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Family violence package ‘useful but not the last word’

Prime Minister’s family violence package ‘useful but not the last word’

The founder and funder of the Glenn Inquiry, Sir Owen Glenn, has welcomed the package of initiatives aimed at addressing family violence announced by the Prime Minister – but warns that they need to go much further yet.

“It’s been crystal clear since the public launch of the Inquiry’s People’s Report some weeks ago that New Zealanders get the need for urgent and fundamental change,” Sir Owen said. “We hoped that the stories gathered together for the first time in our Report would trigger a clamour for action.

But we couldn’t have foreseen how powerful the calls for change would actually be.”

“So, I have to say I’m sorry that an opportunity seems to have been missed with the Prime Minister’s package and the other initiatives announced subsequently. We’d hoped that all the political parties would be encouraged to come together to design and promote a joined-up national strategy for addressing child abuse and domestic violence across the whole of our society. The very strong positive response we’ve had from the Opposition parties suggests there is scope for a campaign that mobilises the good will that exists across the whole political spectrum. If anything worthwhile is to be achieved, it will need that momentum.

“I do take my hat off to the Prime Minister for acknowledging that the rate of family violence in New Zealand is unacceptable and more needs to be done. His intervention should ensure that a debate on the most urgent issue facing our society will feature in the approaching election campaign.

Where the parties stand on the national tragedy of child abuse and domestic violence may even affect how people vote. So it should.

“The package of measures announced by the Government will be useful, no question. I support Judith Collins’ promise, made at the weekend, to consider introducing an ‘attempted strangulation’ charge, because it’s so often a precursor to murder in domestic violence situations. I like the idea of electronic tagging for high-risk domestic violence offenders. I’m staggered that we’re only now talking about a conviction disclosure scheme that would allow a person to be told if their partner has a history of violence – but that gets a big tick too.

“Labour’s new policy ideas also have merit, particularly those for a long-term action plan, specialist training and relationship education and more exploration of alternative approaches in the criminal justice system. But just imagine the momentum New Zealand could build if all these policy initiatives, along with other political parties’, were pooled in a non-partisan way.

“Most of the individual measures announced recently are useful and some of them may even have significant impact. But they don’t represent the culture shift we need to turn around our appalling family violence statistics and also reach those many victims who are invisible in the official figures.

We have got to redesign systems across the whole of our society. If we’re going to manage a job as heroic as that, we all have to be on the same page, united behind a cohesive national strategy.

“I welcome the Government’s initiatives. However, if anyone is inclined to see them as the last word, I’d recommend some caution. The main mobilisation is yet to come.”


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