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Dalziel: White Ribbon Day

Hon Lianne Dalziel
Minister of Commerce, Minister for Small Business,
Minister of Women’s Affairs, MP for Christchurch East

23 November 2006 Media Statement

Op-Ed/Opinion piece for White Ribbon Day

By Lianne Dalziel

Minister of Women's Affairs

We are fast approaching the “season of peace and goodwill”, but a sad fact is that in too many New Zealand homes there is little peace and no goodwill.

Domestic violence is a year-round problem, but at Christmas it is brought into sharp relief. This issue has been described as "the elephant in the living room" – something we simply cannot ignore.

Violence by any person in any form is unacceptable. As some commentators have recently pointed out, women can be violent and women sometimes kill men. But according to police statistics, 85 per cent of reported family violence cases involved women as victims and 94 per cent of adult domestic homicides were perpetrated by men. Translated into real numbers that means that between 2000 and 2004, 54 women were killed by men in family violence-related homicides. In contrast, three men were killed by women.

I am not seeking to justify any of the violence, nor to minimise the experience of those men that are the fear-filled victims of violent relationships, but we cannot pretend there is no gender issue here, because domestic violence is a gender issue and unless we understand that we will be a long way off addressing it.

While White Ribbon Day has generated controversy in the minds of a few, I believe it serves a useful purpose in raising public awareness and turning the spotlight on this issue. I don't mind the debate it has generated, because it has focused people's attention on the appalling statistics – it's been reported that 16 women have been killed this year alone.

That is why this week we tied two large white ribbons to the pillars at the top of the steps of Parliament – to draw attention to the United Nations’ official day to eliminate violence against women and to say that Members of Parliament across party lines will not commit, condone or remain silent about violence against women.

The government has been tackling this issue through the establishment in June 2005 of the multi-disciplinary, high-level Taskforce for Action on Violence within Families that released its four-point programme of action in July this year:

* Leadership – the Taskforce is committed to providing leadership to oversee the implementation of their programme of action. In order to provide effective advice to government, they will use the infrastructure and resources of the New Zealand Family Violence Clearinghouse. The Families Commission is also conducting a 3-year research programme on the nature of family violence and prevention strategies.

* Changing Attitudes and Behaviour - the government has provided $11.5 million over four years for a nationwide campaign to change attitudes and behaviour toward family violence and the Families Commission is contributing $2.5 million over three years. The changing attitudes and behaviour campaign will be long-term and phased sequentially to target different forms of family violence, based on research and continuous evaluation. The Ministry of Social Development (MSD) and the Families Commission are leading this work in consultation with government and non-government agencies

* Ensuring Safety and Accountability – This stream of work is to ensure that victims and families are safe, that re-offending stops and perpetrators are held to account, and that support services are accessible.

* Effective Support Services - in Budget 2006, the government announced a $9 million investment, spread over four years, in family violence prevention services. This will go towards community services providers such as 24-hour crisis lines, counselling, social work support, safe-house accommodations, advocacy and information.

But family violence is something a government cannot fix on its own. The struggle to eliminate violence is fundamentally about changing hearts and minds. The causes of violence are complex and do not always lend themselves to solutions requiring government intervention. We can’t legislate to change the attitudes that tolerate violence, but attitudes can change if we all work together to bring about change.

White Ribbon Day is just one day, but we know that family violence happens all year round. Wear your ribbon as your own personal pledge to speak out against violence at every opportunity.


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