Victim engagement in New Zealand: A co-design process between government, academia and the wider victim community

Dr Sarah Tapper1

1Ministry Of Justice New Zealand, Wellington, New Zealand

In 2018, New Zealand’s Government announced its commitment to reform the criminal justice system and launched a public conversation on how New Zealanders want to see the criminal justice system transformed.

This engagement process has presented a unique opportunity for victims and their communities to communicate directly with government about their justice needs and priorities for reform.

As part of the Hāpaitia te Oranga Tangata – Safe and Effective Justice reform programme the Chief Victims Advisor held a 2-day Strengthening the Criminal Justice System for Victims workshop in March 2019. The Chief Victims Advisor worked with a bi-cultural steering group of Māori and non-Māori victim advocates and academics to ensure that the workshop was designed in partnership between government, academia and the victims’ community.

The workshop was attended by over 160 people including victims, victim advocates, academics, judges, lawyers and government officials. It was designed as an activity-based workshop that allowed victims, experts and officials to collaborate and work comfortably together in a safe environment. The purpose of the workshop was to hear the voices of the victims’ community, identify gaps in the criminal justice system for victims, and generate ideas from the community for reform of the system.

This presentation will focus on how government worked with key stakeholders from the wider victims’ community to ensure that as many diverse voices as possible were included in the reform conversation.


Dr Sarah Tapper is an advisor at the Ministry of Justice in New Zealand and supports the Chief Victims Advisor to Government. Sarah has a multidisciplinary background having studied law, psychology, history, and economics. She worked as a lawyer in Perth, Western Australia for 8 years before returning to New Zealand where she completed a PhD in psychology at Victoria University of Wellington.

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