Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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The Experiences of Māori Prison Officers in Aotearoa New Zealand's Prison System

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posted on 2022-09-16, 02:07 authored by Bowling, Rebekah

This thesis contributes to scholarship documenting the social harms of Māori hyperincarceration by drawing attention to the impact on an often-overlooked group: Māori employed in frontline roles in prison settings. Based on semi-structured interviews with eight Māori former prison officers, including my own father, the project found frontline staff experiencing feelings of isolation and constraints, cultural violence, and exposure to traumatic events – with adversities having ripple effects on officers’ whānau. Despite attempts from consecutive governments to biculturalise the prison system, Māori prison officers experienced these changes as largely tokenistic, and their well-being continues to be undermined by the unique position of being Indigenous within settler-colonial institutions engaged in the hyperincarceration of Māori whānau. At the same time, the study found Māori prison officers using this location to foster new solidarities, evoking notions of shared whakapapa with incarcerated Māori that supersede the institutionalised divisions once thought to characterise the prison environment. Drawing on the kōrero of Māori prison officers, this project sheds new light on the complex relationships formed between incarcerated and employed Māori inside prisons, and contributes to wider debates over hyperincarceration and biculturalisation in the criminal justice system.


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Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Rights License

Author Retains Copyright

Degree Discipline


Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Master of Arts

Victoria University of Wellington Unit

Institute of Criminology

ANZSRC Socio-Economic Outcome code

210802 Te whāomoomo i te tuku ihotanga me te ahurea Māori (conserving Māori heritage and culture)

ANZSRC Type Of Activity code

1 Pure basic research

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Alternative Language


Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Social and Cultural Studies


Martin, Liam