Response to Human Rights Commission's reports into violence towards disable people

Prevention of Family and Sexual Violence

Tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā tātou katoa. 

Thank you for that introduction Hemi and thank you for inviting me to respond on behalf of Government to the release of these two important reports (Whakamanahia Te Tiriti, Whakahaumarutia te Tangata -Honour the Treaty, Protect the Person and Whakamahia te Tūkino kore Ināianei, ā Muri Ake Nei - Acting Now for a Violence and Abuse Free Future.

I’d like to acknowledge the Human Rights Commission - Paula Tesoreiro for commissioning these reports and your work Paula to keep this issue on the Government’s agenda and thanks to everyone who has been involved.

These reports highlight how the lack of data and evidence to date has contributed to inaction to address this issue.

They also set out clearly the reality for many living with a disability, and the violence they face.

Each person harmed has their own experience of entrapment, of not knowing how to get support or where to seek help, a story about others disbelieving them, or others not recognising the signs to help.

These reports make a substantial contribution to the evidence base, but they are also a call to action.

I want to be clear that we have heard the voices of many disabled people impacted by violence and we know enough to say that, now is the time to act on the shocking violence and abuse of our disabled whānau.

We all have a role to play to change this. Together we can change the myths and social norms that allow violence to happen around us.

So how are we going to act on this urgent issue?

Next week I will be launching the new National Strategy to eliminate family violence and sexual violence, with an associated Action Plan.

The Strategy will bring a stronger focus than ever before to prevention, healing, the role of tangata whenua and community leadership for achieving intergenerational change.

It has drawn on the knowledge and expertise of many:

  • the thousands of people who engaged with us,
  • the specialists and advocates working tirelessly in our communities to support people to get safe and be safe;
  • tangata whenua who have said many times that these complex issues require te ao Māori approaches and indigenous leadership,
  • those in ethnic communities and Pacific peoples, children and young people, LGBTQIA+ communities, older people, and everyone who has struggled to access support when faced with violence – and disability people.

The Strategy has been informed by engagement with disabled people and they raised many of the issues that are reinforced in these reports. I have also met with members of the disability community to hear their whakaaro.

Disabled people have highlighted to me the lack of specialist family violence and sexual violence services and supports, the lack of a nationally consistent and mandated safeguarding approach, and the need for more data and research to make visible their experiences.

They emphasised that disabled people need to be at the decision making tables.

We also need to address the intergenerational impacts of colonisation and racism in order for us to eliminate violence.

Violence that impacts whānau is rooted in the marginalisation of tangata whenua and societal changes enforced during the colonisation of Aotearoa.

Colonisation resulted in multiple losses. The disconnection from ancestral lands, the erosion of te reo, and the fragmentation of Māori social structures, including the inherent balance and complementarity of tāne and wāhine, and all genders, and the ingrained responsibility to care and protect those in our whānau who are vulnerable.

 Preventing family violence and sexual violence requires an understanding that family violence and sexual violence are transgressions of mana and whakapapa.

There are solutions within the promotion and strengthening of whānau ora that require a focus on healing, restoration, redress and a return to a state of noa – being without limitations.

Our communities understand their own challenges and the diversity within them, and know that we will develop much better prevention approaches and responses when they are able to work closely with government.

The solutions are in communities and Government must work with you to enable solutions, rather than obstruct or frustrate innovation.

Last week I announced funding to grow and strengthen the Safeguarding Framework and Safeguarding Adults From Abuse (SAFA) response in Waitematā (the location of the original SAFA pilot).

This is part of the violence prevention needs of diverse communities’ fund.

The safeguarding approach is consistent with Te Ao Māori concepts, values and practice.

Safeguarding is about ensuring that disabled people have the support they need to make decisions and to live the lives they choose.

It takes a holistic approach which focuses on improving the wellbeing of whānau as a collective, without losing sight of individual needs.

The safeguarding approach recognises the important role of family and whānau in enabling their family member’s aspirations and promotes positive relationships between the disabled person and whānau.

This initiative will provide insights for the wider roll-out of the Safeguarding Framework.

I would like to acknowledge Sue Hobbs and many others for their tireless work getting us to this point.

Whilst I can’t pre-empt next week’s launch of the National Strategy, I can tell you that the voices of disabled people have been heard and there will be a comprehensive set of actions which drive our initial steps over the next two years.

Actions that will support strengthening, healing and responding to disabled people and tāngata whaikaha.

This will include actions to respond to calls from tangata whenua for resources and decision making powers, as promised under Te Tiriti, to be the leaders in designing and implementing actions and change.

I look forward to being able to tell you more when the Strategy is launched next week.