Towards Transformative Restorative Justice for Pacific peoples in Aotearoa New Zealand

​This project will explore how restorative justice initiatives, including Family Group Conferences (FGCs), can be strengthened and improved for Pacific peoples who are disproportionately convicted of criminal offences and imprisoned in Aotearoa New Zealand.

About the project

The aim of the research project is to facilitate transformative justice for Pacific peoples in Aotearoa New Zealand through identifying factors which affect Pacific peoples’ access to and experiences of restorative justice (RJ). Transformative justice allows families, communities and wider society to share responsibility for responding to the harms of offending and for transforming the underlying social conditions that allow offending to occur.

The researchers will hold a series of fono with Pacific peoples who have lived experience with restorative justice initiatives; either as people who have committed an offence, as people who have been the victim of an offence or as people who facilitate restorative justice processes. Through talanoa at the fono, researchers will draw on the lived experiences of fono participants to propose a set of recommendations to strengthen and improve restorative justice initiatives for Pacific people.


Grant amount

$129,282 for 12 months for work in 2022 – 2023


About the researchers

Dylan Asafo is a lecturer in the Faculty of Law at the University of Auckland. Having completed an LLM at Harvard University specialising in Critical Race Theory and Minority Rights, his research areas of interest include racial justice, climate change and human rights issues facing Pacific peoples. In his research and teaching, he adopts a critical lens that draws on critical race theory, Third World Approaches to International Law (TWAIL) and critical Indigenous theories. He has applied this critical lens to two forthcoming law journal articles on the need for transformative justice in the criminal justice system and will adopt this lens to this project.

Helenā Kaho is an accredited mediator who after graduating with a BA/LLB(Hons)LLM (Hons) from the University of Auckland, began her career practising law in the Cook Islands. In 2015, she was the first Pacific person appointed as a legal academic and as the Associate Dean Pacific at the University of Auckland law school. Her areas of interest include employment law, legal pluralism and therapeutic jurisprudence. Helena has published in the New Zealand Law Review and the New Zealand Women’s Law Journal, examining RJ related issues from a Pacific perspective. In 2020 Helena was appointed to the Disputes Tribunal as a Referee. Following a stint at the Royal Commission of Inquiry into Abuse in Care as an Investigator for the Pacific team, Helena co-founded the HIVA ADR Consultancy, which specialises in custom conflict management and dispute resolution services based around Pacific values. Along with her Disputes Tribunal work, other current projects include developing a Pacific elective course for Otago Polytechnic’s Graduate Diploma in Conflict Resolution and co-designing a Pacific peer mediation programme for South Auckland high schools. In her free time, Helena is a multimedia artist and jewellery designer who specialises in the incorporation of recycled materials in her works.

Reina Vaai is currently in the legal team for the Royal Commission of Inquiry into Abuse in Care. Reina’s main area of practice is criminal law, having worked in South Auckland for several years working in both a private firm and the Public Defence Service. She also worked as a regulations lawyer in London while completing her thesis from the University of Cambridge; Reina’s thesis explores the experiences of Pacific female lawyers in New Zealand’s criminal justice system. In tandem with her law career, Reina has authored a series of inspirational childrens books and has worked as a journalist, director and producer for platforms such as the BBC, Tagata Pasifika, The Spinoff and Stuff. Reina was recently appointed to the New Zealand Media Council and is currently the Managing Editor for the New Zealand Women’s Law Journal.



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