An international comparative review of Māori and Samoan peoples’ overrepresentation in youth and adult criminal justice statistics data: exploring methodological and policy assumptions


Tamasailau Suaalii-Sauni



Project code: ART006

Today in settler colonial countries, such as New Zealand, Australia and U.S.A., there is significant awareness of the disturbingly high number of Indigenous and ethnic minority peoples overrepresented in criminal justice statistics, and whose futures assume being incarcerated at some stage in their lives. The public’s awareness of the complex stories of these peoples is dependent on media representations. Policy makers are dependent on population data. Current statistical evidence finds that in NZ, Maori peoples make up 50% and Pasifika peoples (of which Samoans are majority) make up 11% of total prison population. However, they are 15% and 7.6% of total NZ population respectively. In NZ, Maori are tangata whenua and Samoans are their ethnic minority migrant cousins. While they share a common Polynesian heritage, there are marked differences in their historical experiences of colonisation. Both have migrated overseas and settled as migrant populations in Australia, and, for mostly Samoans, in U.S.A. Little is known of their respective representations in the criminal justice population data of these other countries. This summer scholarship will focus on collecting and analysing comparative statistical and policy data on Maori and Samoan peoples’ representation in the criminal justice systems of NZ, Australia and U.S.A.

Scholar’s Work

1. Compile and implement a relevant search methodology framework of most recent NZ, Australian and American population databases and criminal justice policy reports, with more detailed focus on those states or regions with high Maori and Samoan populations.
2. Review and compare all relevant statistical and policy reports found and write a summary of key findings.
3. Based on 1 and 2 write an informed opinion on the methodological and policy significance of the findings and its address of the question of overrepresentation.
4. Assist in the identification and development of major themes that could serve as the basis for a journal article.
5. Participate in a sole (or joint with supervisor) department seminar on the findings of the summer scholarship project.
6. Maintain frequent contact with the supervisor, who will clarify aspects of the research and writing process.

Required Skills/Pre-requisites

1. Strong analytical and academic writing skills.
2. Ability to conduct systematic literature reviews.
3. Be able to take a logical, consistent and systematic approach to comparing, evaluating and/or analysing across and within different statistical databases and literatures.
4. A conceptual knowledge of research methods and good knowledge of and experience working with statistical databases.
5. Strong knowledge of one or more of the following academic fields: Indigenous criminology, sociology, statistics, public policy, Indigenous studies, Maori studies, and Pacific studies.
6. Comfortable with the topic area;
7. Knowledge of Maori and Samoan societies.

Applicants should address these required skills in their application and indicate if they have been in touch with the proposed supervisor.