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Turiana Turia's speech: Preventing Family Violence

Turiana Turia's speech: Preventing Family Violence

Launch of Family Violence Intervention Guidelines, Te Rangimarie Room, Te Papa Tongarewa

E nga mana, e nga reo o tenei whenua, tena koutou katoa. E nga iwi e huihui nei i tenei ra, tena hoki koutou katoa.

Today is the last day of Week Without Violence.

Week Without Violence is an international community-led campaign against all forms of violence – physical, verbal, sexual, psychological and institutional violence, including racism, harassment, bullying and hate crimes. Violence occurs throughout society, across all our institutions, including our families.

Violence, abuse and neglect diminish a person’s growth and development, their capacity to feel, think and communicate, their faith and trust in the world around them, and their ability to belong, to share and care.

When violence occurs within the family, the problems it causes quickly escalate out of control, and spread into the wider community. Family violence is at the core of many social problems – poor health, educational under-achievement, social isolation and cultural breakdown.

The acts of physical violence which trigger public interest and official intervention can have many interlocking causes. To prevent violence, we have to address those underlying causes – otherwise the pattern will be repeated.

This issue can seem all so complicated, and so hard to know where to begin, that it overwhelms us. But there are solutions, and these guidelines are one part.

When members of a family are affected by violence, there is an obligation on the wider group to assist, whether whanau, neighbourhood or church community, or official agencies on behalf of the general public.

These guidelines are part of the official response. They grew out of a recognition that health professionals are often well placed to recognise the signs of family violence, and to offer support.

But health professionals are trained in health care, not violence prevention. They themselves need guidance and support to make their interventions effective. That is the purpose of these clinical guidelines. They will be backed up by training programmes for health workers.

A key requirement for effective intervention is co-ordination. Many government, professional and non-government organisations have helped to develop these guidelines, through the work of their representatives on the Professional, Maori and Pacific Advisory Committees, and I’d like to thank them for their contribution.

These guidelines contribute to Te Rito – the New Zealand Family Violence Prevention Strategy. Close co-ordination and co-operation among official agencies is the goal of that broader strategy.

Of course, any intervention takes place after violence has occurred. Campaigns to prevent family violence in the first place are also planned, to complement these guidelines. So the government has planned a comprehensive response to this issue.

Experts agree, however, that governments alone cannot prevent violence. So what can we do, as individuals, and in our communities?

Last week, I invited the YWCA and a number of community groups to Parliament to commemorate Week Without Violence. The theme for this year is Voices Against Violence – and we heard many voices against violence.

Mereana Pitman has devoted 25 years to stopping violence. She told us that her initial focus was acts of physical violence – but she soon realised you could not stop that without looking at the underlying causes.

Mereana became interested in how family history and attitudes contribute to violence; then how cultural conflicts and colonisation have affected relationships within whanau and hapu; and how global culture and economy set the stage for how we live our daily lives.

Mereana’s message was one of hope. As her horizons broadened, her understanding deepened. As the problem seemed to become global, she realised that by taking personal responsibility to make changes in our own lives, we can make changes to how the world operates around us.

Mereana encouraged us to dispel the illusion that violence is acceptable, of any sort or degree. We must look to address violence in all areas of our lives.

As an example, my colleague Brian Donnelly, of New Zealand First, talked about his teaching career. As a young school principal, caning or strapping students was accepted as a nasty but necessary part of the job. Brian became principal of one school where, every day, students were bleeding from fights, staff were afraid to do lunch duty alone, violence was out of control. A new approach was needed.

Brian declared the school a violence-free zone.

To start changing attitudes, he asked teachers to identify and promote the positive in each other, and in the students. Within months, they had transformed the culture, and the school was flourishing. Brian now advocates a law change, to stop children being smacked, as one way to change attitudes to violence in our families and society.

In too many cases, in our schools and our society as a whole, responses to episodes of violence have been simplistic, punitive and individualised – removing the ‘problem’ (whether the victim or the perpetrator) rather than looking at ways of healing and rehabilitating relationships. Transforming a violent society to one which embraces wellbeing requires education and rehabilitation of all its members.

So it’s up to each one of us, to be open to the possibilities of restoring balance in our families and our communities. Together we have enormous power to bring about change.

Kia ora tatou katoa.

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