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New Project Aims To Transform Health Care Response To Family Violence

An AUT-led project looking at health care responsiveness to family violence has just published findings that aims to transform thinking and outcomes in this space.

Funded by the Health Research Council of New Zealand, ‘Atawhai’ recognises family violence seriously impacts the health, wellbeing and hauora of all members of whānau and families, yet there is currently limited system support to help primary health care providers respond to it.

“This can make it hard to know what to do, or how to help,” says Dr Claire Gear, Senior Research Fellow at AUT’s Centre for Interdisciplinary Trauma Research and Atawhai Project Lead.

Atawhai found having a network of trusted relationships between providers is critical in supporting safe, relational responses to whānau and families.

"It realises that providers do not have to ‘fix the problem’ but be someone whānau and families can trust to walk alongside them, supporting opportunities for change,” says Gear.

The publication also identifies the need to critically reflect on the systems and structures that underpin responses to family violence and how they shape responses in practice.

“Atawhai was developed by primary care providers in the Bay of Plenty and aims to make it easier to respond to family violence in practice.”

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“It is a call to action to support primary care providers in responding to family violence through policy and practice. As a relational response, Atawhai is focused on building a network of trusted relationships to support safe responses to those accessing care,” continues Gear.

Hazel Hape, manager of Tauranga Women’s Refuge, and Atawhai co-investigator has welcomed the work done by the Atawhai project.

“Family violence is not only a justice or social issue. Health care has a huge part to play in preventing the severe impacts of violence on health and wellbeing, but also in supporting long-term healing and restoration.”

And work will continue into this complex and critical area, says Dr Gear.

“We plan to support members of the Atawhai network through ongoing wānanga and professional development opportunities,” she says.

“Our wānanga are special as they provide safe spaces for providers to share and learn from one another on the challenges of responding to family violence.”

Those interested can sign up on the Atawhai website at www.atawhaitia.co.nz.

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