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Speech: Lighting the Night with Hope ceremony

Hon Annette King

Speech: Lighting the Night with Hope ceremony

It is a special privilege to be taking part in this Matariki Lighting the Night with Hope ceremony, but more than that it is a special responsibility.

The past few hours have been painfully powerful in terms of their symbolism and emotion, and no one who has been part of this vigil will have remained unaffected by the experience.

We have walked to the top of a mountain, we have lit the night with torches and light sticks, and we have been present for the dawn of a new year; and, we desperately hope, for the dawn of new hope for new generations of people living throughout New Zealand, but particularly here in South Auckland.

I use the word desperate for very good reason, because that is what the situation is in South Auckland for so many of our women, and, even more sadly, for so many of our children.

That is even more so the case for Maori women and children and Pacific women and children; it is a reality that is with us every day.

For most of us it is a reality that simply saddens us, or angers us, or appals us; but for those who are the victims of domestic violence, it is a reality that batters, that terrifies and, far too often, kills.

There are not many days when we get up in the morning, and listen to the news or read the morning newspapers, when we are not confronted by the horror of yet another seemingly sense act of violence committed generally against largely defenceless victims.

Far too often, the stories we listen to or read about are happening here in South Auckland.

Perhaps it might be a start if we stop thinking of these "news stories" as stories. The word "stories" is just journalistic jargon, after all. These are real events that traumatise the lives, sometimes on an almost daily basis, of innocent people who need the help of all of us.

I am certainly not criticising the media in any way, because people need to be shocked by the level of domestic violence in our society, and the media often does just that. But I sometimes worry that the sheer weight of coverage can also eventually have a de-sensitising effect, and we cannot afford to let that happen in society.

The moment we become de-sensitised, the moment we are tempted to shrug our shoulders, then that is the time when things will surely get even worse.

That is one reason, of course, why this ceremony today is so significant. I am sure that all of us who are part of Matariki Lighting the Night with Hope will go away from here today re-energised in the individual roles we can play in preventing domestic violence and looking after those who need our help.

Thank you, therefore, to all those organisations, including the police, who have been responsible for making this event a reality.

I want to thank senior police who are here, particularly Deputy Commissioner Rob Pope and Counties Manukau district commander Superintendent Steve Shortland, MC Dale Husband, Chief Judge Russell Johnson, Families Commissioner Rajan Prasad, Manukau Mayor Sir Barry Curtis, Cabinet colleague and Social Development Minister David Benson-Pope, and, last but not least, Dr Pita Sharples, who has been such a driving influence in today's activities.

I also want to thank the three marae represented at the vigil, Pukaki, Makaurau and Te Puea, for their blessing.

Matariki is traditionally a time for reflecting on the past and rejoicing in what is to come in the year ahead; it is a time for spiritual and personal growth and and it is a time especially for thinking about and holding dear those who are most precious to us, our whanau.

It is a special time for Maori, but in terms of the pernicious outcomes of domestic violence, this Matariki ceremony is also intended to be an inclusive event for Pacific people and all the other families in South Auckland.

This is the right time, for a host of reasons, for Maori people, Pacific people and all New Zealanders to take spiritual stock of where they are and where they stand in terms of the wellbeing of their families.

When people commit acts of violence against their families, whether they are Maori, Pacific or anyone else, they not only harm those they love, but they undermine their own sense of spirituality, self-esteem and wellbeing. While Matariki has been chosen as the launch base for a Family Violence awareness project that exposes the bad and the rotten that is in our society, it is also designed to help cleanse the South Auckland community and hold out hope of a better future.

I said at the start that it is a responsibility as well as a privilege to be here. Dozens and dozens of women and children have been abused, battered and killed; we owe it to all of them to do what we can personally to intervene in this cycle of violence. None of us can afford to be apathetic; none of us can be silent if we see or learn of something happening that may result in yet another helpless victim.

Police, like other government agencies, are always open to criticism when a tragedy occurs, but I want to say I am proud of what police are trying to achieve in South Auckland working collaboratively with Maori and Pacific peoples. Both Maori and Pacific people commit a disproportionate amount of domestic violence, and both Maori and Pacific suffer, therefore, a disproportionate number of victims.

Maori and Pacific leaders, organisations and churches, working with and alongside government and community agencies, can help provide a path out of the shame that now besets out society.

Violence is a learnt behaviour, and the children who witness violence today can themselves inflict the violence tomorrow. Matariki Lighting the Night with Hope is an inspiring start down the path to breaking that vicious and fatal cycle.

Today is about South Auckland, but it is more than that. It is about New Zealand families. It is about New Zealand people. It is about all of us, about who we are what we can do. Thank you to everyone here for giving us new hope, and sharing that hope.


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