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Goff Speech: Launch of Family Safety Teams pilot

Hon Phil Goff
Minister of Justice

18 July 2005

Speech Notes

Launch of Family Safety Teams pilot

Family Safety Teams induction workshop
Brentwood Hotel, Wellington
8.30am, Monday, July 18

Thank you for the opportunity to open the training induction workshop, which launches the Family Safety Team pilot initiative.

The strength of this project is its integrated and collaborative approach. Family Safety Teams involve Justice, Police, CYF and, in the community sector, the National Collective of Independent Women’s Refuges, Child Abuse Prevention Services, and the National Network of Stopping Violence Services.

All these agencies have a common purpose but in the past have not sufficiently worked together and shared information to maximize their effectiveness. Family Safety Teams are about achieving the best possible coordination, communication and collaboration.

I would like to welcome the Family Safety Team members, the workshop developers and trainers and the Family Safety Team National Steering Committee members. Many of you have travelled some distance and given up time at home during the school holidays to be at the training workshop.

Family violence is a serious social issue in New Zealand.

Police statistics show that almost half of the ‘violence’ reported to Police annually is family violence. About half of the murders in New Zealand, approximately 25 a year, are family violence related.

The New Zealand National Survey of Crime Victims 2001 undertaken by the Ministry of Justice creates a fuller picture of real levels of victimisation. It indicates that 75 per cent of occurrences of violence disclosed were by people well known to the victim. For women, the offender is most likely a current or former partner, boyfriend, child, relative or friend. In almost all cases of child murders the perpetrator was known to the child, most often as a parent or step parent.

Women and children are mainly the victims of violence within families. Violence within families, however, is not limited to partner violence or child abuse. Elder abuse, violence towards parents by their children, and violence between siblings exists. Family Safety Teams will take a holistic approach addressing all of these issues.

The legislative framework for addressing family violence is strong.

Changes made to the Crimes Act and the new Bail Act, Sentencing Act and Parole Act all contribute to ensuring that perpetrators of violence are held accountable. The Victims Rights Act also strengthens the position of the victim in the system.

The Ministry of Justice has been monitoring the working of the Domestic Violence Act since it came into force in 1995. It has concluded that the underlying policy of the Act is sound, it is well supported by stakeholders and only minor amendments are necessary. The Ministry of Justice is currently undertaking a project that will improve the operation of the Act through identified amendments.

There is an important and ongoing need, however, to make improvements in the areas of early intervention, crime prevention and policing to turn around crime.

As a society we need to do more to prevent crime rather than just responding after the event. That is the focus of the Government’s Crime Reduction Strategy. Services and supports must be in place to reduce the risk factors and increase the protective factors relating to the development of offending behaviour.

We have to make crimes harder to commit, increase the risk of offenders being caught and decrease the rewards of committing crime.

A key objective of Family Safety Teams is to reduce the likelihood of repeat violence as well as respond to incidents of violence. The goal is to raise awareness that family violence is a crime, improve current responses to family violence and take a proactive approach to prevent further occurrences of violence.

In the pilot phase, $14.9 million has been invested in Family Safety Teams to help achieve these outcomes. The Family Safety Team pilot addresses the fragmented and narrow nature of the past response to family violence across government and non-government sectors.

It is based on the principle of partnership between the government agencies and NGOs, and between the family violence and child protection sectors.

The Family Safety Team concept relies on your expertise in family violence and child protection and exchanging that knowledge between team members.

Much work of course is currently being undertaken in local communities to address family violence. Your work will build on rather than replace existing initiatives.

The pilot aims to achieve a strengthened criminal justice response to family violence and improved safety and wellbeing for families. It aims to ensure families make greater use of existing services and assistance, such as protection orders, counselling, health, education, housing and income support services. It seeks to help build stronger and better functioning families.

Early intervention is the key to effective prevention and stopping the cycle of offending. The best single predictor of juvenile delinquency and adulthood criminality is an unstable and insecure home and children witnessing family violence.

Early intervention is necessary and effective at turning around behaviours that are likely to lead a child into a life of social dysfunction and crime, before victims are created, or before offending becomes entrenched.

Early intervention needs to be targeted, relatively intensive and ongoing. It requires a very high level of coordination of effort between government and community agencies.

Every dollar invested in this area to prevent dysfunction save a tenfold investment later on to deal with the consequences of antisocial behaviour, and saves the hurt and cost to the victims and the wastage in human potential reflected in our large and growing prison population.

There is widespread agreement among family violence experts that lasting improvements in family violence prevention are unlikely to be achieved without formal systems to support more effective inter-agency coordination and collaboration.

Working collaboratively takes time, patience and a strong commitment to work towards a common goal.

I would like to acknowledge the effort of the Family Safety Team project team, the Family Safety Team National Steering Committee, family violence providers in the pilot sites, and the many people in agencies that have assisted in establishing the teams has enabled the pilot to progress to this stage.

Family Safety Teams will reinforce to offenders and the public the message that family violence is a crime and emphasise that government and society are committed to enabling all New Zealanders to live safely and free from violence. Your work is critically important to enhancing the safety of victims, and persons most vulnerable to victimisation.

Thank you for the opportunity to join you today. I wish you well for a productive and successful week, and look forward to hearing of the success of the teams’ work.

ENDS

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