It’s been an incredibly busy and successful year for all of us working to prevent and eliminate family violence and sexual violence in Aotearoa, so I’d like to reflect on what we’ve done together and what we have to look forward to in 2019.
First, let me acknowledge the people working on the frontline in communities, providing crisis responses and supporting victims and survivors in their recovery. A number of you have also been working with the Joint Venture Business Unit (previously the Multi-Agency Team) and other agencies. It’s invaluable having that on-the-ground experience reflected in our work, and we’re grateful for the generous input of the practitioners who are advising us.
Second, I want to acknowledge the work of officials right across government. They are focused on developing new policy, implementing new law, funding and partnerships with community providers, enabling the design of new services and a national strategy, and developing new ways of working across government to give effect to the Joint Venture way of working. We have an ambitious work programme, so I appreciate you doing all that you can to put in place the change New Zealanders expect.
For me, there have been a couple of big highlights this year: including passing new law and creating the Joint Venture that brings government agencies together on family violence and sexual violence.
In addition to my Domestic Violence – Victims’ Protection Act passing in July, Parliament recently passed the Family Violence Act and the Family Violence (Amendments) Act. These all bring a stronger focus onto the needs of victims: their safety, their voice, and the principles that inform decisions concerning those affected by family violence. From 3 December, for example, strangulation will be a stand-alone offence. I am pleased to see the law bringing a focus onto an offence that is always serious and points to escalating risk. There’s more information about this in this e-newsletter.
For many years, advocates have been telling government that we need to work differently, so I was pleased to see the positive reaction when we announced the Joint Venture in September. This new way of working brings chief executives together to deliver an integrated, whole-of-government approach to family violence and sexual violence. It creates a single point of accountability and leadership, as recommended by the sector and experts like the Law Commission and the Family Violence Death Review Committee. Integrated practice across government and in communities can reduce family violence and sexual violence. We in government have to do things differently to achieve that integration.
As I said in September, a priority for the Joint Venture is preparing a national strategy and action plan on family violence and sexual violence. I’m looking forward to engaging with everyone to ensure we get the best possible strategy and a plan that everybody can help to deliver on. We’ll announce the process for designing and confirming the strategy in the near future.
For now though, I’m aware that we’re heading into a very busy period for those on the frontlines. Police, support agencies, and courts will be very busy responding to family violence and sexual violence cases throughout the Christmas-New Year period. This is something which we want to see less and less of in future years. For now, I wish you all the very best with your work during this time.
The first phase of new family violence law will take effect on 3 December, introducing three new family violence offences and making changes to bail and evidence laws. The new law is the culmination of extensive consultation with communities, organisations and individuals by both the previous government and this government.
The safety of victims and accountability for perpetrators is at the heart of the new legislation. Phase one is about strengthening criminal law so that behaviours commonly experienced by victims of family violence can be effectively prosecuted. Three new offences have been created:
These offences are covered by amendments to the Crimes Act 1961.
Victim safety and reducing trauma are at the heart of amendments to the Evidence Act 2006 and the Bail Act 2000, also coming into effect in phase one. We are making it easier for victims to give evidence in court by video recording, so that they will only have to describe what happened to them once. This is being rolled out as Police capacity to gather evidence on video allows.
We will also take steps to keep victims safer while the person who has been violent to them is on bail. Safety of the victim and family becomes the priority when deciding whether to grant bail and on what conditions.
Victims who may be additionally vulnerable because they live in ethnic immigrant communities now have better protection from types of abuse that may have higher prevalence in their cultural community, such as coerced marriage or civil union.
Phase two of the legislation strengthens family law and will come into effect in July 2019. Phase two measures build on the changes in phase one, with the same emphasis on victim safety and perpetrator accountability. Protection Orders and Police Safety Orders will be improved and information sharing will be enabled where it will enhance victim safety.
New ‘Whānau Resilience services’ are being developed to provide long-term healing and recovery services to individuals, families, whānau and communities affected by family violence.
The Minister for Social Development Carmel Sepuloni recently announced(external link) the investment of $15.4 million from Budget 2018 into the new Whānau Resilience services. This followed engagement by the Ministry of Social Development (MSD) with family violence providers across the country earlier in the year.
Family violence service providers reported that the overwhelming demand for crisis services means the majority of MSD funding is dedicated to providing short-term reactive support. This has not enabled providers to easily work with families and whānau on a long-term basis.
It is recognised that many people affected by family violence present with entrenched intergenerational trauma that takes time to work through and heal. Therefore, Whānau Resilience responses will be designed to be longer term, with support available at times of vulnerability.
The goal of Whānau Resilience is for whānau to establish or re-establish a life free from violence, and become resilient to the patterns of behaviour that can lead to violence.
Whānau Resilience services will be nationally procured and then regionally designed. The regional design of Whānau Resilience services acknowledges that communities and providers have invaluable knowledge and experience that should inform the design of services available in their communities.
This investment will ask for a range of successful providers to work together across their regions to determine what the needs are, what is available, and to collaborate to design effective responses based on the voices and input from individuals, families and whānau.
MSD are currently running workshops across the country to provide more information to providers and communities about what this new funding may mean for them. Further information about Whānau Resilience and the workshops is available online(external link).
The new Joint Venture leading the prevention and reduction of family violence and sexual violence will include a Māori advisory group, Te Rōpū.
In September, Cabinet agreed to establish an interim Te Rōpū to assist the government to work in partnership with Māori on an integrated response to family violence and sexual violence. They also agreed to the interim Te Rōpū mandate and terms of reference. The Cabinet paper is available here.
Under-Secretary Logie announced the government’s decisions to establish the Joint Venture and interim Te Rōpū at the 66th Māori Women’s Welfare League National Conference, in Gisborne/Tairawhiti, on 28 September 2018.
Ministers are in the process of considering nominations for the interim Te Rōpū, with the aim of achieving Cabinet sign off on appointment before Christmas. One of the first tasks for the interim Te Rōpū will be to provide advice on the design of the national strategy.
The Joint Venture business unit (the former multi-agency team) received 26 nominations from over 42 non-government nominating parties, in addition to the 40 plus Māori experts on the business unit’s data base.
A short list and all nominations were given to Ministers for their consideration following an assessment by officials from the Ministry of Social Development, Oranga Tamariki, Te Puni Kōkiri, and the business unit.
All nominating parties will be advised of the results at the same time as the announcement.
An independent working group has been formed to define what support the sexual violence sector requires and to design the ideal ways to provide this support.
This project, which is being led by the Ministry of Social Development (MSD) and ACC, is part of the cross-government family violence and sexual violence work programme co-ordinated by the Joint Venture for Family Violence and Sexual Violence.
A great response was received to the opportunity to join the working group and 20 people have now been selected. The names of the people selected are on the MSD website(external link).
The selected working group members represent the full breadth of the sexual violence sector – from prevention, medical forensic services and crisis support through to long term care and recovery services. It also includes representatives from sector bodies Te Ohaakii a Hine – National Network Ending Sexual Violence Together (TOAH-NNEST) and Male Survivors Aotearoa.
The group will seek input and expertise from across the sector as this work progresses and we will keep you informed on opportunities to take part. Find out more(external link) about this work.
Law that enhances the legal protections for employees affected by family violence will enter into force on 1 April 2019. The Ministry for Business Innovation and Employment (MBIE) is responsible for the implementation of the Domestic Violence Victims’ Protection Act, which enables employees to apply for domestic violence leave and apply for flexible working conditions.
MBIE has initiated work to implement the Act, which will include training for MBIE staff who respond to enquiries from employees, to enable them to provide accurate information about the Act and how it applies. Agencies such as Citizens Advice, Community Law, community providers working with victims will also receive information about the new law.
As this work progresses, more information will be available for employers and employees.
The early results from an evaluation of a pilot service being run in Auckland show it is making a positive difference for victims/survivors of sexual violence going through the criminal justice system.
The Ministry of Social Development (MSD) contracted Auckland Sexual Abuse HELP Foundation Charitable Trust (Auckland HELP) to pilot the service.
This work aims to address a gap identified by the Law Commission’s 2015 report ‘The Justice Response to Victims of Sexual Violence.’
Early findings from an evaluation by Malatest International show the court support pilot:
MSD will work with the Ministry of Justice to make recommendations on future service delivery after the pilot ends on 30 June 2019.
Find out more(external link) about the court support pilot.
If you are interested in hosting the Ministry of Justice and the Joint Venture business unit for a family violence and /or sexual violence engagement in your community, we’d love to hear from you!
We want to engage with practitioners and the public in as many centres as possible, to optimise the implementation of the new family violence law and gather input on the national strategy.
Ideally, you’ll have a large room and strong connections with your community.
If you’re interested in being part of this work, please email email@example.com
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