Oranga Rangatahi: Whakangao kia Haumaru a Rangatahi. Investing in prevention – An innovative indigenous approach to tackle youth offending

Mr Shaun Brown1, Mr Leon Wharekura1, Mrs Rose Wereta1, Ms Pamela South1 

1Oranga Tamariki – Ministry for Children, , New Zealand

Rangatahi Māori (Māori young people) are over-represented in the New Zealand youth justice system, and Oranga Tamariki — Ministry for Children recognises that communities themselves are best placed to reduce youth offending. One programme successfully combining that approach with a focus on rangatahi Māori is the Oranga Rangatahi programme, nearing its second year in the township of Huntly.

The programme, led by Oranga Tamariki alongside community partners including iwi social services, Police, Ministry of Education, the local school, and the district health board, empowers the community to change lives. Through it, young people who have been assessed as at-risk of offending, and their families, receive targeted support.

The programme has had a huge impact in Huntly and for young people, many of whom had complex family issues and were no longer engaged in education or training. It has contributed to lower rates of offending, and fewer young people entering the system. Instead, they are involved in sports, mothers groups, and gyms. Parents are engaged and show their kids they care. There is improved communication at home, and young people are making changes that inspire their families.

Participation is voluntary, with young people referred to the programme. Barriers to wellbeing are identified; needs and risks assessed, and their strengths are built on, resulting in improved plans and better outcomes for each young person. The programme prioritises relational intervention, building trust and supporting young people. The programme involves re-engagement with school and connection to community services and cultural activities that build strength.


Shaun started working for the Ministry for Children, Oranga Tamariki as a Regional Youth Justice Manager on 1st May 2017.  Shaun’s role initially covered the Waikato & Bay of Plenty regions but has since expanded to include Taranaki and Manawatu.  

Before taking up his role at Oranga Tamariki Shaun was effectively managing a range of challenging portfolios, projects, facilities and services whilst a regional manager at Bupa Care Services NZ. In 2012 Shaun was the winner of the prestigious EEO/Diversity Works “Walk the Talk” Award.  Prior to qualifying as a nurse Shaun had a varied career as a Registered Nurse, Farmer, Corrections Officer and Royal New Zealand Navy Medic. 

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