Plush carpets underfoot, a large modern kitchen with a fully stocked walk-in pantry, a map of the Tauranga Moana rohe on the dining room wall and a piano in the entrance provide a warm welcome to Whare Matariki.
Although it is not a typical home, it is the first of its kind in New Zealand and it will take a new approach to youth justice.
The new community remand home in Bethlehem has a dedicated mental health nurse and psychologist. It will also be one of the few remand homes that focuses on young women.
Depending on demand, the home will take males or females aged 13 to 17, housing up to three at a time.
Whare Matariki will also provide an outreach, so the youth get support once they’re back in the community.
Youth Justice central North Island regional manager Shaun Brown says the young people in the home will likely have experienced significant trauma, which has led to them being there.
“We’re talking about a really high needs type of group,” says Shaun.
“The only way they know how to reach out is to do something that gains attention. Those are often cries for help and offending and those types of things are just offshoots of that.
“They're not who the person is, they’re just offshoots of that trauma.
“This place is about trying to find the reason for that and trying to help at the cause.”
Whare Matariki is run by Te Tuinga Whanau Trust and will have live-in house parents, Tarn and Brad Farry.
Tarn and Brad have been house parents for Oranga Tamariki at their home in the bush, East of Opotiki, for seven years and are excited to join the Te Tuinga whanau and bring their experience to the new home.
Brad says they’re hoping to teach the young people traits that will enable them to be strong in difficult situations.
They aim to create a family environment that the rangatahi are able to stay connected to even after they’ve left.
“We want them to feel comfortable, loved and at home,” says Brad.
Tarn says the goal is to put the youths on their feet and send them away proud with their wairua intact.
“They’re broken, so we want to reconnect them with their roots, who they are and their self-worth, so that they go away stronger,” says Tarn.
Shaun says it is a lovely home and for a lot the teenagers it will the best environment they’ve ever been in.
“When you put someone in an environment where they’re being well cared for, they learn to appreciate it,” he says.
“They start to protect it because it’s a nice place to be. It's somewhere that they don't have to struggle, lie, take or steal, because here they’re accepted for who they are.”