Inmates pay tribute to Māori Battalion veteran

By Mare Haimona-Riki

A group of men from the Northland Regional Corrections Facility have performed a biographical play about Harding Waipuke Leaf (Hokianga), captain of the 28th Māori Battalion.

The tāne, who are all members of the 'Redemption Performing Arts Programme', researched, scripted and performed the play, not only to practise their theatre skills but to pay tribute to the bravery of a decorated Ngāpuhi local, whose descendants were present at the performance. 

"It was amazing, it always brings me to tears.... These boys have done a fantastic job and I'm very proud of them," says Helen Leaf, grand-daughter of Harding Leaf. 

Leaf gave four years and 51 days in overseas service in WWI, where he served in Gallipoli and on the Western Front. 

In WWII, he was killed in action in Crete, Greece.  To this day, there is no burial ground or official resting place for the decorated war hero.

Beth Hill, one of the leaders of the programme, says performing arts has universal benefits for the inmates. 

"By participating in performing arts, their communication skills improve, .... their ability to approach things like the parole board or an officer who they otherwise might not be too friendly to. But with the help of the programme, it builds those relationships," says Hill.

The script for the play has been handed over to Helen Leaf so that the family can keep this memory in their possession.

The performance was held inside the corrections facility on Friday, 9 August.