Weaving our knowledge and actions together - speech to the annual Te Aorerekura Hui

Prevention of Family and Sexual Violence

Check against delivery. 

E mihi ana ki te rangi

E mihi ana ki te whenua

E mihi ana ki ngā maunga

Me ngā wai horapa nei o tēnei whenua o koutou

Kei aku iti, kei aku rahi, kei aku whakateitei

Nei ko te mihi ki a koutou e manawanui ana ki tēnei kaupapa, otirā ki tēnei mahi

Mei kore ake koutou me ā koutou mahi, e kore ngā wawata o tēnei kaupapa e tutuki

No reira, tena koutou katoa

Call to action

Te Aorerekura – the National Strategy to Eliminate Family Violence and Sexual Violence - belongs to us all. It creates a framework and a pathway forward for our collective efforts to eliminate violence in Aotearoa so all people can live good lives in peace.

Over a million adult New Zealanders have experienced intimate partner violence or sexual violence at some point during their life. There are 34,500 seats in Sky Stadium – look out the window and imagine every seat in this venue filled about thirty times.  

If you look at all those seats and imagine them filled two and half times, you’ll get a sense of the numbers of children whose experience of violence was notified to government.

And, not only that, but we know that many cases of violence are not disclosed, with people suffering alone, isolated, hurting, and in desperate need of support.

I recall this to acknowledge the scale of both our challenge – and the importance of our work.

You will hear me, and my Ministerial colleagues say that addressing family violence and sexual violence is one of our greatest opportunities to improve wellbeing.

Through the input of many of you, our Strategy acknowledges the complexity and diversity of the experiences of people, families, and whānau - and makes it clear what we need to do. As you have all taught me, preventing violence is about wellbeing. 

That is at the heart of our work. Toiora.

The focus on wellbeing, healing, strengthening, and responding is clearly articulated through the Shifts Te Aorerekura seeks for our system. These Shifts guide us as we start to take the actions that will achieve change.

We are acting now - guided by our strategy, by tangata whenua leaders, by Te Puna Aonui – the Joint Venture for the Elimination of Family Violence and Sexual Violence, and guided by you all - so that our mokopuna can know a new way - in a society that is peaceful, respectful, and refuses to tolerate violence.

This will be a society where people can manage their feelings safely and ask for help; where people seek consent to touch or engage in sexual activity; and where we all know what healthy relationships look, sound, and feel like.

Te Aorerekura shows us what must be done, and we are here today because we are all part of the journey, moving together.  

The name of our National Strategy – Te Aorerekura – draws on the knowledge of a cluster of stars that guide human navigation to gain knowledge and comprehension. Aorere is responsible for ensuring the safe journey of her whānau as they travel across the celestial skies.

I am grateful for the wisdom and generosity of tangata whenua leaders here today and working with us around the motu, who named the National Strategy and have infused it with their whakaaro and te ao Māori. I do not take lightly the responsibility we must shoulder and what we are accountable to when given such a gift.

It is also through wānanga among tangata whenua leaders from the family violence and sexual violence sectors that Te Puna Aonui – the Joint Venture was named.

Te Puna Aonui creates the markers on the journey from te kore ki te ao marama – from darkness into the light. Te Puna Aonui is the vessel containing appropriate tools and resources to support both individual and collective journeys towards wellbeing.

I am confident that we can travel safely together in this mahi, guided by the Strategy – especially those all-important principles of equity and inclusion, aroha, and the actions that are tika and pono, kotahitanga – working together, and kaitiakitanga – all of us understanding our roles and responsibilities.   

Central to this is Crown accountability and responsibility. I am clear that we are accountable to you for the change we have committed to through Te Aorerekura. We are accountable to you for the harm that has been caused through inadequate responses, insufficient funding, and a lack of courage to talk about the problem right in front of us. And we have a fundamental responsibility to do better. I am proud that I can stand here today to authentically celebrate the progress we are making and acknowledge the progress we are yet to make.

So, this morning, I want to share with you how we are working – the steps we are taking together. And importantly for today, the opportunity for us to continue to learn together through this Hui. This listening and learning is how we will weave together the knowledge and actions we need to deliver intergenerational change for our people.

As we start our journey, we’re strengthening our waka, making sure we are pointing in the right direction, and ensuring that we know what signposts to look for to confirm that we’re making progress.

Building the infrastructure

We are building the infrastructure so we can succeed in that vision we all share; everyone in Aotearoa New Zealand able to live free from violence. We must create a strong foundation - and start as we mean to continue.

We are building relationships and processes so we can work together well. To do this we are establishing better ways for government to work with tangata whenua and communities, to hear your voices, and to enable community leadership to shape solutions. The strength and solutions lie within our communities.

We are strengthening frontline services and workforce capability so no matter where someone affected by violence reaches out to for help, they are safe and supported to heal.

We are committing to a new way of working as government - developing joint Budget packages every year and developing an investment plan to help set a path for the intergenerational investment that is needed for intergenerational change.

We are designing the learning and monitoring system so we know what’s working on the ground and so we are accountable to outcomes for people and not just outputs for government.

We are beginning to work with communities differently, affirming the power of communities to lead their own solutions and resourcing localities to ensure regionally led responses. This is long-term work and there is a big and complicated system that we need to unstick – but we are committed to this work. Affirming the power of communities to lead their own solutions and ensuring the flexibility to provide whatever support is needed to our people, for however long it is needed, is the priority.  

We have heard you say that government needs to get its own patch sorted if there is to be any hope of improving systems. We know this is true – and that’s why we are committed to doing things differently. 

Through its work to align strategy, policy, and investment, Te Puna Aonui – the Joint Venture of government agencies are building new ways of working together and taking accountability. All agencies are required to develop family violence training plans for their workforces. We want everyone in government agencies feeling confident to lead and champion systemic, attitudinal, and behavioural change.  

Addressing structures, systems, and beliefs – creating new norms

All forms of violence are violations of mana and tapu. At our Hui last year, we heard our colleagues at He waka Eke Noa talk about their research into institutional violence and racism in the system.

Te Aorerekura is clear about the drivers of violence - and that includes the structures, systems, and beliefs that allow for violence to happen. This includes colonisation and the patriarchy.

Now, I acknowledge that any conversation about structures like colonisation and patriarchy can become an excuse for people to express violent intent towards us, as the leaders of change. Which is why it is even more important that we hold that line and have the important conversations.

New research published by Janet Fanslow highlights the significant differences between men and women’s exposure to intimate partner violence, and the greater severity of violence that women experience. We must all be able to speak openly about the gendered nature of violence, and also be clear how it harms people of all genders.  Achieving gender equality is just one aspect of what we must do if we hope to eliminate violence.

Similarly vital to this work is Te Tiriti o Waitangi and tangata whenua leadership. For too long we have not privileged the ways of thinking and working that we have needed to. Later today you’ll hear from Tā Mark Solomon and Poata Watene. I mihi to them, to the Chair, Dr Maria Baker, and all the members of Te Pūkotahitanga, the tangata whenua Ministerial Advisory Group, established last year to provide mana-ki-te-mana advice and leadership.

These experts will be involved in guiding the implementation of our 25-year Strategy. This is important because we know that kaupapa Māori approaches and te ao Māori values and knowledge improve the lives and wellbeing of not only whānau, hapū, and hapori Māori, but everyone.

Indigenous and Pacific models of practice and approaches to policy heal trauma and build wellbeing. 

I also want to mihi to our Pacific providers meeting together to also shape the work we do. Through Pasefika Proud, and strategies right across government to strengthen Pacific people’s leadership across our work, new ways of working will emerge. We need to continue to build this in the future.

Recent Budget investments and the new joint approach to ethnic specific and culturally informed prevention initiatives such as E Tū Whānau, Pasefika Proud, and the Campaign for Action on Family Violence, are encouraging developments. And there is still more to do.

Te Puna Aonui has been working with many of you to build the mechanisms and opportunities for LGBTQIA+ communities, diverse ethnic communities, disabled people, elders, and children and young people to help us learn, monitor and shape our work. I acknowledge those of you with us today who are participating in this mahi and shaping how government will hear from you. We cannot do this work without you and I acknowledge how long you have had to do this work for already. It has been far too long.

Most importantly, we know we need to hear the voices of victims and survivors whose stories and insights demonstrate why this work is so important.

We are still learning how to listen in ways that are safe and build shared understanding. We need to continue developing our approaches, being led by victims and survivors themselves.  

We are listening in the Hui

This event is an example of all of us coming together to learn - ako tahi. Through the work we’re doing to improve how we can be led by you, our communities, we’ll make sure that we are including you all in the ways that we learn and monitor progress.   

As many of you will know, work has started on the next Action Plan – this will be the plan that prioritises government work over the next couple of years. I am pleased with the progress we’ve made to deliver the first Action Plan – a huge 40 actions are being delivered.  

Creating the second Action Plan provides an opportunity to build on the progress to date and engagement on this has commenced. I am clear that this plan needs to be led by you. I want to take this opportunity to express my sincere gratitude to all of those who have written and spoken to me, and otherwise shared your valuable time with me, over the past year to share your insights and expertise. I hold your words with me.

What I ask of you, across all the work we are doing, is to please keep talking, sharing your ideas and walking alongside us as you challenge us.

Te Aorerekura lights our way – guided by the stars and by the torches you bear to help navigate the path.

You will help show us which way we need to go, illuminating the path, guided by the stars of Aorere and Aonui towards knowledge and comprehension as we travel. 

Closing

Thank you for being here today – whether you are here in the room or online – you are valued. I encourage you to reach out and take the time to make connections with others who are gathered here today, and to ask questions and engage where possible.

I hope the panels and talks throughout the day invigorate and inspire your mahi. I know they will mine.  

We are here to learn. Achieving changes in how we work across government and with communities takes courage. I commend you all for the courage you have shown to get us to this point and the courage I know you will continue to show.

So please, tune your instruments and play them loudly.  

E tio te tūī, e ketekete te kākā, e korihi te kokako - it takes many instruments to make a symphony.