group of low medium security prisoners at Auckland Prison because they believed that their past was in the past, and together they could all move forward.

"To the north-east of the school is the island sanctuary of Tiritiri Matangi. It has undergone pest eradication, native re-plantation and is now the habitat and breeding ground for many endangered New Zealand birds. The students wanted the carvers to label a 'green corridor' to allow birds to move from Tiritiri Matangi in the east to the Waitakere Ranges in the south west," says Mr Cluett.

The first fruits of that meeting were seen when the carving group presented a carved waharoa (gateway) to the school in March. There was a small handover ceremony at Auckland Prison, followed by a grand unveiling at the school by Prime Minister John Key.

The carved waharoa depicts vines, Tane, his demons and three birds. The birds are a kereru which is the messenger to Tane, a huia which is a gatherer and a tui which is the speaker.

Northern Region Programmes Manager Mark Lynds has also been 100% behind the partnership from the start.

"It's a great opportunity for the men to give back to the community and they have derived a great sense of pride and belonging by being involved in this project.

"I am very keen to see local communities and prisons working closer together to the benefit of both parties. In this case, the school students are learning some important aspects around developing and implementing concept designs in art and carving, and the prisoners are learning what is involved in commission development and working to meet the needs of the client."

Work has already begun on planning future projects for the partnership. The prisoners have begun work on a 15 foot poupou (shadow pole) for the day observatory at the school.

In the longer term the school has approval to build a cultural space. The school and prisoners from the carving programme are planning a collaboration on all the carvings and paintings for the building.

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