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Chadwick: Taranaki SAFER Centre - It's not OK

19 March, 2008

Steve Chadwick

Speech at Taranaki SAFER Centre Workshop: It's not OK

Tena koutou, tena koutou, tena koutou katoa. Warm greetings to you all.

Good morning. It’s a real pleasure to be joining you all.

I’d like to acknowledge the New Plymouth District Council: Safer Communty Council: Family Violence Focus Group, and the Taranaki SAFER Centre. Also all of you here today you who are providing essential services to your communities.

Workshops like this have an all important role to play. Bringing together your knowledge and ideas in a workshop like this is essential improving policies and initiatives that stop the cycle of abuse. The successes of organisations like the SAFER centre are the successes of the whole community. All of your efforts contribute in a very real way to shaping our daily lives.

I’d like to give a brief overview of why Government is working on reducing family violence. This is a key priority for us, just as it is for you. We do this because every person in New Zealand has the right to live without fear.

Eliminating family violence is a long-term goal. It requires a committed and coordinated effort from all parties; government, non-government, the community and individuals. What’s required is a ‘road map’; some way we can chart and check our progress.

That’s why we set up a dedicated Taskforce to act against family violence. We’ve done this to help change people’s attitudes and behaviours to violence, and provide effective support services. It will focus on helpful things like introducing independent victim advocates in the Family Violence Courts, to provide much needed support.

Already we’ve had great results from the It’s Not OK advertising campaign. You may recall the ads feature men who aren’t actors but real people, sharing their stories. And New Zealanders have responded in a wonderful way. One of the men took his small child to the local kindy the day after the first adverts had aired. He was met with a round of applause and lots of smiles. What an inspiring story…a story to change lives.

Thanks to four brave men who spoke about their experiences, the message that ‘Abuse is Not OK – but it’s OK to ask for help’ is percolating through. I don’t wish to send you all into a trance with sets of statistics. But if I can mention a couple you’ll see that people are getting the message. Change is happening.

After the first airing of the ads we tested their effectiveness with an independent survey. An incredible 87% of nearly 1000 randomly selected adults remembered the campaign. More than half said they’d discussed the campaign with someone, and one in five reported taking action. Two hundred people changed their behaviour or helped someone else change theirs. Not bad.

And we know how important communities are to get the message across. We intend to engage with local government to prevent family violence. Already, Waitakere City Council has taken its support of the It’s Not OK campaign to the streets. It’s put the campaign branding on local billboards and printed the campaign slogan on 300,000 council rubbish bags. It’s really great to see communities pushing the anti-violence message.

Our Taskforce for Action on Sexual Violence also provides a coordinated response to a very real problem. That’s why we’re teaming up with NGOs and the judiciary to look at treatment responses, identifying barriers to accessing services and early intervention.

In view of your workshop topic for this morning, I wanted to share some details of a recent study. This measured how well community based programmes for young sex abusers are meeting the needs of clients and their community. The results confirmed what many of you already know or suspect – that treatment programmes delivered by community providers in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch really are reducing the number of young people who continue to abuse.

Only 2% of the young people who complete one of these programmes go on to abuse again. Of those who do, the incident is of a much less serious nature. And I’m aware the SAFER Centre has similar desirable outcomes to these.

As well as reducing sexually abusive behaviour, the treatment programmes under study helped many of the young people get their lives back on track, with well over half stopping offending altogether.

It’s also disturbing to know that between 3%-10% of New Zealanders aged 65 or over experience abuse or neglect
The possible wide-ranging and long-term effects on victims are devastating. It takes its toll on physical and mental health, living arrangements and family relationships and support. There are corresponding costs to society and government.

We want to work with local government, NGOs and local communities for solutions. To help do this we’ve invested over $1.37 million in 26 Elder Abuse and Neglect Prevention services, coordinated by Age Concern, from Whangarei to Southland.

Despite these successes, the government has no intention of becoming complacent. On the contrary, these just strengthen our resolve to shift people’s attitudes to family violence and abuse.

We work with providers who do amazing jobs. That shines through in our research. The research also highlights areas for improvement. One of the challenges is ensuring suitable placements and follow up for young sex abusers as they exit programmes. Already the government’s talking to providers about helping here.

We know community involvement is critical to a strong child and family services sector. That’s why we should celebrate the recent announcement of $446 million in funding for community organisations providing essential social services. The vision is for a sustainable sector - one that makes a positive difference for children, young people and families.

I’d like thank all of you here for your work to stop the cycle of abuse. You can be sure your efforts have not gone unnoticed. For our part, the government is committed to going the distance to secure a safer future for us all.

ENDS

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