New Zealand police inspector, Ross Lienert shares his reform stories across the NT

Following 23 years of his 30 year Policing career, working and leading Police Aid and youth engagement teams, Ross was instrumental in the establishment of Oranga Tamariki, our Territory Families equivalent in New Zealand.

Oranga Tamariki redirected its efforts in 2017 from punitive to restorative and a range of reform have been developed which are in line with the reforms recommended through the Royal Commission into Child Protection and Youth Justice.

Inspector Lienert shared the ongoing journey New Zealand Police have taken to embrace a trauma informed, early intervention model that aims to support families experiencing vulnerability, before the point of crisis.

Key messages conveyed;

  • Where New Zealand Police and Oranga Tamariki are joined at the hip, the better the outcomes
  • If you don’t believe you can help change these kids, you may as well not be there. Belief is invaluable to achieving reform
  • Alternative Actions to detention  leads to better outcomes (diversion)
  • With the exception of murder or manslaughter, 100% of youth offender cases are directed with Police Youth Aid (the Unit established to support youth).
  • NZ Police implemented the Youth Offender Risk Screening Tool (YORST). This is a rating of risk and expected future offender behaviour to ensure that Police are providing an appropriate and informed response to each individual, considering their family and contributing factors.

The Royal Commission recommended that the Northern Territory establish a specialised police youth division based on the New Zealand model, with Inspector Lienert’s visit a response to this recommendation.

Evaluation of the New Zealand Reform

Following two years of implementation, an evaluation was conducted by Phil Spiers with the below outcomes. (

Offender Outcomes

Percentage of Youth Offenders

No reoffending after two years



35% success

Family Group Conferencing


50 – 60% success

Alternative Action


70% success



80% success

Information of Interest

  • New Zealand comprises 7% Maori population however 63% of court appearances are people of Maori decent
  • 80% of young people in court were already on a risk database
  • The New Zealand Police employ three Cultural Advisors
  • An Iwi leaders group has been established to highlight on-going programmes of work and issues that concern iwi.