ElderEthnicCoordinationWomenYouthLegalChildrenMaoriMenSexual ViolenceCounsellingDisabilityParentingEducationCrisisFamily


Women's Refuge: Politics, Parties and Family Violence

September 14, 2017 at 3:37 PM

*From the Women's Refuge website*

With the election now only a few short weeks away, there’s a lot going on to think about when you’re casting your vote. The parties so far have focused on housing and homelessness, poverty, the environment and climate change, law and order and the Police, the health system and mental health and the economy. What they haven’t talked about so far is family violence. With the possible exception of the environment, domestic and family violence intersects with and strongly influences all of the other main issues. Recent research in Australia, for instance, identified domestic violence as a leading cause of women and children’s poverty and homelessness. National and international studies strongly link chronic health issues for women and children to their experiences of family violence, both mental and physical, and our own recent research into economic abuse mirrors international studies identifying domestic violence as a strong contributor to poor employment and economic outcomes for women and the children they care for. An under pressure Police force reports that up to forty percent of their work is family violence related and estimates of the overall cost of family and domestic violence to the New Zealand economy and employers to be somewhere between three and eight billion dollars. And so it goes on. Yet none of the parties, major or minor, have as yet issued an unequivocal public statement of their commitment to tackling the issue. Although we’ve made significant progress in recent years, no-one can argue that that there’s not a long way to go before we can confidently claim that New Zealand homes and families are the safe and nurturing environments needed to grow strong and healthy children.

We asked political parties for their domestic and family violence policy statements so we could know who among them was going to prioritise family violence after the election. We compared these with a list of priorities – a wish list of commitments that we believe is crucial to tackling this destructive and socially corrosive issue. – These are:


  1. Victims’ rights are put first: Victims and their rights should always be at the very heart of all legislative and policy decisions making processes.
  2. Government working closely with the domestic and family violence sector: Attempts to address and eliminate domestic and family violence require the combined efforts and knowledge of both policy makers and those working within the sector, along with the voices of victims and perpetrators themselves. Getting it right is going to take everyone working together in a respectful and collaborative way – competition, distrust and disrespect between and within government and non-governmental agencies will take us nowhere.
  3. Adequate resourcing for specialist domestic and family violence service providers: Making a difference simply isn’t possible within the current funding environment. Service providers struggle to meet existing service demand and it is past time that government acknowledged the urgent need for increased resourcing for a sector that has been under pressure for many years. Although we have all become smarter and better at providing essential social services within tight resource constraints, really making a difference is going to require substantial government investment in specialist services. We can no longer accept as adequate baseline funding that has remained unchanged for almost a decade now.
  4. Resourcing domestic and family violence research and pilot projects: Moving ahead requires that we have up to date local research to evidence precisely what is happening across Aotearoa New Zealand, along with identifying and testing new and innovative approaches in both the prevention and intervention spheres. As a nation we must acknowledge the need for on-going investment in domestic and family violence research and the testing of new programmes and approaches. These are fundamental to development of best practice responses for everyone working within the domestic and family violence sector.
  5. Progressing proposed legislation changes: Successive governments have made significant progress in ensuring that the New Zealand legislative framework is the best it can be to protect victims and hold perpetrators to account. This work must continue, regardless of political ideology. Although the elimination of domestic and family violence will ultimately depend upon social change, this change must be underpinned and supported by robust and comprehensive legislation.
  6. Taking a whole of government approach: It’s critical that all government agencies work together coherently and cooperatively. No one single state agency, or non-government agency for that matter, has the ability or capability to prevent and eliminate family violence alone. Similarly no one political party holds all of the answers. Commitment to working together, regardless of political persuasion, is going t be absolutely critical to making lasting change.


Here’s how they all measured up….


Below are the full unedited policy statements provided by the parties


National Party (Family Violence Spokesperson Minister Amy Adams)

“National has a proud record of tackling difficult social issues. By addressing complex social issues through a social investment lens, we believe we can make a real difference and change lives.

Family violence is one of these issues. For too long, New Zealand has had the worst rate of family violence in the developed world. It is an issue that doesn’t discriminate – affecting real people of all ages, ethnicities and socio-economic groups, every day.

Reducing family violence is a key priority for National.

We’ve turned our words into a detailed programme of work which is making a real difference to victims and their families.

We set up the Ministerial Group on Family and Sexual Violence in 2014, bringing together 16 Ministers to develop a work programme that aims to reduce the impact that family and sexual violence has on New Zealand.

We’re overhauling the 20 year old family violence laws, introducing the Family and Whanau Violence Bill to amend six Acts and make changes to over 30 pieces of law. The new offences and changes to protection order alone are expected to prevent around 2300 violence incidents a year. We want to see this Bill passed in in the next term.

We have established the Integrated Safety Response pilot, which helped over 28,000 people through the development of more than 9,000 family safety plans. We’re getting some excellent results from the pilots and have backed the pilot with another $22.4 million to extend it for a further two years

We’ve upgraded nearly 600 homes through the National Home Safety Service, which upgrades locks and alarms to keep victims stay safe and secure in their own homes.

We also introduced the Family Violence Disclosure Scheme, made it easier for courts to share information, and appointed Kim McGregor as the inaugural Chief Victims Advisor.

We’ve done a considerable amount already but we can do more. National has made reducing family violence a key priority and if we’re re-elected, we’ll continue to work to reduce our horrific rate of violence, pass our new family violence laws, and continue to put victims at the heart of the justice system.”


Labour Party (Family Violence spokesperson Poto Williams)

“Family violence is a major human rights issue globally, and occurs at an alarming rate in New Zealand. New Zealand Police advise that only 20 per cent of family violence incidents are reported to them.

Labour will:


• Increase funding for the sector to meet the needs of their clients

  • Increase contracting periods for providers, remove gagging clauses, and remove the requirement to collect individualized data
  • Take a long-term strategic approach to ending violence and invest in early intervention and prevention
  • Support children who witness and experience violence to overcome their trauma
  • Review the family court reforms and support the statutory agencies to meet the objectives for safety in our communities.

Violence occurs in many forms and in many settings but affects everyone. Some groups are disproportionately impacted, most notably women and Māori, Pasifika and ethnic populations. Family violence can be physical, sexual, psychological, emotional and financial and often manifests as a combination of different forms of abuse. It is violence against a person by a perpetrator with whom that person is, or has been, in a domestic relationship. Family violence is not series of isolated incidents that affect an individual. Instead, it is a pattern of abusive behaviours that can have multiple victims – both adults and children – and is often intergenerational.

Sexual violence can also occur in settings where the perpetrator is unknown to the victim. Sexual violence, including rape, has devastating and long-term impacts on mental and physical health, it contributes negatively to our rates of incarceration, suicide, and many other social harms. Family violence intervention and prevention services have suffered from a severe lack of funding over the last nine years. Lack of access to court mandated programs, raised thresholds for legal aid and recent family court reforms have compounded in fewer positive outcomes for individuals and families.

In addition, statutory agencies such as Oranga Tamariki, The Police and Corrections have seen their work in this area increase without the required support, resource or training nor the legislative leadership to begin addressing this issue in a strategic manner that will actually make a change in the lives of those impacted by violence, or address how we can make the change long term, sustainable and systemic change the results in a Violence Free Aotearoa New Zealand.

Labour will:

  • Adequately fund the sexual violence and family violence community partners to deliver crisis intervention to both those that suffer from and those that use violence and family that are impacted by violence
  • Resource the delivery of multi-disciplinary, multi-agency programs that see Police, and other government agencies working in partnership with community partner agencies to respond when Police are notified and respond to violence in the home.
  • Increase access to Justice through lowering the thresholds for access to legal aid
  • Extend Police Safety Orders so they can be issued for 10 days instead of the current 5 unless a Protection Order is applied for. Currently only the courts can issue Protection Orders and yet these can take time that victims of domestic violence often don’t have in terms of keeping themselves (and, often, their families) safe. Within this timeframe, the victim must have applied for a court-ordered permanent Protection Order for the Police Safety Order to remain valid until the Courts can determine the merits of issuing a permanent Protection Order or decide on another course of action; or if not applied for, the order will lapse
  • Investigate strengthening Police Safety Orders or allowing Police to issue temporary Protection Orders to better protect people until they can obtain a permanent Protection Order.
  • Ensure that we have an integrated system that will allow community and Government agencies to work together to reduce family and sexual violence
  • Support and enhance and commit to the networking of family violence services to better provide a coordinated response and also the on the ground thinking for the development and implementation of sound and effective policy
  • Ensure government departments take leadership in addressing violence by instituting employee assistance programs and special leave to assist our public servants to become violence free.

Our children are impacted by the violence the experience and witness at home, even if they don’t see the violence, they are acutely aware and what happens in their home, where they expect to be safe can be traumatic and damaging. Presently there is little in the way of effective, accessible support for children to help them overcome the effects of violence

Labour will:

  • Support the development and enhancement of programs that help our children resolve the issues caused by the trauma of experiencing and witnessing violence
  • As part of an overall strategy to end violence ensure over time that resources are directed to breaking the cycle by dealing with the issues that children present, such as issues of behavior, mental health and anxiety.

The National Government raised the threshold for access to legal aid and reformed the family court, cutting access to support and programs to allow families to work through their issues through mediation.

Labour will:

  • Review the family court reforms that have created inequity and an inability for some to engage in safe and effective processes to resolve their family issues
  • Review the Police response to victims reporting sexual violence to encourage victims to come forward and make statements
  • Review how the courts deal with the victims of sexual violence
  • Amend the Holidays Act to allow employers to provide up to 10 days of special leave for those who experience violence to escape violence relationships and set up new households, allow victims and users of violence to attend programs to help them overcome violence and for friends, family and significant people to support their loved ones to be violence free
  • Create a strategy to reduce rates of family violence in New Zealand in partnership with sectors and key stakeholders. This strategy will include legislation; community responses and models; statutory agency responses; public awareness and education programs and will include programs specifically for children to deal with the trauma of witnessing or experiencing violence; the harmful effects of viewing objectionable material online and in social media and consent and relationship programs as part of school curricula. It will focus on crisis intervention in the first instance, and include an increasing focus on primary and tertiary prevention over time
  • Set targets to reduce family violence rates over a specified timeframe, which is likely to be around 25 years for a Violence Free Aotearoa New Zealand.”


New Zealand First (Family violence spokesperson Tracey Martin)

“For the last three years New Zealand First has had a sub-committee of their caucus working on policy to address our countries terrible family violence statistics. We have focused our attention in two areas that we recognised that other political parties were not.  An in school fully funded health programme for all Year 10 students to education on consent, coercive control and self-defence.  And secondly a nationwide roll out of the successful Gandhi Nivas programme which supports those (predominately) men removed by police under a “safety order.”  Please see below for the detail on that programme also.

I was the New Zealand First representative on the cross-party consultation group pulled together by Amy Adams when working initially on the changes to the justice system around this issue.  Unfortunately what we are being told by women and their families, and by the lawyers having to navigate the system to try and keep their clients safe is that the changes made to the family court over the last nine years have made it harder for women to seek protection and justice not better.  Because of this evidence we cannot commit to retaining all the changes made by the National Government.  We must talk to those who must use the system, keep what is working and replace what is not.

Please also note that New Zealand First has consistently had a policy of ensuring increased and sustainable funding for Women’s Refuge and I was recently part of  a cross party group that gained a one off $50,000 fund to keep Shakti Women’s refuge open in Wellington.  New Zealand First opposes the National Governments moves to gain person information from those women seeking support from Women’s refuge as we believe this will put more women at risk under a low trust model of thinking.  New Zealand First has supported Jan Logie’s legislation seeking to provide “domestic violence leave” for those that require this time off, with pay, to extract themselves from violent relationships. 

New Zealand First would like to see more recognition of the trauma children experience from being the witnesses to family violence and our call to implement counsellors into our primary schools and lower the counsellor/student ratio at Secondary Schools will go some way to address the needs to these young people.  I have been informed by secondary school counsellors that part of the “crisis of anxiety” we are experiencing in our schools is a number of students who are too concerned to leave home to come to school because they know that there being in the home means that violence is unlikely to happen, therefore when they do go to school they are constantly concerned about what might be taking place at home.    How do we support these families without breaking them apart is the answer that eludes us as a society but is the answer these young people need before they feel free to discuss their own feelings with professionals and others.

Healthy Relationships funded under New Zealand First.

New Zealand First announces plans to fund programmes promoting healthy and safe relationships as part of the Health Curriculum for all Year 10 students.

“Our desired outcome is to substantially reduce coercive control which we believe is the precursor to possibly more serious violence inside relationships in the future.” Says Education and Women’s Spokesperson Tracey Martin.  “Coupled with the research recently released by the New Zealand Family Violence Clearinghouse that has found that 20% of female and 9% of male secondary school students have experience sexual abuse we need to empower our young people to say No and to understand NO!”

 New Zealand First has committed $5 million dollars in the first instance to support the 40 family violence networks who co-ordinate family violence prevention and intervention initiative regionally.  This is almost double the funding provided to the Family Violence Response Coordination in the 2016/17 budget.

“We know there are some amazing programmes available to schools but that lack of funding means that schools have to select those they feel are most at risk to participate as opposed to universal delivery.” Ms Martin says “What the Clearinghouse data tells us is that you cannot predict who will become a victim so we need to arm all our young people with this knowledge.”

Provide financial support for Men’s Houses such as Gandhi Nivas House in South Auckland.

 It was identified in South Auckland that men removed by safety orders for the 3 to 5 days required did not have anywhere to go or were too embarrassed to seek support so they were sleeping in their cars or sleeping rough.  And while there were services sent into the home to talk with the women involved there was a distinct lack of services for these men to get the support they deserve / need to deal with the stresses/behaviours leading to aggressive situations.

The model we have been looking at, which is highly successful, was set up originally for new migrant males.  However while this model has been proven using that demographic we are suggesting that this should be extended to all New Zealand men who need this support during a difficult period for themselves and their families.

It would also be our suggestion that some of these men may in fact be the victim of violence but unconscious bias on behalf of society means that when the police show up they remove the male as a matter of course.  There is a great possibility that if support such as that being provided at Gandhi Nivas was available these men could be more open about their reality and could be empowered to leave the situation.




Green Party (Family Violence Spokesperson Jan Logie)

“The Green Party want all people to be safe from abuse, violence, and to live without fear of violence. Under the National Government, vital services have had to reduce hours and services as their funding was cut or not increased to meet demand. These services need to have decent funding to ensure support for victims and survivors throughout their journey. There needs to be a funding boost.

All women may experience violence regardless of their status but the likelihood of experiencing violence and ability to access appropriate support and find safety are significantly different for different groups of women. We need responses that will meet the needs of all women. Last year, the police were called out to a family violence incident every four and a half minutes.

Our aim is to improve whole-of-system response to intimate partner violence. The Green Party will increase funding to refuges doing this important work, and make it easier for organisations to access this funding.

The Green Party will:

  1. Promote the primary prevention of violence against women. This is to address culture, and shift societal mindsets. It aims to prevent violence from happening in the first place.
  2. Build an integrated response to intimate partner violence by bringing together departments, agencies and service providers working across and outside government.
  3. Build a shared understanding of intimate partner violence across all sectors and reflect this understanding in legislation.
  4. Develop common risk assessment and risk management frameworks.
  5. Develop complementary codes of practice to ensure consistent responses by individual agencies.
  6. Centralise funding for services and evaluation to assess effectiveness.
  7. Improve training in intimate partner violence across all professional disciplines where decisions may be made or advice given in cases involving family violence.
  8. Develop a case management approach that prioritises victim safety.
  9. Improve public knowledge about risk factors and the co-occurrence of intimate partner violence and child abuse and neglect.
  10. Ensure high quality, more efficient and accessible services by incorporating the insights of those individuals, family and whānau who have experienced intimate partner violence.
  11. Ensure all measures are in place to enable those who have experienced intimate partner violence to successfully rebuild their lives.

The Green Party will address Honour-Based Violence and forced marriage by treating these as human rights issues, rather than an immigration issue. There is absolutely a need for culturally appropriate refuges that are funded by the Government. We support a specific immigration pathway for those married overseas and living in New Zealand via a partnership visa, if there is proof of coercion to marry. We believe these women should be supported to obtain residencyin their own right within 2 years of coming to New Zealand.

The Green Party is committed to creating a safe, nurturing, and non-violent country for children. Children needed legal protection against the excesses of physical discipline to stop New Zealand’s culture of violence towards children. We are proud to have supported banning smacking of children. The Green Party are opposed to a referendum on repealing section 59. Referendums should not be taken on human rights issues. Children and their rights shouldn’t be decided by a majority vote. People are now more conscious of reporting violence against children – that’s a good thing. We need to do more to ensure that our atrocious violence against children is further reduced. The Green Party supports child advocates in all Women’s Refuges to ensure that children’s voices are being heard.

New Zealand needs sex education to be more widespread and to include consent and relationship boundaries in every school. Consent needs to be a core part of sex education in schools, and we are failing our young people by normalising aggressive sexual behaviour. Greater education about consent will help reduce a rape culture that consistently minimises and excuses unacceptable behaviour. There are unhealthy attitudes in New Zealand about women, and we need that to change.

The Green Party supported the Family and Whānau Violence Legislation Bill, but have several improvements that we would like to see implemented.

  • We are deeply disappointed that the 2013 reforms to the Family Court prioritised saving money over the safety of women and children and were not considered in the above legislative review. This limited the potential benefits of this legislation.
  • We are concerned that the intentions to enable community agencies to support victims to prepare applications for protection orders will potentially heighten imbalances in access to justice; where victims, typically women on lower incomes or temporarily without independent means, will access support from non-legal avenues, and people who use violence, typically with more access to money, will get legal assistance to defend or challenge the orders.
  • We are also concerned that, despite many years of feedback and research on the inconsistent and often anti-victim interpretation of the Domestic Violence Act in the courts, there is no serious response to that problem in this legislation.
  • We heard the call for a Royal Commission of inquiry into the functioning of the Family Court. The Green Party supports a victim-led review of the functioning of the Family Court and in the interim we believe independent domestic and child abuse expert advisors in the courts should provide advice and monitor the application of the law.
  • We believe there would be value in developing an accreditation system for all people engaged in the Family Court to ensure they understand the most up-to-date evidence on domestic violence and child abuse, and that their practice and decisions are consistent with this.
  • We are also very concerned that, despite the negative impacts on children of living within a household with domestic violence and the much higher likelihood of those children experiencing direct violence themselves, these reforms have largely been developed in isolation from the reforms of Child, Youth and Family (CYF). The Green Party believes we need much clearer direction on protecting children from the impacts of domestic violence and supporting work to rebuild attachment with the protective parent. The Green Party believes reforms to the Domestic Violence Act should have been done in tandem with the reforms to our child protection services.
  • We are deeply concerned that this bill will effectively create a third legal information sharing regime alongside two already established in the most recent CYF legislation. This risks confusion for practitioners and legal uncertainty, when our goal should be the safety of victims, especially children.”


Māori Party (Family Violence spokesperson Minister Te Ururoa Flavell)

“The Māori Party has pledged a commitment to the provision of adequate and sustainable funding for family violence services, which is immediately accessible by survivors of family violence as well as to enable the prevention of family violence.

The Māori Party is committed to a zero tolerance for violence policy and the need to raise people’s awareness and understanding of child abuse and family violence and the need to promote healthy relationships.  

We believe the provision of adequate and sustainable funding for family violence services, which is immediately accessible by survivors of family violence as well as to enable the prevention of family violence, is necessary.


The Māori Party wants to:

  • Increase funding for abuse survivors to immediately access specialist services, treatment and support
  • Provide lifelong, free access to therapeutic based support for victims and their families
  • Educate children and young people about what child abuse and family violence is and how to protect themselves
  • Address the urgent need for a greater investment by government in whānau restoration programmes which address sexual violence in a collective context; and ‘whole of whānau’ initiatives to ensure the active participation and engagement of all whānau members.
  • Lobby for a much greater commitment from ACC into responding to the deep impacts of sexual and family violence
  • Introduce a direct resourcing pathway that expands E Tū Whānau and the Pasifika Proud campaigns
  • Extend the reach and access of Facilitators in the Family Court to support whānau navigating their way through the Family Court system
  • Continue to support the strategy introduced by Associate Minister of Social Development Hon Dame Tariana Turia, Achieving Intergenerational Change which is about addressing violence issues that families face and weaving the strands of work together into an integrated, cohesive approach to ensure people are given the support they need to turn their lives around
  • Increase facilities and resources for families to help those at risk free themselves from sexual violence
  • Invest funding in frontline services such as Women’s Refuges throughout Aotearoa to enable them to address the huge numbers of police callouts, to restore safety and wellbeing while still maintaining zero tolerance for violence
  • Enable sustainable funding for specialist services to continue to provide information, first response and long-term support and treatment for those affected by sexual violence
  • Establish 120 navigators roles with specialist skills in dealing with family violence”



United Future (Party Leader Peter Dunne)

“We want to see a future where domestic violence isn’t the problem that it is now. We would ensure that police co-ordinate closely with social service and child protection agencies in each community, including automatic referral of any criminal activity that involves children, to improve responses to domestic violence and child abuse. Women’s refuge does a great job and the government should be working with women’s refuge and providing them the support they need.

We also support;

  • Ensure that the Parole Board consider the impact on victims and the community when considering the conditions placed on parolees (e.g. restrictions on where they will be located);
  • Ensure that character education programmes, also known as values education and life-skills education, are established in full consultation with parents and staff and operate in all of New Zealand’s schools. Character education is about incorporating universal values such as honesty, respect for others and the law, tolerance, fairness, caring and social responsibility into a school’s culture.”

ACT Party (Party Leader David Seymour)

“Firstly, thanks to the dedicated team at Women’s Refuge for their selfless work assisting women in painful situations. The decision to leave a violent relationship, even with children, can be a huge step into the unknown and Independent Women’s Refuges across the country are a beacon of hope in these circumstances.

In multiple areas, successive Governments have let down families and women in particular. A chronic housing shortage has seen families unable to afford a first home and being moved from house to house. Constant disruptions to living arrangements and the financial stresses of growing rental costs push some families to breaking point. A stronger ACT with more MPs would restore housing affordability by cutting the red tape that prevents new housing development.

However, even when families are under pressure, domestic violence can’t be tolerated. ACT will always put victims of violence first and force government to focus on core services – especially in justice. We need fewer police behind desks and more in their communities working with families. Early detection of family violence linked with immediate support for victims is vital.

We need to be both tough and smart on crime, we must reform the corrections system to break the cycle of recidivism and ensure that those who commit physical and psychological violence don’t have further opportunity to terrorize their victims. 

There is no quick fix to the culture of domestic violence in New Zealand but lifting families’ opportunities and cracking down on offenders are important steps in stopping the crimes committed against women and their families. ACT embraces organisations like Women’s Refuge with on-the-ground experience that politicians lack. Government must interact more closely with everyday people who spend their lives helping others.”

Category: Policy and Legislation