TOAH NNEST Sexual Violence Virtual Summit

Tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā tātou katoa.

Thank you for inviting me to join you this morning.

It is wonderful to be here with you this morning and I would like to begin by acknowledging you as sexual violence practitioners and organisations who, individually and collectively, provide specialist services, advocacy, education and prevention to people, children, young people and whānau throughout Aotearoa New Zealand.

Day in and day out you work compassionately with those affected by sexual violence, you champion change and speak up for those that often feel unable to. So much of your work is done behind the scenes and is invisible to many. You keep the Government to account and this so important.

Your work is incredibly important and specialist mahi. Of course, we would all prefer to live in a society where your services were not required at all, but we have way to go before we can eliminate sexual violence.

With our current rates of sexual violence and abuse perpetrated within families and communities, I can only imagine the level of fear, distress and suffering that you, as frontline services, therapists, social workers, healers’, must see.

So on behalf of Aotearoa, I want to say thank you for the crucial work you do, and acknowledge that at times it may feel that there is a lack of progress, that as a society we are avoiding the transformation change that is needed.

I want to assure you that I see you, I hear you and I am committed to working with you to prevent future harm occurring.

When I met with some of you last month we talked about the National Strategy and I am pleased to tell you that the it is on track to be launched before Christmas.

As many of you will know there was extensive public engagement in May and June that included:

  • 120 tangata whenua-, sector- and community-led hui involving more than 2,000 people;
  • 1,000 online, email, written and survey-based submissions; and
  • Over 260 women impacted by violence who participated in an independent survey run by The Backbone Collective.

Many of you were involved in this engagement. You helped organise, you attended and participated in hui, you wrote submissions and you provided feedback as we worked to analyse and develop a final version.

A group of 14 Independent Advisors also sat alongside us throughout this process. Whaea Hera and Stella, Silvana from Shama and representatives from the Rainbow Violence Prevention Network, Gender Minorities and the Disability Coalition were all part of this group adding their expert knowledge and advice.

So, I want to thank you so much for your willingness to help and for taking the time to engage. Your whakaaro and wisdom has helped shape the Strategy.

The Strategy is different because it does things like identifying and responding to the drivers of violence, requiring accountability from people using violence and supporting them to change, and bring greater acknowledgement of the complexity and diversity of the experiences of people and the timely responses and capability to meet their needs.

I want to share with you today some of the themes we heard through engagement.

We heard from tangata whenua about the profound and disproportionate impact violence has on every aspect of their lives.

Addressing the intergenerational impacts of colonisation and racism is critical to achieving whānau ora, but also tangata whenua are calling for the resources and decision-making powers, as promised under Te Tiriti, to be the leaders in designing and implementing actions and change.

Racism also has an impact on other people and families. Pacific peoples and ethnic communities experience high rates of sexual violence and family violence, and struggle to access services that meet their needs.

They know their communities 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.

Ethnic communities are calling for changes to immigration so that they can access support and protection. Pacific peoples are calling for family-centred and holistic approaches utilising their ethnic and pan-Pacific cultural frameworks.

Victims and survivors of violence told us that current responses to family violence and sexual violence are not working. They do not feel protected within the system and many choose not to engage because of that. Adult survivors of sexual abuse can struggle to find appropriate and accessible services.

For example, male survivors say they feel invisible in conversations and need services that are designed for them, including peer support, and survivors talk about long waiting lists for people needing ACC counselling. They asked that victims, survivors and children need to be at the centre of the Strategy and Action Plan.

Everyone has reinforced that victim and survivor safety and protection, and the safety of their children be prioritised. They want the government to actively seek input from diverse groups of victims and survivors, consulting at every point and using the feedback gathered as markers on how to safely improve responses.

People want to feel acknowledged, respected and valued in ongoing relationships with government and the sectors, they want to be heard and appreciated for the wisdom they bring.

Tamariki and rangatahi and their invisibility within the current system were a huge concern for many. People are asking for actions and changes that will:

  • put children and young people at the centre, ensuring they are safe, listened to and believed and have the support they need, when they need it,
  •  support carers and whānau, ensuring the people that children and young people need and rely on are resourced and able to provide for their needs, care, safety and wellbeing,
  •  create safe school environments and education to ensure our children and young people grow into adults who do not tolerate or perpetuate violence and feel safe and supported to speak up.

Being visible and heard in conversations and decisions was an issue raised by many. Disabled people, the Rainbow communities and older people continue to experience discrimination and stigma which are often the drivers of the violence they experience.

The types of violence, and the complexity of issues, is often not fully understood by responders and services. Or policy makers for that matter. Disabled, rainbow, and older people want to be part of the solution, resourced to be at the table to decide, design and implement actions that will improve outcomes for their communities.

Many people are asking for specific, culturally safe and appropriate approaches, techniques and services to address the different needs and issues for their communities.

Communities, and both the family violence and sexual violence sectors, want ongoing relationships with the Joint Venture that are respectful, sustained and resourced to ensure decisions, actions and changes are made with their expert knowledge included.

Workforce capability and support was a common theme. Improving capability across all workforces is essential, from frontline responses, to holistic supports within the system, and in a greater range of specialist interventions.

We know we need to ensure accessible services and supports, that are appropriate for the people and communities who need them, are available, so that everyone has access to the right service, at the right time for as long as needed.

There was a huge call for more prevention. Educating children of all ages so that they understand what healthy relationships look like and grow into young adults who expect and seek such relationships, is a key opportunity for change and improvement.

Campaigns are needed to address unhealthy values and beliefs, reaching the wider population to build a shared understanding and move towards becoming a nation with zero tolerance to violence, where people, families and whānau are healthy and thriving.

Also, we need more research to fully understand the needs and issues of the range of people and communities impacted by violence.

All of this has informed the Strategy which comes from a wellbeing approach and is guided by principles for how we need to work and underpinned by Te Tiriti o Waitangi.

We all know the scale of family violence and sexual violence in Aotearoa, the importance of prevention in eliminating these issues, our lessons learned as a government, and the need to transform the system in a number of ways.

At the heart of this is building genuine partnerships with tangata whenua.

In a country of just five million people, around a million of us have experienced intimate partner violence, family violence and/or sexual violence at some point in our lives.

Research has shown that between one in two wāhine Māori, one in three Pacific women, and one in three European or women of other ethnicities, experience intimate partner violence in their lifetime.

Family violence and sexual violence are two of our nation’s greatest shames: they are complex, interwoven and often inter-generational issues that are enabled by a range of underlying social conditions, norms, and hierarchies of power and equity.

As many of you have experienced, Aotearoa’s response to family violence and sexual violence has historically been siloed and under-resourced and has tended to focus on responses rather than prevention.

It is clear that approach has not worked and has failed to pave the way towards long term healing and wellbeing.

As I have said before, we cannot fully eliminate violence if we focus solely on its aftermath. We all know the old ambulance at the bottom of the cliff analogy.

We must address the root causes of the problem.

This means long-term investment in changing attitudes and behaviours and committing to a joined-up approach to identify, prevent and eliminate violence from our communities and in our nation.

Ministers of the Crown are working closely to eliminate violence.

But government alone does not have the full expertise or the full insights to solve these problems, which is why we must work with specialists, front line services and communities.

It is through primary prevention that we will identify and address the systemic causes and underlying drivers that lead to violence.

At the individual and whānau level, primary prevention involves strengthening individual and whānau resilience – including healthy conflict-management skills, coping strategies, self-agency, and a sense of hope for the future.

It involves building strong, positive cultural and gender identities, and an associated sense of belonging.

It also involves pro-social whānau and peer connections, or support for new parents, around child development and positive parenting, so children and young people are raised to feel loved, confident, and safe.

At the community and societal levels, it involves building gender and social equity, shifting harmful stereotypes, and strengthening of social capital, cohesion and inclusion – nurturing community participation and connectedness to promote healthy norms and support positive behaviour change.

Prevention work needs to be led and designed with community,  tangata whenua, specialist sectors, Pacific peoples, disabled people, people impacted by violence, ethnic communities, older people, tamariki and rangatahi, rainbow and LGBTQIA+ communities and also with people who use or have used violence. All of this expertise is essential.

At the same time as building up the prevention and strengthening community work, we must absolutely ensure our responses are safe and offer true justice and accountability, when harm does happen. The work you do is a fine example of that kind of safe response that can enable healing and wellbeing for people.

Our moemoeā, or dream, is that “all people in Aotearoa New Zealand are thriving, their wellbeing is enhanced and sustained because they are safe and supported to live their lives free from family violence and sexual violence”.

Key shifts have been identified as a pathway to create change. The shifts will be achieved through specific, time bound, resourced actions that are planned and implemented together with tangata whenua, specialist sectors, communities and government.

The shifts are aimed at addressing key issues and include:

  •  Building Strength-based wellbeing which will include actions to improve investment processes and wāhine Māori leadership.
  •  Mobilising communities through an improved commissioning and decision-making processes.
  • Developing skilled, culturally competent and sustainable workforces which will be supported by frameworks and tools alongside investment in upskilling workforces including specialists, court staff and primary prevention.
  •  Greater investment in Primary prevention through the strengthening of education in schools, campaigns, community-led sexual violence prevention and programmes for ethnic communities.
  • The delivery of safe, accessible, and integrated responses through the development of practice guidelines for courts, implement safeguarding responses for disabled and vulnerable adults and aim to fill a range of services gaps.

Of course, a Strategy must drive actions and when we launch the Strategy you will see that we have a comprehensive set of actions, and we have identified which government agencies will be responsible. Implementing these will require all of us working together, and that’s why we will continue to build on relationships and engage with you in 2022 to shape our approaches.

We are going to have to try new things, test and learn, keep developing the evidence base and data – including the insights that people on the frontlines have – so that we can continuously improve the system.

The Strategy sets out the outcomes we expect to see over time, but we also want to develop the measures for evaluating progress in partnership with communities so that we are measuring the right things.

As we get this work, and the implementation of the Strategy underway, we will be asking everyone to please stay engaged with us, knowing that it is through shared dialogue and collective effort that we will achieve the vision set out in the Strategy.

I am also mindful of the need to ensure actions to address and prevent sexual violence are prominent in our work – that we develop people’s understanding of the issues and not shy away from the uncomfortable conversations that will be needed in order to create healthier norms and behaviours. There are already some good things underway that we can build on, such as the “Don’t guess the yes” campaign in Wellington.

While we have been developing the strategy, we have also begun putting in place initiatives that will support our kaupapa.

Earlier this month it was announced $44.9 million over four years investment to establish a fit for purpose, Te Tiriti informed, sexual violence primary prevention system. ACC will be leading this work.

This programme will include a range of initiatives, including education, workforce development, community mobilisation and behaviour change.

ACC will work with the Joint Venture across government, with iwi, communities and providers.

And these initiatives will be designed to support those people in our communities who are impacted most by violence and the existing shortcomings in our response.

This includes funding kaupapa Māori approaches, and designing solutions for Pacific peoples, disabled, rainbow, ethnic communities as well as older people, who each experience sexual violence in different and culturally distinct ways.

One of the first priorities for this programme is to develop sustainable ways for communities to mobilise and learn about mana-enhancing and tapū-enriched healthy, consensual relationships.

Alongside the funding from ACC, I also want to acknowledge the $132 million we received as part of Budget 21 that kick started our work this year and goes some way to supporting the longer term direction, we’ll see reinforced by the strategy.

I am excited to see what similar initiatives we can develop following the strategy’s launch.

In closing, let me thank you for your support and your commitment to getting the National Strategy and Action Plan this far. We’re almost there.

We now have a roadmap that expresses our shared vision and shared pathway to a safer Aotearoa for everyone.

We are keen to keep the conversation going and to keep building on the relationships that have been strengthened this year. We’ll keep you updated as this work progresses and I look forward to sharing the Strategy and Action Plan with you soon.

Collectively we can take the opportunity that exists to create an Aotearoa free from violence.

Together, we can make our communities the very best they can be so they reach their full potential.

So again, thank you for your amazing contribution and work, and I wish you a successful summit. I am happy to take any questions from the floor.