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Domestic violence survivors deliver petition to parliament

A petition started by members of The Backbone Collective, calling on Government to uphold the United Nations recommendation that there be a Royal commission of Inquiry into the New Zealand Family Court will be presented to parliament on Tuesday, 27th November at 1pm. M.P Poto Williams and Marama Davidson have agreed to accept the signatures on the steps.

Along with the nearly 2000 signatures, a powerful art work from the No Shame No Silence exhibition will also be presented. The artwork features three mannequins inscribed with quotes from women and children who have experienced violence and abuse and gone through the Family Court.

Deborah Mackenzie, Co Founder of The Backbone Collective explains ‘Women regularly tell us “I wish I’d never gone to the Family Court after leaving my abusive partner.” It has become patently clear to us, after hearing hundreds of women’s experiences of the Family Court, that even though women initially approach the Family Court for protection their lives and those of their children are made less safe as a result.”

In July this year an official delegation from New Zealand, headed by Under Secretary Logie, went to Geneva for the CEDAW (Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women) four yearly review. As part of the review New Zealand was questioned on the treatment of survivors of domestic violence in the Family Court.

On 20 July 2018 CEDAW publicly released its recommendations and 48(a) recommended the New Zealand Government;

‘Establish a Royal Commission of Inquiry with independent mandate to engage in wide-ranging evaluation of the drawbacks and obstruction of justice and safety for women inherent in the Family Court system, and to recommend necessary legislative and structural changes necessary for making the Family Court safe and just for women and children, particularly in situations of domestic violence.’

Deborah explains what happened next; “It was a short-lived celebration for Backbone members. The very same day we had the UN saying we needed the Royal Commission, Minister Andrew Little said he was not having one but would go ahead with his proposed review of the Family Court. It was distressing to say the least to have validation from international experts that there were serious issues in the Family Court requiring a full investigation and yet have that crushed by our own Minister for Justice on the very same day.”

As a result, members of the Backbone created the petition calling on the Government to uphold the UN recommendation. There has been support for the petition from many New Zealanders. Students from Victoria University are promoting the delivery event and have been releasing short clips via social media and visitors to the No Shame No Silence exhibition have been invited to sign it.

Deborah adds “New Zealanders want more than a poke with a long stick – they want a thorough investigation of the Family Court. They think it is too closed, too protected and is mostly unaccountable to the tax payer. There is a growing concern that children’s welfare and best interests are not upheld in the Family Court. So, let’s have that Royal Commission and stop tinkering at the edges of the problem.”

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