Learning and knowledge - Howard Leaque prison programme

Winston Peters Speech to Howard League Prisoners' Programme

Paparua Prison, Templeton

Thank you Tony and thanks also to Mike Williams and the Howard League for inviting me here today for the Christchurch Men’s Jail Graduation.

 Today is an auspicious occasion. Nine of you have applied yourselves to learning. You have taken the first step to try and improve your prospects upon your release. You have shown real wisdom in choosing this path.

Learning is never easy. It takes commitment, it takes perseverance, and it takes courage to say I can’t read or write. Now, new opportunities will open for you, whether it’s maintaining better links with your families while you remain inside these walls or in acquiring new knowledge.

There is an old saying, ‘an investment in knowledge pays the best interest,’ and for the nine of you here today that interest keeps growing today. Keep building upon it.

Learning new skills also helps you become more self-reliant, to help you take charge of your lives when returning to society and leading you to make a contribution to your families and your communities, but most of all to yourselves.

This afternoon seven of you graduate from the ‘Story Book Fathers Course.’ Being a parent is not easy, that’s something we all share, but being able to talk to your children through this programme can only help your return to your families.  

 Research shows that this type of programme works. It helps in maintaining family bonds while you are physically separated from family and whanau. The stronger the bond the less likely you will want to jeopardize your future freedom after your release. Imagine, too, the happiness you give your children when they hear their dad’s voice as you read them children’s stories.

 Two of you today have graduated from the literacy programme and for that you are to be congratulated. It’s takes real courage to own up to not being able to read. That first step is the hardest and you took it. Your world is now forever transformed. Make the most of it because knowledge is more empowering than any other force.

 For all of you here today, when you are released your future will be shared with your families and in your communities. By showing a willingness to begin to overcome your past you’ve taken a huge step in becoming a man who will make a positive contribution to those closest to you, but also with all of those people you’ll meet in the future.

 Don’t waste this opportunity. My advice is to build on the start you have made here. You are now better equipped to be a better father, husband, son, and brother. Make the most of it. We only have one life so make to most of it.

The Howard League, ably led by people like Tony Gibbs and Mike Williams, are supported by an army of nearly 500 volunteers. These are New Zealanders who freely give up their time to teach literacy in prisons; they are people who help prisoners get a driver’s licence for the first time in their lives.

 Why do they tutor and teach? They do so because they care about you, they want to help, and because they care about their communities. Now so must you.

 A quote from the bible lays out the path you can take from here: ‘The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish but everyone to come to repentance.’ That thought even applies to politicians, so it surely applies to the nine successful graduates here.

Today is your success, and one we are very happy to share with you.