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Marama Fox: Symposium on Women and Children



SYMPOSIUM ON WOMEN AND CHILDREN: A 'State of the Nation' discussion on how life is for Women and Children in New Zealand in 2014

SPEECHJuly 4, 2014 - Western Springs Community Hall

Twenty two years ago on June 26th, seven members of my close whānau were brutally murdered in their home on Judds Road. Well eight actually if you include my cousin’s eight and a half months unborn child. We do. In fact it was nothing short of a miracle that there were not another three coffins lying next to the seven on the marae back then.

The image that it brings to my mind is both tragic and poignant. As for the days they spent on the marae, each of the tupapaku were surrounded by whānau with love and dignity. Mothers, grandmothers, aunts, and sisters slept beside, between and around each one. Seven coffins were then lowered into one large open grave which became their final resting place. The shattered innocence in Wairarapa is something we will never forget. Waking to an eerily quiet morning, my four year old son lost his playmate and cousin, who at the time lived just through the alleyway from our home.

In the ten years that followed, the Wairarapa experienced incredible violence against children resulting in the deaths of the Bryant baby, the Aplin sisters, and Coral Burrows and baby Lillybing to name a few. There are many in Wairarapa who whakapapa as I do to almost ten children who have been killed over this time, and also to beautiful Coral through marriage. The lasting impact of this horrific legacy is one of the prime reasons why I am here today as the Māori Party candidate for the Ikaroa Rawhiti Electorate.

To be clear, although Māori may be disproportionately represented in the brutal statistics of family violence, I fully acknowledge that violence knows no boundary. It is not a precursor of race, it does not limit itself to poverty, but instead can be the insidious, subversive underbelly of wealth. Family violence does not limit its wrath to married couples but can be found in defacto relationships, estranged relationships, same-sex unions and even just dating. It does not have a preference for lifestyle but slams itself on the lives of both rural and urban families.

While there are no boundaries to family violence there are statistics that become prevalent in the reported incidences that we know about. As you are no doubt aware, unless we provide a safe haven, such as the Womens Refuge has, to all the victims of violence, free from shame, free from stigma, free from unrighteous judgement, and free from victim interrogation by society and the media, then we may never know the real statistical breakdown of the estimated 80% of unreported abuse.

We do know that there are strong links between domestic violence and the stresses of poverty, poor housing and low income. However, let us also understand that there are many whānau living and working in poor and poverty stricken situations who do not turn to violence. I am a mother of nine children and I know what it is to shop in my mother-in-law’s cupboards, to live in cramped conditions in cheaply built housing, to inherit hand-me-down cars on its last legs and to work with my brand new baby at my side because I could not afford to take time off. My husband and I understand fully the stresses involved in raising a family while choosing to buy food or pay the power bill but that did not ever, not once lead to domestic violence in our home or in the homes of many of our poor and dispossessed families. Violence is not a result of poverty; it is bullying antisocial behaviour that invariably has been a product of intergenerational abuse cycles.

I want to applaud the recent announcement by Minister Turia regarding the introduction of the whole of government approach, ‘Achieving Intergenerational Change’. Government agencies are required to strengthen the way they work with each other and with non-governmental organisations and communities to truly address family violence in Aotearoa. I acknowledge the comments by your Chief Executive Heather Henare regarding a lack of consultation in the initiatives announced by John Key, and I am heartened that this whole of government approach will mean developing shared goals, collaborative decision-making and the taking of joint action to change our response to how we address family violence.

In essence this is the core of Whānau Ora.

We know that domestic violence is not isolated to one but impacts the whole family, directly and indirectly. The Māori Party is proud of the Whanau Ora initiative where families are empowered to make changes in their lives and where government agencies are required to work together to assist families wherever necessary.

We must build on the strengths of initiatives such as E Tū Whānau, which empowers whānau to respond to family violence by helping to identify solutions and implementing them on individual whānau, hapū and iwi basis; the Pasifika Proud principles and framework which encourage and support Pacific communities to take ownership of the issues of family violence. The It’s not OK campaign has been successful in raising attention to the issue of family violence and preventing violence. The campaign aims to change attitudes and behaviour that tolerates any kind of family violence and encourages and supports New Zealander’s to seek help.

It is astounding to think the cost of family violence is estimated to be approximately $8 billion dollars a year. Around 84% of arrests involving domestic violence are men and 16% are women. There are 82,000 calls to the crisis and support lines for Women’s Refuge which equates to nine calls per minute. Lastly, 20,000 women and children sought emergency help from the Women’s Refuge last year alone. This is one in three women who suffer abuse of some kind.

The impact of domestic violence on women is staggering. To this end, we in the Māori Party want to assure you that we care! The inference that some parties have tried to make that because the Māori Party a Relationship Accord with the National Government that we do not care about our people is mischief making and quite frankly grossly untrue.

The Māori Party...

• Supported the call to reinstate the Training Incentive allowance to support sole parents into work

• Encourages employers to address the issues of families being time poor in spending quality time with children by developing greater flexibility in healthy working arrangements, and

• asserts greater investment to support Teen Parent Units that keep young mums engaged in education.

We DO NOT support the compulsory birth control for poor young women as suggested by a certain talk back radio hosts. #justsaying

We do support:

• The increase of the family tax credit and the increase of paid parental leave to 26 weeks.

• The Warrant of Fitness for all rental housing.

• Micro-financing for low income families to access low and zero interest loans.

New Māori Party policy supports a cross government accord for a wellbeing framework to keep whānau free from all forms of violence.

In essence this will require:

• a sustained effort to ensure that departments, agencies and service providers both within and outside government work together,

• adequate resourcing for police to enforce protection orders,

• police to act on all complaints of breaches of protection orders,

• policy to be developed in tandem with the findings of the family violence death review committee,

• a greater commitment to the provision of adequate and sustainable funding for sexual violence and domestic violence services which is immediately accessible by survivors of domestic violence,

• research into the effectiveness of stopping violence programmes, and

• the availability of legal aid to survivors of domestic violence.

The Māori Party absolutely supports calls to change the Domestic Violence Act to. This could have saved my cousins’ lives in 1992.

The Māori Party also believes that we can have sound influence under MMP arrangements with whoever forms the next Government. We will be there to advocate as strongly as we know how, for our tamariki, our whānau, our hapū and our iwi.

We are by Māori for Māori and ultimately for all New Zealand.


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