Investing in tackling domestic and sexual violence in Aotearoa
May 20, 2019
The government has announced that supporting victims of sexual violence and family violence is an integral part of its upcoming 2019 Wellbeing Budget.
The $320 million funding boost for sexual and family violence support services is the biggest funding announcement of its kind. Around one million New Zealanders experience sexual or family violence each year and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has made it a priority of the so called ‘Wellbeing Budget’.
Lachlan Balfour of the Monday Wire spoke to Women’s Refuge Chief Executive, Dr. Ang Jury, about the recent announcement, finding out about its effects on her organisation and violence rates in general.
You can find the full interview here and the written transcript below. What follows is a write up from Angus Coker Grant.
The sexual violence and family violence funding package announced as part of the new 'Wellbeing Budget' is the combined efforts of multiple government departments. It seeks to rejuvenate pre-existing systems as well as introducing new frames of support.
Dr. Ang Jury, Chief Executive of Women’s Refuge is enthusiastic about the budget’s focus on sexual and domestic violence. “It’s awesome to see a decent investment going into prevention”
The funding boost also includes efforts for major advertising campaigns and intervention programmes to reduce the shocking statistics in Aotearoa.
Dr. Jury highlighted the importance of breaking the cycle of violence. “If we don’t do the prevention we’re going to just keep picking up victims forever.”
Previously, “funding for prevention in New Zealand has been basically nil” Dr. Jury continues.
Which raises the question of where this funding has come from. The package is a joint effort across ministries and departments, making it the largest and first of its kind.
Dr. Jury suspects political will and communication across government departments was the driving force.
“The bringing together of those ten ministries to coordinate their work was probably the precursor an integrated budget like this.”
Dr. Jury adds specialised training for lawyers is also of note: “We see very inconsistent and uneven results from the courts.”
As well as reforms in the court setting, the budget is aiming for dedicated funding for a kaupapa Māori response to sexual violence.
Dr. Jury says the overrepresentation of Māori in tandem with the few kaupapa Māori services is indicative of the need for a specialist and dedicated framework.
But Dr. Jury does not expect to see an immediate change in Aotearoa’s violence statistics. “I think any change in this area, given where we’re coming from, is going to be long term. We’re talking generational change.”
Dr. Jury hopes future governments maintain such programs. “We’ve seen in the past where initiatives have been put in place and then either defunded or left to wither and die when there’s a change in government. It needs to be sustained and it needs to be really focused for a period of years.”
However, the budget does not account for the demand on current services like Women’s Refuge, Dr. Jury says, and expects a potential increase in the demand of their services.
“People will read the headlines and see this huge boost to sexual and family violence and assume that we’ve got a chunk.”
When in reality, domestic and sexual violence services are working at near capacity but are capable of dealing with surges.
By Angus Coker Grant
Please call 111 for immediate danger
Are You Ok? Family Violence Service If you are experiencing or witnessing family violence, call 0800 456 450
Women’s Refuge 0800 REFUGE (733 843)
Lachlan: Can I get your thoughts on the budget announcement?
Ang: First off, it’s a wonderful demonstration of the commitment this government has to trying to deal with this problem once and for all.
This is the most significant funding announcement over a range of ministries that we've seen ever. So from that point of view it’s great. It’s awesome to see a decent investment going into prevention because actually if we don’t do the prevention we’re going to just keep picking up victims forever. So we need to work on the prevention stuff.
What else is really of note?
Additional training for lawyers and the judiciary I think is well overdue. We see very inconsistent and uneven results from the courts. Investment in kaupapa Māori sexual violence services. All brilliant. All in all pretty good package. Unfortunately there is nothing explicitly targeted for services like ours. Which is a little disappointing.
So you won’t get much from this funding?
Except potentially increased demand for our services.
Why have they not given funding to services like yours when there is need?
This is a foundation. They couldn’t answer all calls immediately. They’ve provided great sustainability funding for sexual violence, which they needed significantly. We might be next cab off the rank. I’ll be talking with various ministers and officials to see if there is anything. The devil's in the details of course. Those are all very very high level numbers that we saw and there will be a lot of things sitting amongst there. There may be. I don’t know at this point in time.
Up until now, what has the funding been like for preventative measures?
Funding for prevention in NZ has been basically nil. I think about 1% or less of the spend across fam and sexual violence services across the country, across the whole spending has been on prevention. So this is big.
Why do you think it has taken this long to get an investment like this considering NZ’s rates?
Not entirely sure about that, i’m presuming political will. There’s been work ongoing around this idea of a more integrated response. So joining people and agencies together for quite a long time now. I'm assuming they’ve finally got to the place where we can actually see how something might work. The joint venture is key to that. The bringing together of those ten ministries to coordinate their work was probably the precursor an integrated budget like this.
And how important is it that there's funding for Māori-led programmes?
That was an absolute imperative. When we look at overrepresentation of Māori across sexual violence and domestic violence services. The need to do something differently is blatantly clear. There’s no mistaking that. There are only I think less than a handful of kaupapa Māori sexual violence services in existence at the moment. That’s not good enough. They require specialist, dedicated services, which this should enable.
Do you think will this bring about immediate changes or more long term?
I wish I could say that it would be immediate. But to be honest I think any change in this area, given where we’re coming from, is going to be long term. We’re talking generational change. I can’t see any immediate relief. But I’m happy to be proven wrong.
I suppose with investment. Are you hopeful future govts will put more money into prevention of sexual and family violence? Is it more of an issue now and on the government’s agenda?
I would hope they would keep programs rolling. We’ve seen in the past where initiatives have been put in place and then either defunded or left to wither and die when there’s a change in government. I would so hope that it doesn’t happen this time. Because we can not keep going backwards and forwards. Backwards and forwards. It needs to be sustained and it needs to be really focused for a period of years.
For organisations like yours that won’t really be seeing much of it. How are you surviving?
We do a lot of fundraising. One of my major fears around this budget announcement actually. Because people will read the headlines, listen to the headlines and see this huge boost to sexual and family violence and assume that we’ve got a chunk. We have an annual appeal coming up in july. Which if people think we’re already being generously funded people won’t support it. so That’s a worry for me. We have excellent community support across the country that does the top up work. Govt funds roughly 60% of our annual expenditure across the country, so we make the rest up however we can.
You said earlier more people might need to use your service after this. How would that work?
That remains to be seen. We operate pretty much at capacity most of the time. So an increase of service would be problematic for us. However, [Women’s] Refuge has dealt with increases in service demand before and managed it. It just means that things get stretched a little bit further and a little bit thinner. I hoping that there is some contingency in the budget announcement for that sort of thing.