In the aftermath of the Christchurch Earthquake, Police and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade are working together to address the cultural needs of victims' families.
Police Maori, Pacific and Ethnic Services (MPES) have 10 staff liaising with families from several countries who have arrived in Christchurch to be with their loved ones who have died or gone missing in the earthquake.
MPES head Superintendent General Manager Wally Haumaha says his staff have connected with key foreign embassies and are working very closely with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) to provide support to the families.
Part of this support includes repatriation of the deceased back to the families and involves working with the different ethnic communities and religions.
"This ensures that cultural sensitivity is managed in terms of giving respect and dignity to the deceased as they are brought to the mortuary and then given back to the families."
As part of this process a blessing ceremony was held at the Burnham Military Camp mortuary yesterday, which involved DVI (Disaster Victim Identification) staff, and medical staff.
Mr Haumaha says the ceremony was a deeply moving experience for all those involved. These are people experienced in disaster management and felt supported in terms of their own spiritual well-being.
He says the reason for the ceremony was to show respect to the deceased and accord them the cultural respect before the mortuary procedures began.
As part of this process two padres will be staying at the mortuary with the deceased.
MPES and MFAT staff will also be speaking with different religious denominations to ensure the correct customs are adhered to in preparation for release of the deceased back to the families.
Christchurch Media Team: 027 432 0960 or ChchPoliceMediaLiason@police.govt.nz
Public Affairs: 04 460 2986 or 04 474 9482