Vivien Maidaborn

Chairperson, RAW Governance Board

Reading this book is like following a river of love. The art of holding wairua for people emerges as a theme over and over again. RAW is not only growing wairua between people, but they are also holding wairua for those who cannot, just now, hold it for themselves.

RAW is a book that brings forward, and pays attention to, the voice of women who are often without voice…. Indeed, I think one of RAW’s great strengths is listening closely to the RAW women’s voices, inside and outside, to find the right path, the right model, and the right combination of support, culture, love and structure to enable these women to transform their lives.

The RAW book is a beautiful and profound story that combines deep tradition with completely futuristic models of thinking and approaches to personal change. However, it is also hard, and perhaps this is its greatest gift. These women’s lives are not edited for acceptability or politeness. They are as they are, and prison is as it is. In this time of justice reform my hope is that this book becomes part of this conversation and, in particular, how we re-create prisons as more than a circuit-breaker, but a place to heal, recover, dream and prepare for a new life

Kingsley Field

Director, AccuWrite Wordsmiths & Media Ltd

This is a book like few others I have read in the past decade or more – it tells the stories of New Zealand women, many but not all of them Maori, who have lived in, and survived, the most appalling, heartbreaking circumstances. They were bashed, abused, treated as slaves, sexually violated, were drug users and sellers, were alcoholics; and for many of them prison was a safe haven where they could escape their lives of horror. And it was in prison that they met up with the RAW programme, a hard-nosed rescue project aimed at bringing women back into the world of happiness and self-belief. No-nonsense businesswoman and fashion designer Annah Stretton, together with her mental health nurse sister Rebecca Skilton, have battled bureaucracy, lies, failure, and their own initial lack of understanding, but in four years they have now created a system that works. More and more of the women are responding extraordinarily.

Now, author Natalie Pearce, has produced a book – The RAW Truth – tracing these almost unbelievable tales of tragedy, and the ultimate triumphs that are the results of two women who will not quit. Natalie’s stories, told from lengthy interviews with more than a dozen of these remarkable women, and with Annah and Rebecca, will raise hackles of outrage, they may make you weep – frequently – and they will certainly introduce a hard focus on a section of life most of us never dreamt existed. Superbly illustrated, and told with no apologies for all the horrible realities it reveals, it is one hell of a read.