Family Violence Summit 'Empty Gesture' Ahead of Election
THE BACKBONE COLLECTIVE
Family Violence Summit ‘Empty Gesture’ Ahead of Election
Family Violence Summit ‘Too Little Too Late’
Family Violence Summit A ‘Whitewash’ Ahead of Election
Government ‘Paying Lip Service’ With Family Violence
Government’s Family Violence Summit ‘Lipstick On A Pig’
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The Backbone Collective says the Government’s Family Violence Summit adds insult to injury as it fails to recognise the voices of women and children who have already been critically failed by the system.
The Family Violence Summit was announced earlier this week by Justice Minister Amy Adams, to which people from the family-violence sector -- including some survivors and former offenders -- will be invited to talk about how to fix New Zealand’s dire family-violence problem.
But Backbone Founder Deborah Mackenzie says the Government is paying lip service to win votes ahead of this year’s election: “Why is the summit being held three months before a general election? This government has been in power for nearly nine years.
“All indications are that the system that is supposed to keep women who experience violence and abuse safe, and help them rebuild their lives, is more broken, more harmful and more abusive towards women than it was nine years ago. More talking won't change that.”
Mackenzie refers to feedback from Backbone’s anonymous surveys, the first of which it ran late last year with the following key findings from women experiencing violence or abuse:
The current system is not keeping women safe
Only 3% of women said that people who responded to them did an excellent job of understanding their experience and what they needed
There is a lack of information available to help women navigate the system, understand who to seek help from, understand their experience of violence and abuse
The Family Court is the highest ranking ‘issue’ that women want Backbone to focus its next survey on
Women want an independent complaints body
Mackenzie has worked in the violence-against-women sector for many years as an advocate, network coordinator. policy analyst, and independent contractor. She has seen countless women and children sidelined and put into more dangerous situations by the system that is meant to protect them: “Women and their children are forced to endure years of mental anguish and financial ruin - particularly in the Family Court system even if the ex partner has been violent towards them.
“The violence and abuse is ignored in the decision making. There is a gaping hole in the picture which no one acknowledges and the woman and her children are falling into it.”
Backbone Cofounder Ruth Herbert is another veteran of the family-violence sector, having worked for years trying to improve the system, most recently as Director of Family Violence at the Ministry of Social Development and Executive Director of the Glenn Inquiry: “Many women tell us they have to battle the system and that it leaves them feeling unsafe and re-traumatised.
“Others tell us that they returned to the abuser as keeping themselves and their children safe and rebuilding their lives was just too hard.”
Both lament the likely talk fest approach of the Summit and say there is a better way to address NZ’s violence-against-women problem: “Our message is that the Government and those working in the sector need to listen to what women have to say about how the system should respond when they experience violence and abuse.
“Since our launch two weeks ago we have had over 450 women sign up who are desperate to tell us how bad the system is and how much worse their situation is if they leave their abusive partner, or reach out for help or justice regarding their experience of violence and abuse.
“We look forward to sharing their insights with the Government, media and public over the next month when we release our first watchdog report and second survey on the Family Court.”
Mackenzie and Herbert say the Family Violence Summit is likely to be a ‘closed shop’ that excludes the actual users of the system who could give the best insights about where the system is failing the most to protect women and children: “Why are people in the sector being consulted and not the women?”
They add the Summit is an empty gesture ahead of the election and a waste of taxpayers’ money: “How much money will be spent on organising, promoting and hosting this Summit - and couldn't it be better spent on supporting women and children to be safe? This is putting lipstick on a pig in our view.”
Backbone Cofounder Tania Domett is sceptical about the true intentions of the Summit and suggests an alternative: “This Summit is going to be a whitewash in the face of this year’s election.
“How about changing its focus to Violence Against Women and inviting all the women who have signed up to the Backbone to present? That would deliver real insights and show a genuine commitment to addressing New Zealand’s rates of violence against women, and improving the response system.
“More talking won't change anything, unless it's talking directly to women about what they know needs to change.”
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Backbone Collective Founders Deborah Mackenzie
Deborah has worked in the violence against women sector for many years as an advocate, network coordinator. policy analyst, and independent contractor She has a lasting commitment to ensuring that ‘the system’ listens to women’s voices and responds to keep them and their children safe. Deborah has a strong interest in the justice sector. In 2014 Deborah co-authored The Way Forward report with Ruth Herbert which showed why we need an integrated response system in NZ and how to create one.
Ruth is well known as a researcher, campaigner and advocate working to improve New Zealand's system response to violence against women and children. She has written and spoken extensively on the issue. The fact that Ruth is a survivor of domestic violence herself has meant numerous other survivors have trusted her with their stories and experiences of the system. In recent years she has been a member of the independent review into ACC's sensitive claims pathway, Director of Family Violence at the Ministry of Social Development and Executive Director of the Glenn Inquiry.
Tania is a researcher and policy analyst who over the years has worked with many agencies and organisations providing evidence-based solutions to improve the work they do. Tania sees violence against women as a human rights failure that must be addressed so that New Zealand women can exercise their fundamental human right to bodily integrity and freedom from fear. Tania believes violence against women is the most critical social issue facing New Zealand right now, from which many other forms of inequality and social harm stem, and that improving the response system is key to improving the life chances of not only women survivors, but also those of their children and entire communities.
About The Backbone Collective
The Backbone Collective “Backbone” is a newly-established independent body taking action to change New Zealand’s alarming violence-against-women statistics by examining the present response system through the eyes of its users - women who have experienced violence and abuse. Backbone was formed in February 2017 by Founders Ruth Herbert, Deborah Mackenzie and Tania Domett. It aims to recruit as many women as possible who have experienced violence or abuse and anonymously surveys them to collect data that will then be used to continually improve the response system.
Backbone differs to other organisations working in the field of violence against women as Backbone:
Is the only independent body focused on gathering the views of women about where the response system is and isn’t working and using that information to shine a light on areas where improvements are needed
Is the only body with robust client-informed data that is available to the Government and agencies working within the response system to make improvements
Is the only independent watchdog body for the violence-against-women response system in New Zealand.
Is entirely independent, so we can share information without the worry of having our funding cut. That said; we have no funding for this venture and we are volunteering to make it happen – we hope other New Zealanders will support us so we can grow this initiative into something truly life changing for women.
Demonstrates continuous improvement in its own processes by constantly asking members what can make Backbone work better for them.
About Brillard & Tulloch Digital
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We are one of many volunteers helping to build The Backbone Collective to make New Zealand a safer place for everyone’s benefit by trying to improve the response system that women in New Zealand face when they experience violence and abuse.
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