Success Stories Emerge From Gisborne Family Violence Programme

A NEW iwi and police family violence programme is making progress after only months.

Whangaia Nga Pa Harakeke was set up in response to this district having the worst family violence rates in the country.

Police get called to more than 3500 cases of family harm a year in this region, or 70 a week on average.

Programme director Senior Sergeant Greg Brown said the rate of family harm incidents in Tairawhiti has reduced in a number of individual cases.

The team of 23, comprising police, iwi, Hauora Tairawhiti, Women’s Refuge, Oranga Tamariki, Corrections and a wider group of partner agencies, wanted to make a difference for whanau (family), he said.

“The system does not always get it right, but we are committed to improving what we do so whanau are safer.

“Some of the personal stories are truly inspiring and it is really cool to be part of helping a whanau be safer so that they can then focus on achieving their aspirations.

“You can see it in people’s eyes and it is what will lead to generational change.

“We have a lot of undiagnosed trauma in our whanau, which is deeply concerning because it means whanau are carrying a heavy burden.

“But case by case and whanau by whanau we are beginning to see that change is possible.

“There are number of people who are living a happier life through our collective efforts and that makes all the hard times worth the effort.”

A number of people have had complete changes in their home and are now much safer because of that.

“But so far we have not seen an overall reduction in family violence offences as yet. Overall there is still plenty of work to be done,” Snr Sgt Brown said.

“While the rate of violence remains static there are more calls from people seeking help before the situation escalates. That is a positive step in the community. It means we can be more effective in our intervention work.”

Triage table

The cases brought forward go to a joint ‘triage table’, where the risk is assessed and concerns identified.

“We work out how and who is the best to work with the whanau.

“I am still amazed at some of the struggles our whanau deal with on a daily basis.”

Snr Sgt Brown said the focus was on people being able to achieve their potential.

“We regularly hear deeply troubling stories of violence and hardship, frustration with ‘the system’, and whanau who need help.

“The situations are many and varied, and just when you think you have heard it all, another case comes in that proves there is more work to be done.”

While violence was a significant factor, what was harder to measure was the psychological impact of that violence, power and control, or other forms of negative behaviours.

“The effect on those suffering this abuse is huge. The impact is long lasting and is why we encourage anyone who is concerned about their situation, or anyone they know, to contact the team.”

Snr Sgt Brown said often those responsible had their own story of abuse.

“But violence is a choice and it is never OK.

“They would not use violence or abuse their partner if I was sitting in the living room in my uniform, would they?

“So those making that choice need to change and there is help available. That is why we work with everyone involved, including the perpetrator, even if they end up in our cells.”

Honest conversations

Honest conversations about the impact a perpetrator’s actions have on their partner and children often ends in tears, he said.

“But those tears can become a strong motivator for change.

“We have had a number of men come to this realisation, seek help and are now much safer for their whanau.

“That sort of success is what keeps us going. We focus on creating the opportunity, and when whanau are ready, we are there for them.

“Our kaupapa is have a cup of tea, see the person and see the opportunity.”

It has been immensley pleasing to see more whanau happy to come to the team and seek help.

“Just the other night a member of the community brought in a lady who had been living in an abusive relationship.

“That is a really big step but that created the opportunity for us to help her and her child to be safe.

“With the immediate crisis over, now we wrap around services to help empower her and resolve the harm she has suffered.

“In another case, a father bought his daughter in after discovering some really serious violence in her relationship.
She was young, and had been strangled a number of times. This is a major risk factor, and we are always grateful when whanau seek help.”