Brent has turned his life around. He is the first offender graduate of a new partnership between Corrections, Koukourārata Marae and Lincoln University. He is the recipient of a Proficiency in Chainsaws certificate and quad bikes.

According to Canterbury district manager Lisa Joseph, the intention of the partnership is that offenders will gain skills for employment and a taste for further training.

“The partnership provides the opportunity for those who may not have thought they could attend university; it gives them a ‘taster’ of what this may be like. For others, like Brent, who have fallen out of education, it gives them the confidence to start again and restart their lives.”

“The partnership sits in the work and living skills space within a community work sentence, where offenders with over 80 hours of community work may be able to convert up to 20 percent of their community work hours into skills training.” says Tom.

“It offers new opportunities for people on community work sentence to access skills and qualifications for employment. It also has a tikanga element which helps offenders reconnect with Māori principles and culture.”
The Lincoln Project was officially launched last month with a pōwhiri at Koukourārata marae. At that stage, the course involved eight Corrections offenders on community work sentence.

In addition to the community work reparative part of their sentence, the community work sentence includes a Work and Living Skills (WLS) component where offenders are provided with a range of basic skills to help them improve their future employment and lifestyle opportunities and choices.

“In addition to practical skills and work aptitudes the offenders on the programme are gaining confidence and the personal skills and motivation to move on with their lives.

“Initially offenders are able to work toward certificates of proficiency in chainsaws, tractors, quad bikes and fencing, improving their CV and their chances for employment.”

For some of those in the project, they will find the confidence and passion to continue their studies in a related field, for example, horticulture or forestry at Lincoln University.

This is certainly the case for Brent, who is one of the first graduates to turn his sentence into a decision to go back to university.

Last year Brent was studying horticulture. Then, when things got stressful, he started to drink heavily and found himself on a community work sentence with a drink-driving conviction.

In Brent’s case, he has spent a large proportion of the reparative part of his sentence providing labour at community gardens around Christchurch and at local marae.

“I’m not Māori so I never really knew much about tikanga” says Brent.
“Working on the marae gardens, I got to understand the importance of Māori culture and reconnect with nature and design. It gave me the confidence to try again. I had gained these skills and thought “I can do this.”

Brent is back studying landscaping at Lincoln University and positive about his future.
“I was in a dark place’ he says. “I stuffed up so much for so long. I lost friends and I was lost.
“I needed this, but I didn’t know I needed it. It seems strange to say, but it has been a really important experience for me.

“My sentence gave me purpose. I came home feeling engaged and positive again. Since I have been on sentence, my whole life has turned around and Corrections has been a big part of this.”

Koukourārata Marae.

Koukourārata Marae.