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King: LIVE Hawke’s Bay

Annette King

21 August, 2008
LIVE Hawke’s Bay (Domestic violence conference speech)
LIVE Hawke’s Bay

The sort of community initiative represented by this conference is one of the real ways New Zealand can tackle the evil of family violence within our society.

I feel privileged that you have asked me to join you today, and I want to say from the outset that I have nothing but admiration for your dedication and perseverance working in a an area that can often be grim and apparently thankless.

Wearing my hats as both Police Minister and Justice Minister, I want to thank you for your commitment to your community and the people within that community.

Everybody here shares a common goal and vision of a brighter future for our children and our families. This conference gives us the opportunity to discuss how to address family violence at a local level and to set in place a clear path for reducing and preventing family violence – in Hawke’s Bay and New Zealand as a whole.

On a recent visit to the United Kingdom I saw some shining examples --- notably at the Family Justice Centre in Croydon and the Leeds Inter-Agency Project --- of how a range of community and government agencies could work together in the area of family violence to bring about real and lasting improvements in their communities.

The collaboration in Hawke’s Bay between the Local Initiative for Violence Elimination Hawke’s Bay and Te Tumu Whakahaere o te Wero Kahungunu and the Ngati Kahungunu Violence Free Strategy are ALSO shining examples of what can be achieved when communities work together to solve community problems.

I also want to congratulate LIVE Hawke’s Bay on setting up this conference as an effective way to engage with the people on the ground and gain community feedback.

New Zealand saw an increase of 6200 violence offences in 2007. This increase was almost entirely related to family violence offences, (5,800 of the increased number of offences) which increased by 31.5 percent. The national statistics were reflected in Napier and Hastings, with increases in violent crime in 2007 of 14.5 percent and 17.2 percent respectively.

Stopping family violence and preventing the tragedies of child and partner deaths that New Zealanders have seen is an urgent priority for all of us. Family violence affects everyone, from all walks of life and all generations.

Having a strong legislative base is important and New Zealand has robust acts for all victims of family violence. The Domestic Violence Act 1995 recognises that all forms of domestic violence are unacceptable and ensures that there is effective legal protection for its victims. A significant tool in the Act is protection orders, which are granted in the Family Court.

I recently announced a range of proposals that have been approved by Cabinet to further strengthen the objectives and implementation of the Domestic Violence Act and to enhance the consistency between the Act and the Care of Children Act 2004. Key proposals will:

· Strengthen the role of the Police and their ability to enforce protection orders

· Improve the response of the Family Court and the criminal courts to victims of family violence, and

· Provide better protection for children in Family Court matters.

A Domestic Violence Reform Bill is currently being drafted, and will be tabled for consideration by the Government as soon as possible. The changes took place after widespread consultation in communities around New Zealand.

One important aspect of the proposed legislation is that police will be able to issue on-the-spot Safety Orders. The clause is still being drafted, but I know from my discussions in the United Kingdom there will be great interest taken in the success of this initiative. The principle of the on-the-spot orders is to make the family safe, as the first priority.

Another vital piece of legislation is the Victims Rights Act 2002 which is designed to ensure that a victim or a member of a victim’s family who has welfare, health, counselling, medical, or legal needs arising from the offence should have access to services that are responsive to those needs.

To improve the awareness of the provisions in the Act, the Ministry of Justice is developing a Victim’s Charter, website, and phone-line. These initiatives will create a central contact point for victims and form a significant part of the programme of work to improve the provision of information to victims of crime. Surveys have shown that what victims want most is information.

Legislation provides a framework for protecting victims and preventing further violence, but it is only one part of the solution.

We also need to change individual and society attitudes towards family violence. For too long family violence been a silent destroyer of families. We must have a voice against family violence, and we should not listen to excuses about alcohol, poverty and provocation. Our voice is now symbolised by the “It’s Not Okay” campaign.

When I talked in Leeds about that campaign, the manager of the Leeds project, Michelle de Souza, said she believed the slogan could be developed to become an international symbol against domestic violence. I couldn’t agree more.

The slogan has emerged from the nationwide campaign, launched in September last year, called the Campaign for Action on Family Violence. The campaign is also supporting leaders at a community and national level.

Given that the campaign aims to change the way New Zealanders think and act about family violence, the success of the television advertisements has been most encouraging. Recall of the ads has been extremely high, with almost 90 percent of those surveyed remembering the ads.

These are promising results. It is also encouraging that our society is less tolerant of family violence and more willing to report incidents. There is no quick fix, but the more we create an environment in which victims of family violence feel able to report what is happening to them, the more chance we have of ending this scourge on our society.

More people are now prepared to report family violence to the Police, because they know the complaint will be treated appropriately and sensitively.

The campaign is one initiative under the Taskforce for Action on Violence within Families. The taskforce brings together government and non-government sectors, independent Crown entities, and the judiciary to work together in a coordinated way, to provide leadership to end family violence, and to promote healthy and stable families. The Taskforce reports to the Family Violence Ministerial Team, which sets the strategic direction of work on family violence.

Under the Taskforce work programme, the Ministries of Justice and Social Development are undertaking further work to support and assist victims in the Family Violence and district courts. An Independent Victim Advocate is being introduced in each Family Violence Court in 2009 to provide support and assistance to victims.

The Ministry of Justice also undertook wider work for the Family Violence Taskforce in 2007/08. This included improving the information given to victims, improving the security of courts, and establishing, in consultation with the Judiciary, four new Family Violence Courts in Auckland, Porirua, Masterton, and Lower Hutt.

I understand that Principal Family Court Judge Peter Boshier is talking today about the interface between the Family Court and criminal court. How these courts function is vital in protecting victims and holding perpetrators of family violence accountable.

These initiatives are setting a foundation for future successes in reducing and preventing family violence, but work needs to traverse sectors, it needs to cross disciplines and mediums. Currently, the justice system provides an ambulance at the bottom of the cliff. No matter how effective that ambulance is, though, we have to target what is happening on top of the cliff.

In that respect, I want to talk about three other important approaches the Government is taking.

The first is increased funding for sexual violence prevention. I can announce today that the Sexual Violence Primary Prevention Contestable Fund is an allocation of two year funding being made available to Sexual Violence Prevention Service Providers within New Zealand.

The value of total funding for delivering projects is $400,000 a year (GST exclusive) over the two year period, and the Ministry of Justice will accept funding applications for projects requiring a minimum of $50,000 a year. In addition to the above funding, 20 percent of the total project delivery funding ($80,000) will be ring-fenced for evaluation establishment and baseline work in Year 1.

The second area I want to touch on concerns the abuse of alcohol in our society. We all know the devastating impact of alcohol in terms of violence, particularly family violence, and the Government is taking steps to try to ensure that we break the cycle of violence and alcohol abuse at a young age.

Associate Justice Minister Lianne Dalziel recently tabled the The Sale and Supply of Liquor and Liquor Enforcement Bill, which will tighten the law around supplying alcohol to young people, encourage compliance with licence conditions, and further restrict who is granted a liquor licence. The Bill is likely to have its first reading in Parliament soon.

The Bill proposes a ban on adults supplying liquor to under-18s, unless the adult is a parent or guardian, or has the consent of a parent or guardian, and it also proposes to empower local councils and their communities to establish local alcohol plans that include setting things like opening hours, one-way door policies, limitations on outlet density, and proximity to other premises like schools.

Communities have made it clear that they want a say in licensing decisions, and the Bill provides for this. Police say that alcohol is involved in up to 80 percent of crimes.

The third initiative is one that has me really excited. It is derived from Canada, and it is in 20 schools currently. It is called Roots of Empathy. A baby is brought into a classroom of nine-to-eleven year-olds on a regular basis with the baby’s mother and father. Children are encouraged to ask questions and take an interest in the baby’s development. The programme is all about targeting vulnerable people, teaching children what we need to do to protect vulnerable people such as babies. I hope the programme can expand to more schools soon.

In addition, under the second stage of the Government’s Effective Intervention programme, the Government is looking at expanding the provision of AOD/mental health nurses in the Police Watch Houses, increasing the availability of treatment in the Corrections sector by expanding the specialist AOD offender team project from the current 600 clients to 1000, and by providing additional AOD services to offenders in Auckland, Dunedin and Northland.

We are also looking to establish a Kaupapa Māori residential service for Māori offenders in the Central DHB region during 2009/10, at further expanding workforce capacity, and commissioning research into the effectiveness of treatment options for offenders.

I talked at the start today about the importance of local initiatives. This conference is all about community strength and community participation. The more communities can be persuaded to face problems together, the better chance there is of dealing with those problems.

The theme of this conference is the continuum of family violence, and I am personally very pleased to see that Professor Richie Poulton, of the Dunedin Longitudinal Study, will be speaking to you today. The Study’s research has greatly assisted our understanding in many areas of behaviour, including the trajectories that may set children on the path to offending and ultimately lead to family violence.

Early intervention has the greatest likelihood of succeeding for at-risk and vulnerable families, and has been a key philosophy of the Family Violence Taskforce.

Work is also underway under the Taskforce on families at-risk of family violence, such as the Family Violence Inter-Agency Response System. Set up by the New Zealand Police, Ministries of Justice and Social Development, Child, Youth, and Family, and NGOs, this initiative is about improving communication between government agencies and NGOs to better support families and children affected by family violence.

Some of you may have seen the story yesterday about Wairarapa Police taking an initiative to ensure families are kept safe as a first priority.

If we as New Zealanders are going to change our attitudes and behaviour in relation to family violence, a substantial shift in our thinking needs to take place. This change is a collective responsibility, and this conference proves that the people of Hawke’s Bay are taking on this responsibility and are committed to making a change.

The goal we must all aim toward is the elimination of family violence in New Zealand and zero tolerance of all forms of violence.

Conferences like this one encourage me to believe we can realistically look forward to a future where family violence is minimised. That has got to be the ambition that spurs us all. This conference is certainly a step along the way. Thank you very much for inviting me to join you here.


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