April 3, 2009
Speech: Symposium on Violence Prevention – Tariana Turia
When I read the panui for this one day symposium, there was one little word which stood out. A little word called hope.
The advertising for this event suggested that the promotion of early intervention, positive engagement and therapeutic responses would give hope to victims, perpetrators, families and communities.
As they say, what oxygen is to the lungs; such is hope to the meaning of life.
Hope is vital in keeping us well, in keeping us focused, for feeding our spirit, to having an aspiration to live up to.
So what is the nature of this hope that we cling to in the field of violence prevention?
I believe it is about reframing the discourse from violence prevention; or anti-violence strategies; to instead articulating that which we seek – that is a positive future for all families of Aotearoa; a future which they determine; and which enables all of their strengths to be self-evident.
It is time to move from what we don’t believe in; that which we oppose – to instead target all of our energy on a constructive approach to whanau ora.
Today’s symposium is an opportunity to celebrate all of our energy and interventions that are working to make our communities and our homes safer.
It is about recognizing success and embracing the strategies that foster pride in our families, and encourage us all to find our own solutions to violence.
One of the features that has really drawn me to this symposium is the efforts being made to focus on the whole family rather than to pull out the perpetrators; isolate the victims; or separate the children from the only home they know.
This symposium addresses the concept of family violence, by placing the emphasis on the ‘family’ rather than the ‘violence’.
I recall meeting with Women’s Refuge earlier this year and they were extremely enthusiastic about their commitment to emphasise whanau, and to support effective family relationships. As one of their spokespersons told me, if you go looking for violence, that’s all you see.
This symposium then, asks us to open our eyes to new possibilities – to provide opportunities where every one can take responsibility; where the home is restored as a sanctuary of safety and love.
Of course it is one thing to have a vision, and quite another to get there. We all know just how difficult it is achieve the transformation we desire; to move from talk to action; to build on small successes to create sustainable change.
But as Dr Martin Luther King said, “we must accept finite disappointment, but we must never lose infinite hope”.
We must accept that the pathway forwards to mauri ora takes more than a media release; or one treatment programme or any other individual factor. Laying all our hope on one strategy will more than likely achieve little other than a prevailing air of disappointment.
But why should we think anything else?
The very nature of violence is hideously complex. It is inter-generational; it operates on many levels – physical, emotional, psychological, cultural, virtual, institutional, economic; it occurs in all socio-economic groups; it is frequently hidden and predicated on secrecy; and it is learned behaviour, practiced in the privacy of the family home.
One of the most chilling facts is that 81% of men who abuse their spouses were abused as a child. They have been socialized into a pattern of abuse which has been learnt over the course of their life without ever having reason to change.
But today’s symposium is the hope we need, to know that change can occur – and that the family home – the site of what we might know now as endemic violence – is also the site which offers the greatest potential for change.
There are other signs of hope. The statistics released this week suggest there was a 12.4% increase in recorded family violence offences in 2008. This increase is a direct result of a greater emphasis given to reporting, to recording, to training, to a focus by the Police on addressing family violence. It follows the roll-out of mandatory family violence training and the introduction of the campaign, ‘it’s not ok’.
But hold on a minute. While we can all acknowledge that we – society – is getting better at saying enough is enough; pick up the phone; let’s tell someone – the cold, harsh truth is, that no-one can feel any great sense of joy that the Police are receiving about one call every seven and a half minutes.
Every year the Police deal with more than seventy thousand calls about family violence – and in my eyes, that’s seventy thousand too many.
So what is our moemoea – our dream – to make the difference?
What are the values that will shape our solutions? How do we promote connectedness, collective responsibility; the right for every child to be loved, to be safe and to grow their potential?
What support do we offer to every parent who takes on the awesome challenge of raising a child? How do we value our elders, our aunts and our uncles, in their responsibilities to nurture the young within their family?
How do we offer protection to those who are most vulnerable; how do we turn the story around?
The answer is already with us – in our families; in our whanau.
I have struggled with the emphasis some want to place on the huge range of outside agencies that have grown out of the misery developed in the family home.
This symposium has featured presentations from various parts of the sector – the family court, the healthcare system, prisons, police stations.
We know too we must confront a climate of violence in our schools; we must transform the culture of disrespect that fuel violence.
But we must always stay focused on the greater goal of helping family to live violence-free, to live together peacefully and with support.
The system likes to separate out the parts into perpetrators, victims, children, women, men, couples. Often the family as a whole has been missing in action. And yet I say again, the family is our greatest strength; our greatest opportunity for transformation.
That is why I have always been so impressed with Project Mauriora, which empowers and enskills families to recognise violence; to find solutions within their own tribal traditions and experience, and to work collectively, on transforming their whanau. At its core it is about reframing attitudes and behaviours to focus on whanau ora.
And so this is where I think hope lies. Hope lies in the healing and educating of families. It comes from a policy approach which values the family; and supports violence free homes. It is nurtured in the kaupapa of whanaungatanga – the enormous potential that the extended family provides to support one another.
Hope lies in each of us knowing each other’s business. I make it my business to watch out for my mokopuna, to be there to support their parents, to offer time out, to challenge and to guide, to make sure my support comes not in the form of a lecture, but in showing the difference I want to see.
And we mustn’t wait till too late to make the difference. Our whanau need support from birth.
It’s been good to see Hector Matthews with the Canterbury DHB and John Tamihere of Waipareira Trust, both coming out this week, saying we need to be starting either at the maternity ward – or earlier; watching out and offering support to whanau.
For too long, communities have been frightened out of that collective capacity to care; leaving things alone, rather than picking up the phone or taking the time to be there. We must return to our roots – to know that everybody needs to take responsibility and to act now.
We can overturn the crisis, we no longer need to feel overwhelmed and powerless.
Let us all get involved with our own families, with each other. Let us experience the sense of hope and accomplishment that comes when we work together – helping agencies; professionals; community and iwi leaders; families – working to make things better.
We can do it. We will do it. For the strength and safety and wellbeing of all of our families, we will do it.
Tena tatou katoa.