7 Dec 2021

Government reveals 25-year plan to tackle family and sexual violence

3:17 pm on 7 December 2021

A 25-year plan to tackle the amount of violence in New Zealand homes is being unveiled by the government this morning.

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Minister for the Prevention of Family Violence Marama Davidson. Photo: RNZ / Samuel Rillstone

The country's first National Strategy for eliminating family violence and sexual violence, called Te Aorerekura, will see 10 agencies working together.

Minister for the Prevention of Family Violence Marama Davidson said Te Aorerekura represents an evolution in the journey to address violence in homes and in communities.

"Te Aorerekura sets a collective ambition to create peaceful homes where children, families and whānau thrive; to enable safe communities where all people are respected, and support the wellbeing of our nation," she said.

"This is an important step towards ensuring the wellbeing of all people."

Davidson said significant public engagement across the motu was undertaken with a resulting key message being that tangata whenua, the sectors and communities must be supported to lead and develop new ways of working.

Cabinet has agreed to establish a Tangata Whenua Advisory Group to provide independent advice and guidance to Davidson on family violence and sexual violence.

"Te Aorerekura sets out the principles that will guide how people work and the shifts that will move us toward: strength-based wellbeing; mobilising communities; skilled, culturally competent and sustainable workforces; investment in primary prevention; safe, accessible and integrated responses; increased capacity for healing; and learning and monitoring," she said.

The government expects over time the changes will mean further harm is not done to victims by the justice system and individuals and whānau are supported to heal and overcome the trauma of violence.

It would expect safe and tailored services to be available for tangata whenua, Pacific peoples, ethnic communities, LGBTQI communities, older people, male survivors and disabled communities, and that women, wāhine Māori and trans women impacted by violence can access safe, integrated, trauma informed and inclusive responses to provide protection and support wellbeing.

Understanding healthy relationships and how to seek help will be key for children and young people, as well as making sure they have access to tailored services, Davidson said.

For perpetrators of violence, the changes would see accountability and support to change and address past trauma.

Davidson told Morning Report the strategy aimed to create a stronger and more skilled workforce to cope with an increase in reporting of family and sexual violence over the next few years.

"What we need to be able to see in the next couple of years is people feeling safe to be able to put their hands up because there will be a stronger workforce with the right skills at the right time so that when people put up their hand they will not be further harmed by government agencies but they will receive actual support and long-term focus on healing with a strong prevention focus to stop violence from happening in the first place."

She said at least 80 percent of harm currently goes unreported.

Existing services had not catered to diverse communities and wraparound support will need to be suited to the unique needs of individuals, Davidson said.

"There is not a level of trust and safety that people feel there is to be able to ask for help it is not limited to any one or two agencies what we have seen is good examples of where we bring the agencies together... where everyone authentically works together it is showing to increase people's trust, it is showing to have better outcomes for people who need help."

Davidson said the majority of the 40 actions included in the strategy are underway or are able to be covered by existing funding.

She said the government wanted to see reduced tolerance for violence and inequity across the country and action taken by families, whānau and communities to prevent family violence and sexual violence.

The government currently spends $1.5 billion to $2 billion annually on the consequences of family violence and sexual violence.

Chief victims advisor Dr Kim McGregor said victims of family and sexual violence and their advocates had been asking for a comprehensive overhaul of systems for about 30 years.

McGregor said the national strategy was bold, focusing on the underlying social conditions that contribute to the violence and aiming to make the justice system safer for victims.

"During public engagement on the strategy, I saw diverse groups of people, including victims and survivors, contributing their expertise and having a voice about how the system needs to work. I am pleased to see this reflected in the strategy and action plan.

"The strategy provides a framework that reflects the complex needs of all population groups and will help guide and coordinate the work of people right across the system, in government and in communities. I look forward to contributing to the implementation of the strategy that aims to better prevent violence and better support people to heal, and restore and live free from violence."

She said it was the result of a phenomenal effort but it will need cross party support to really make a difference.

McGregor told Morning Report the Ministry of Justice was developing guidelines to support participants through the Family Violence Court, Family Court and a new Sexual Violence Court.

"That will enable victims to have the guidelines that sets out expectations of what they should expect in terms of services going through the court and they will be able to point to the guidelines when there are failures."

She admitted the strategy would take some time to make an impact on the ground.

National Network of Family Violence Services CEO Merran Lawler told Morning Report the announcement left her feeling a mix of emotions.

"[I'm] certainly excited about the launch of the national strategy and the action plan today, daunted because the amount of work ahead is enormous and also really anxious hearing the minister talk about an indication of success is that we'll have more reporting over the next couple of years as people increasingly feel safer to reach out for support," Lawler said.

Lawler said the 'frightening' reality is that huge investment is needed in the sector if it is to effectively manage the increase in reporting of sexual violence.

The family violence sector was in particular need of investment, she said.

"It's a work force that is under pressure, it's a work force that has been enduring the brunt of Covid and Covid lockdowns and continuing to work throughout."

Lawler said it was difficult to attract people to work in the sector and this had resulted in an ageing workforce.

Attracting more qualified workers would require increasing the financial incentive to work and stay in the sector.

She said the strategy is focused around front-footing the prevention of family violence.

"Really focusing on making the intergenerational changes that are needed so that we move beyond 'family violence is not acceptable' to family violence is just not existent so a real focus on that primary prevention."

Lawler said the strategy failed to address the need for accountability of those who perpetrate family violence.

"At its most basic we have huge numbers of people who are impacted by family violence simply because we have huge numbers of people who use family violence and they're just told it's not okay rather than it's criminal and you're going to be held accountable - so get help and get help early."

Lawler said centering the voices of tangata whenua would be key to the strategy's success.

Where to get help:

Need to Talk? Free call or text 1737 any time to speak to a trained counsellor, for any reason.

If it is an emergency and you feel like you or someone else is at risk, call 111.

Sexual Violence

NZ Police

Victim Support 0800 842 846

Rape Crisis 0800 88 33 00

Rape Prevention Education

Empowerment Trust

HELP Call 24/7 (Auckland): 09 623 1700, (Wellington): be 04 801 6655 - 0

Safe to talk: a 24/7 confidential helpline for survivors, support people and those with harmful sexual behaviour: 0800044334.

Male Survivors Aotearoa

Family Violence

Women's Refuge: (0800 733 843)

It's Not OK (0800 456 450)

Shine: 0508 744 633

Victim Support: 0800 650 654

HELP Call 24/7 (Auckland): 09 623 1700, (Wellington): be 04 801 6655 - 0

The National Network of Family Violence Services NZ has information on specialist family violence agencies.

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