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Let’s mobilise against domestic violence

Sue McCabe
Chief Executive
National Council of Women of New Zealand

Words are no longer being minced when talking about New Zealand’s intolerably high rate of family and domestic violence.  Instead, everyone seems to be on the same page about the need to act.

Justice Minister Amy Adams says family violence is her core priority. She didn’t hold back, when, earlier this month, she announced the Government’s review of family violence law.

“We know that 41 per cent of Police response time is spent dealing with family violence… Last year, around 100,000 family violence incidents were reported to Police. That’s one every five minutes… Evidence shows that it’s likely as much as 80 per cent of family violence cases go unreported to Police,” the Minister said in a speech.

Given our country’s horrific rates of domestic violence, it’s not surprising that there has been considerable cross-party collaboration on this topic and that the review has been largely applauded by all quarters. Due to these factors, there is hope that we can get positive change as a result of the review.

A few people have queried the timing of the Government’s initiative, asking why now? I believe it is in large part due to the absolutely tireless work of individuals and organisations over many years to keep the pressure on for more to be done to reduce domestic violence. This review is probably of little comfort to many who work with survivors of violence – it’s a drop in the bucket given the complexity of the issue, its causes and its pervasiveness.

However, it is another step. It is now up to the community and voluntary sector to support those amongst us who have campaigned for more to do be done, through having our say.

We need to mobilise to give clear and strong messages about the most important changes that need to be made. While there will be a diversity of voices, views and messages, we need to think very carefully before we oppose any of the proposals in the document, or suggest other ideas. I urge people to constructively think how to mitigate any risks around them, rather than reject ideas simply because they carry risk.

We need to listen to and learn from the organisations that know the horror of family and domestic violence inside out, so our submissions are as informed as possible and carry persuasive messages for the Government to act on.

Women’s Refuge, in the National Council of Women’s latest members’ newsletter, said the current Domestic Violence Act is good but patchy implementation has weakened its ability to protect women and children.

“How current and new legislation  is implemented  therefore  needs  to  be  at  the  forefront of  decision  makers’  minds.  This exercise  will  be  a  waste  of  time  if  agencies,  including  the  Police  and  Judiciary,  are  not given  the tools  (and  Ministerial  direction)  to  give   practical  effect  to  what  appears  to  be  a very  clear  intention  to  make  the  justice  system  more  responsive  and  effective  around domestic and family violence, “ Dr Ang Jury said in the newsletter article.

There are many fora underway to support mobilisation around this review so we maximise this opportunity to create change.

Birthright New Zealand, Family Works New Zealand and the National Council of Women of New Zealand are organising a session on Tuesday 1 September 2015 in the morning through the Hui E! Community Aotearoa network as an additional way to provide information and support learning. If you are interested in attending or receiving notes from this session to inform your submission email sue.mccabe@ncwnz.org.nz.

To read the discussion document visit www.justice.govt.nz

To receive the council’s weekly email newsletter, On Balance, which contains the latest news and research on gender equality topics including violence against women, sign up via http://www.ncwnz.org.nz/news/