Full interview: Professor Dawn Elder on domestic violence

  • 25/02/2016
Dawn Elder (Paul Henry)
Dawn Elder (Paul Henry)

A significant overhaul is needed in the way family violence agencies operate, a newly-released report has announced.

But it's not just the agencies -- it's important to change the entire narrative behind family violence in New Zealand, the Family Violence Death Review Committee (FVDRC) said.

The report says unless we change the way we think about family violence first, the system won't change in the needed ways.

"What we have today is the legacy of not taking family violence sufficiently seriously," said Associate Professor Julia Tolmie, acting committee co-chair.

Anti-violence agencies need to step up and put more focus on the victims of the violence, according to the report.

Instead of one-off safety advice, victims need to be provided with more long-term assistance.

On a national scale, we need to get rid of the notion victims are able to "walk away", the FVDRC said. It puts the responsibility of the violent situation on the victim instead of the abuser, trapping the victim.

"There are many barriers to help-seeking that need to be identified and understood," acting committee co-chair Professor Dawn Elder said.

It's also important to be looking at patterns behind the violence, rather than focusing on individual incidents on an individual victim. The committee found when a child is being abused, often the primary carer is being abused too.

"These are entangled forms of family violence and must always be identified and addressed together," Professor Elder said.

Associate Health Minister Peter Dunne and Social Development Minister Anne Tolley have both commended the report's release.

"This report highlights many ways agencies can work together to address the country's unacceptably high rate of violence," Mr Dunne said.

He said the report can help the Ministry of Health build on its Violence Intervention Programme, which since 2002 has trained health professionals to identify signs of child abuse and partner violence.

Ms Tolley stressed even though the Government's on the right track, better integration between departments is needed.

Within the $1.4 billion the Government spends annually on family violence, she admits there can be some overlap between some services.

"No one single action is going to solve this," she said. "It requires wholesale change over a number of years and we are determined to reduce and prevent family violence."

In the last decade, there have been 312 deaths linked directly to family violence in the country.

If any of these issues affect you personally, there are several free services you can call for help:

NZ Police: 111 -- If you have immediate safety concerns for yourself or anyone else, call and ask for police. Open 24/7.

Child, Youth and Family: 0508 326 459 --If you suspect child abuse or neglect, or are concerned about a child or young person, call and you can speak with a social worker. Open 24/7.

Are You Ok?: 0800 456 450 -- If you need information or a link to services in your region for those experiencing or perpetrating family violence. Open 9am-11pm.

Women's Refuge: 0800 733 843. If you are a victim, or concerned about someone you know, call for information, advice and support about family violence. Open 24/7.

Shine: 0508 744 633 -- If you are a victim of, or are worried about a friend or family who might be experiencing, family violence, call for information. Open 9am-11pm.