Australia’s Clarence Correctional Centre celebrates Polynesian Day

Employees, guests and prisoners at Clarence Correctional Centre, which Serco manages in Australia, celebrated the centre’s inaugural Polynesian Day. The event shared traditional ceremonies, dance, music and food from a variety of Polynesian cultures including Maori, Pacific Islander, Samoan, Cook Islander, Tongan, Niuean and New Zealanders.

Polynesian prisoners and staff came together to spiritually connect with their culture, welcoming official guests through a traditional Powhiri (welcoming ceremony) calling.

Elder Charlotte Reah, a Ngati Tamaoho, Ngati Paoa, Ngati Hine woman, took part in the official ceremony sharing a prayer and words around the importance of connecting to culture as part of each individual’s rehabilitation and reintegration journey.

The official ceremony acknowledged the wide variety of Polynesian cultures found across the centre with performances including traditional dances from the Cook Islands, Haka’s from Tonga, Samoa and New Zealand, as well as poetry and song from the Pacific Islands. The ceremony was followed by the sharing of a cultural meal. Polynesian staff started well before dawn to prepare the meal building a traditional above ground hangi, called an umu, which was filled with a variety of meats and poultry covered in banana leaves.

At the heart of all Polynesian culture lies a collectivist philosophy underpinned by strong family interdependence and the importance of celebrating and sharing of culture. The theme of the inaugural Polynesian Day at Clarence Correctional Centre was ‘respect’. Respect through the promotion of cultural inclusiveness to assist in reintegration and rehabilitation.

Elder Charlotte later wrote to the Correctional Centre giving her thanks.

“Kia Ora (Hello)

“I am writing to thank you for today’s Polynesian Day celebration.  I could see and sense the huge amount of work behind the scenes, the Kai hakari, the excellent performances and participation by all involved. 

Congratulations to you, administration and your team for the amazing effort on this day. I enjoyed meeting all the friendly correctional staff and significant guests. 

Once again, thank you. The kaupapa and vision realised in preparation for the next hui.

Nga manaakitanga (Blessings)”