Speech to the 65th United Nations Commission on the Status of Women Side Event, March 15 2021

Tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā tātou katoa.

Thank you for the opportunity to speak to you at this New Zealand session at the 65th conference of the Commission on the Status of Women.

One could perhaps position this event as a global focus in a local context, or a local focus in a global context, but either way it’s an occasion for reflection on where we’ve been and where we are going, and how we stand accountable, and that makes it a wonderful opportunity for us all.

And therefore, I’m very pleased to have the chance to talk today about the prevention of sexual and family violence against women in Aotearoa New Zealand, and the steps the Government and the community are making to take on this challenge.

I was privileged to become Minister for the Prevention of Family and Sexual Violence after last year’s election. In a simple sense, my vision is encapsulated in three words of that ministerial title – “the prevention of…”

My long term vision for Aotearoa is simple. Every person deserves to live free from the fear of violence and to be able to access support they need when they need it. Violence truly should be an aberration, not the norm in daily life.

I know many of you know full well the size of the problem in this country, and the complexities that make it such a difficult problem to solve.

Gender-based violence is entrenched. Every day in our country it seems we are confronted by yet more news stories about acts of violence that have hurt, or killed, women and children.

A 2019 report from the New Zealand Crimes and Victims Survey found that females were affected by offences committed by family members at twice the rate of males.

Women were affected by offences by an intimate partner at more than three times the rate of men.

Ministry of Justice research released in January reported that 33 percent of lesbian or gay adults will experience sexual violence during their lifetime from their partners. That is more than double the New Zealand average of 16 percent.

To address family violence and sexual violence, we must ensure that we take action on a range of fronts, including ensuring that the fundamentals of human dignity are met.

People need secure, healthy housing, adequate incomes and a welfare system that provides for a decent standard of living.

People need a society that values all cultures and achieves gender equity.

People need connected communities where it’s OK to ask for help and support is available when they need it.

And they need a justice system that is easy to access, supportive and caring and does not further harm.

I believe that we have the tools to break cycles of violence, to return families and communities to the places of safety and wellness, where children feel nourished and women – and all people – feel safe.

We must do more to hold Māori leadership, perspectives and expertise at the centre of our thinking and our doing. That requires acknowledging – and I mean truly acknowledging, not just paying lip-service to –that solutions lie within Te Ao Māori for all of us.

Ending violence against women is a priority for this government. It’s a priority for me, personally. In Budgets 2018, 2019 and 2020 we have taken a Joint Venture approach, and we significantly increased investment to address family violence and sexual violence through front line services.

We have started to tip the balance of investment towards prevention. Investment in early intervention and prevention in the first 1000 days of a child’s life will be key. This is another key priority for me this term and I look forward to working with the Joint Venture and our communities to increase our prevention understanding and initiatives to stop violence from occurring in the first place.

In September 2018, we created the Joint Venture, Family Violence and Sexual Violence – a whole-of-government response made up of 10 agencies with collective responsibility for government action. Ministers, likewise, are working closely to reduce and ultimately eliminate violence.

On top of the Budgets of the last three years, there is ongoing work on developing a national strategy on FVSV. We will shortly be engaging with communities across Aotearoa as we listen to their voices and their experiences to shape how we will respond going forward.

In the last term, the Government passed significant reforms to the family violence laws – the Domestic Violence Victims’ Protection Act and the Family Violence Act. This latter introduced new offences for strangulation, coerced marriage, and assault on a family member.

We have introduced the Sexual Violence Legislation Bill to Parliament, which had its Second Reading late last month, and will put in place a range of additional protections for victims and complainants.

Challenging social norms that allow and enable this violence will continue to be critical.

We need to work together and we need our men ready to lead and prepared to address these issues. We can help stop family violence and sexual violence by doing simple things – noticing the signs, listening, asking questions and supporting one another.

All of this may seem daunting, but we can draw encouragement from the many initiatives arising from within our communities to face up to family and sexual violence.

Te Kahui Mana Ririki Trust established in 2008, runs a multi-layered campaign to end Māori child abuse, which include education for whānau, advocacy and research. They have a successful parenting programme which teaches non-violent parenting.

The Campaign for Action on Family Violence is a community-based social marketing campaign established in 2007, which seeks to change the way New Zealanders think and act about family violence. We have all seen their very effective “It’s Not OK” advertising campaign.

E Tū Whānau is a movement where Te Ao Māori draw on tikanga and Māori values to support strong, resilient whānau, free from violence.

Since 2011, Pasefika Proud, has been working in homes, churches and sport and cultural settings nurturing community leaders and influencers who are able to inspire and support positive change.

I believe partnership between the Government and the community has in recent years made real progress against violence towards women.

But as we all appreciate, we are still on a very long journey and it will take all of us working together to ensure girls and women can grow up free from violence.