20 May 2022

For Maeve Neilson, striving to create a diverse rōpū, and challenging the “tough guy” stereotype of security roles is front and centre in her role as General Manager Health, Safety and Security at the Ministry of Justice.

"Court Security Officers engage with a diverse range of New Zealanders every day and Officers need to reflect the communities they serve  diverse in ethnicity, skilled in Te Ao Māori, and gender diverse," says Maeve.

“For example, when I first started in the role in 2019, only five percent of Court Security Officers were wāhine, and we have now increased that number to around 20-25 percent.”

Maeve says Justice’s Kia Taurite programme is helping drive this change and while there is still a lot of mahi to do, it’s great to see the results already.

“A Court Security Officer’s primary skills are communication, engagement and connection. We teach new recruits how to engage and communicate with all people who come to court and aim to provide a space where everyone is kept as safe and well as possible.

“Our skills in communication and engagement means we are able to put participants at ease and verbally deescalate issues the bulk of the time, noting coming to court is not something people genuinely look forward to doing – regardless of the reason.

“By recruiting for these skills and then teaching the other requirements around the Court Security Act, means we can reach a wider talent pool then the traditional view often held around security roles,” says Maeve.