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How can a Museum make a difference to at-risk young people?

How can a Museum make a difference? For years the New Zealand Police Museum has partnered with community cops and youth educators to deliver programmes designed to create positive relationships with the children recognised, within the system, as being at-risk.

Rowan Carroll talks about how the New Zealand Police Museum has partnered with community cops and youth educators to deliver programmes designed to create positive relationships with the children recognised, within the system, as being at-risk. How can a museum act as a place to change perceptions of the police and ultimately make a difference to young people at risk?

Such a great opportunity to be with you here today and to share some of the work that we do with our community. So for museums attached to larger service organisations it can be difficult to establish what your purpose is when your function is not core. Most New Zealand police believe the museum to be important, but see our purpose as being minor. We collect this stuff and from time to time bring it out of storage, dust it off and put it in a glass case. That is what we are funded to do. Anything beyond that is considered superfluous. So connecting into New Zealand police business and making the museum relevant has been a major piece of work. To do that shifting my way up to the executive table has required some cunning and tenacity.

Chain of command is everything within the police mechanism. So moving our reporting line from the Royal New Zealand Police College, corporate services to public affairs at Police National Headquarters and sitting directly under a deputy chief executive was a strategic move and a much better fit. The museum now occupies a third tier position under the commissioner and this makes us part of the strategic leadership team. We’re asked to make submissions on strategy and development in every area of police business. Now this slide shows our business on a page. It’s the screensaver for every device used by New Zealand police. It’s a tool within the police high performance framework, to ensure every staff member understands how they fit in and why their role is relevant and important.

As you can see the purpose … sorry, where’s my little [unintelligible 00:02:00]. So the purpose, be safe and feel safe. Actually I must point out the mission. Be the safest country. Now this is something New Zealand does all the time. We’ve got to be the best in the world. I think we forget we’re only four and a half million people. We’ve got this big chip on our shoulder, but anyway, that’s our mission. So as you can see the purpose of New Zealand police is to make everyone in New Zealand be safe and feel safe. The purpose of public affairs, so that’s the team above the museum is to enable New Zealand police to deliver our business through effective communication. The purpose of the New Zealand Police Museum is to strengthen the positive bridge between the public and New Zealand police.

So now we have a purpose that is understood. Our niche is within the prevention first strategy, targeting at risk youth and providing them with positive police experiences. So prevention first, just over here. This is where we are located at the Royal New Zealand Police College in Porirua, 20 minutes up State Highway 1 from the capital city Wellington. This is where all New Zealand police are trained, firstly as recruits and then as they move into specialist areas and through the ranks. On any given day the campus would have 240 recruits training with firearms, physical tactics, crime scenarios, blue light driving and senior officers will be abseiling from helicopters, with their canines or sniper training.

So just to point out, this is State Highway 1 here. This is our administration, our [tier] centre here, finances and so on. All of these yellow rooves are the barracks. So that’s where all the police officers and the recruits stay. That’s the museum and the museum was originally a recruit lounge. This is firearms training here. We’ve got the skidpan for driver training in the parade ground, things like the gym, swimming pool and teaching area, lecture theatres and things like that there. So it’s a reasonably large campus and it can be a really exciting place to be. Because the museum is here we sit perfectly in context. Because the campus though is away from the main centre, Wellington we don’t have the luxury of accidental visitors.

Everyone who walks through our doors does so with intent. The public are given a glimpse of what it’s like to train as a police officer, simply by being onsite. They get to see some pretty overwhelming 1970s architecture too. So our collection is 50 percent police cultural property and 50 percent criminal case evidence, a trove of New Zealand’s most significant crimes. Every artefact is authentic and carries the weight of the dark side of human nature. We balance that with the good intentions and spirits of those who have solved those crimes and sought justice for the victims. Every programme we offer is also authentic, using police tools and techniques. Being surrounded by such focused people is very invigorating and supporting them to achieve their vocation is important to the museum team.

The museum doesn’t pull any punches in reminding all who pass through its doors that putting on a police uniform every day, includes wearing a target on your back. Great location, it’s like a little piece of paradise. So the museum collection was established in 1908. Interesting criminal case evidence was targeted for display. It was disturbing and dark, violent and morbid. We still live with this legacy. For most of its life the museum has not been open at standard museum times or to the public because of its graphic content. In 2009 the museum had a complete makeover and much of the dark side was put into storage. The stories we tell do include significant crimes, but now it’s more about policing excellence than the criminals.

Unlike other police museums you won’t see mannequins in uniform, rows of medals and an encyclopaedic array of guns. Our 20th and 21st century stories have significance historically and they have emotional impact. Since 2013 we’ve opened every day from 10 until five and our focus has moved from being a close, private police museum for the training of recruits to being a community service education provider. We only use social media and the web to advertise ourselves. While we have a significant online reach most people even within the [police] presume that we’re still a closed museum. This will take time to correct. Positive word of mouth is our greatest ally. Have a drink and let you take that in. My notes have gone off. Thank you.

So the museums staff are required to take part in certain elements of police training, meet [Rohan], the enforcer, [Kassimer] the sniper, where’s [Kass]? There she is. [Sulema], the land shark wrangler and [unintelligible 00:08:06], the finisher. So in this armed defender squad scenario we’re [unintelligible 00:08:12] and armed and dangerous man. The weapons and the dogs are really. The offender may or may not be laughing and the photoshopping is quite obviously laughable. The upside of all that work is that at the end of it we all get to keep a puppy. Now the museum’s strategic plan is a social investment one. We have experienced working with youth, age and community police and in providing positive experiences for targeted at risk youth.

Those who are identified as having two or more risk factors, the four well researched and acknowledged risks are a family history or violence, social welfare benefit dependency, apparent with a criminal history and a mother with no qualifications. We work with individual children or family groups, but our reach is limited because we’re resource poor. Opening up our programmes to low decile school groups with no cost recovery has a really high uptake, but there are also always financial burdens. Lower socio-economic groups cannot afford transport to Porirua. Nonetheless we do have children visiting from across the country and learning from the forensic programmes we offer.

But we want to expand this and require evidence that our programmes are effective, so that the police executive will invest and enable us to work across the country. To get some credibility under our belt we are partnering with a local agency whose purpose aligns with ours. The Porirua [Fanau] Centre in Cannons Creek. Their pre-schoolers come from extremely disadvantaged backgrounds and the [Fanau] Centre goal is to provide them with the skills for a successful start at school. They target families whose children tend not to be involved in other forms of early childhood or extra [unintelligible 00:10:14] education and come from a background of high and complex needs. New Zealand has pioneered a longitudinal study, it’s called the [Dunedin] Study and it was begun in 1972, following 1000 babies born that year.

They are interviewed every two years until their mid-twenties and every five years after that on a variety of subjects. Their DNA is explored and tested. Much of the resulting research is ground breaking. The babies are now 45 and many have children of their own. Their babies are now being researched. A study published last year of 200 of the children born between 1991 and 1995 found they had an average of eight changes of address by the age of 15 and an average of eight different people had left or joined the family in that time. Only a quarter were still with both biological parents, while nearly 60 percent were in a sole parent family. Or in some form of [unintelligible 00:11:18] resident care.

Things changed rapidly in these children’s lives, much more than we recognise in official policies or when we talk about family responsibilities. Is this the new normal? We shouldn’t label this as dysfunctional. Some of the changes can be positive and others negative. They could also be related to the fact that the first children to reach 15 were born to relatively young parents. Will the changes make children more resilient and self-reliant or predict problems ahead? If it’s the latter, what could break the cycle of risk? We intend to find out if our programme has any impact on life choices. So Porirua is a young and diverse city, established only 50 years ago, with beautiful seaside wealthy communities in Plimmerton and [unintelligible 00:12:13], side by side with Cannons Creek which has one of the highest crime rates in New Zealand.

Initially Maori and Pacific Island people were encouraged to leave their traditional homes and move here to work in the automotive manufacturing industry and various factories. Much of the housing available is owned by the state. Over time all the industries closed shop and poverty took hold. No other work opportunities have started up to replace them. Hardworking people were now dispossessed having been removed from the safety of their people in [Turangawaewae] their place to stand. As a result, this is a very poor community with all the issues that poverty underpins. This is the most common police interaction experienced by these families today. For much of the Cannons Creek community the relationship with police is fraught.

To put it mildly there is an intergenerational hatred. Forging a positive relationship is challenging. But the museum is uniquely placed to do that. We are non-constabulary and therefore non-threatening. But most importantly we do provide a portal to constabulary staff and their areas of subject matter expertise. Creating a programme that brings the preschool children and their parents into the museum and therefore onto the Royal New Zealand Police College campus regularly and introducing them to prevention first specialists instead of front line reactionary uniforms is a great first step. When children are in danger, we want them to run towards police for support and protection, not the other way, for fear they’ll be punished.

Okay, I’m just going to find that page. So the goals of our social investment partnership agreement are to provide normalised, positive interactions           between the Porirua [Fanau] Centre community and members of New Zealand police. To achieve reciprocity of understanding and respect. To support an environment that reduces victimisation and offending for the tamariki of Cannons Creek. To create a longitudinal programme and get the data to understand if such programming adds value and quality to young lives and on into adulthood. We hope to be a constant and reliable presence in the lives of these young people. You should be familiar with this notion from the British Museums Association.

This is how we hope to maximise our social impact. Importantly the programme is designed to benefit both parties. The museum will facilitate opportunities for police and particularly recruits to interact with Porirua [Fanau] Centre groups to engender reciprocal understanding and respect. Policing subject matter experts will also be co-opted for delivery as the programmes progress under the prevention first strategy and in response to areas identified as important by the children and their caregivers. An essential element of providing safe and normalised interactions for the Porirua [Fanau] Centre community will be seeing their culture and heritage reflected in the police personnel. That is police of Maori and Pacific Island ethnicity.

The early childhood education group comes to the New Zealand Police Museum at least once every school term. The programme delivered begins as a welcome, supporting the tamariki to feel comfortable in the space and to ensure and enjoy some police themed constructive play. We encourage the tamariki to see the museum as an extension of their education zone and a place they can visit with their family at any time. Taking into account that new tamariki join throughout the year, the initial group take a leadership role with their younger peers, bringing them up to speed. Each stream remains a discrete unit, so that the tamariki can be [unintelligible 00:16:43] and anecdotal data collected.

Gathering evidence of the success of not of the programme. The thrust of the data collected involves how the children respond to being in a police environment, including their verbal and listening interactions and body language towards uniformed officers. Access to the data is limited to interested parents, the [Fanau] Centre programme management and museum staff. Annual reports that do not include individual details are shared with the police executive. So this is Superintendent [Tusha] [Penny], she’s the district commander for Waitemata, Auckland, with some of our tamariki. As things emerge and in response to what’s happening at the [Fanau] Centre or the wider Cannons Creek, Porirua community, we develop programmes, include constabulary officers in the programme.

The programme’s focus on victim and offender prevention and opening the door to police being considered positive, helpful role models. There are both physical and mental challenges in the learning. We include citizenship education, encompassing [civic] understanding, but also including young people’s active participation in society. Once the tamariki move into the school system, we follow them, continuing to provide topical programmes via the [unintelligible 00:18:12] programme, in English that means who am I? It’s a [Fanau] Centre initiative that’s delivered to 90 percent of the schools in the area as an independent after school programme. It will not be until the tamariki become rangatahi or adolescents that we will get an understanding of the value of the programme through observing and reflecting on their life choice, hence the longitudinal nature of the programme.

We’re in it for the long haul. The [Fanau] Centre also provide positive parenting programmes to teenage parents. As things progress and the community becomes comfortable with us we will include programming to support them also. There’s no point in working in a vacuum with their babies if when they go home the parents have a negative perception and verbalise that to their kids, obviously. So it’s early days for our programme. We’re fluid and responsive to the needs of the group really. But if we can make a difference in these young lives, support them to not be victims or offenders and to trust police and if we can foster some understanding within police of the culture of the young people and their responses to them, then we will have succeeded.

This is just some of the programming that goes on. In New Zealand three percent of the population suffer around 53 percent of all crime, three percent of 53 percent of all crime. That’s an amazing statistic. International research confirms that less than half a percent of people cause around 10 percent of all crime. Up to 50 percent of crime in some cities occurs in no more than five percent of locations. 30 percent of burglary offences are repeat incidents and these trends continue over time. Therefore crime is predictable and by focusing on the right people and places we can do something meaningful about it. It wasn’t a joke about the museum staff getting a puppy, this is [Peak], the museum foster puppy when she was 12 weeks old.

She gets to hang out in the office and enjoy tummy rubs and meet the visitors when she isn’t in training. She’s very cute. So one of our values, respect. I must have sped through that, but anyway I’ve actually come to the end.

Rowan Carroll talked about how a museum can make a difference at MuseumNext Australia in February 2017.


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