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‘A pathway forward’

Kaupapa māori approaches to violence prevention around the East Coast are to get “vital” government funding.

Accident Compensation Corporation Minister Carmel Sepuloni has announced the agency will invest $44.9 million over four years to establish a fit-for-purpose sexual violence primary prevention system.

The system includes $11.72m of targeted investment for kaupapa Māori approaches.

Whānau Ahuru Mowai (Gisborne Rape Crisis) co-ordintaor Ngarongo Eaton welcomed the funding.

“Kaupapa Māori approaches need to be available and accessible to all whānau,” she said.

“When we interact with whānau, their responses are ‘if only we knew to do this' or ‘if only we could access that'.

“Working in partnership with ACC will mean that survivors/victims and whānau of SV/FH (sexual violence/family harm) will have more appropriate support available to them.”

Mrs Eaton said it was long overdue and made a lot of sense, especially in Te Tairāwhiti where “Māori make up 50 percent of our population and we feature fairly high in the mainstream stats for sexual violence and family harm”.

“We are one of seven kaupapa Māori organisations throughout New Zealand who specialise in sexual violence/mahi tukino (sexual harm)and we understand the importance of working closely together to support whanau recovery.

“We travel to Wairoa and work with whanau from Tuai, Nuhaka, Mahia and Gisborne and right up to Hicks Bay.”

Mrs Eaton said they were committed to removing barriers preventing whānau from accessing the support they need.

“When whānau come into our space or when we go into their space, it's usually through a conversation (through whakawhanaungatanga) that families feel empowered to tell us how we can support them. It has been through those relationships that we have been able to access more and more whānau.

“Our conversations about sexual violence need to change. There is so much stigma attached to having these conversations. However, Russell Smith, who works for Korowai Tumanako (kaupapa Māori service) in the Far North said we need to remind iwi that it's not talking about sexual violence which is tapu (forbidden), it is the act.

“Changing that perspective for our whānau is where prevention will start and we have a dedicated team working alongside whānau who are initiating those conversations now.”

Mrs Eaton said they needed more rangatahi to train in the helping professions, especially young Māori.

“In the past we have struggled to find suitable kaimahi (workers) who can work effectively with tangata whenua. Two years ago we ran a rangatahi mentoring programme and now three of those rangatahi are going on to study to become kaiarahi/counsellors.”

Mrs Eaton said they also needed to place value back on the presence of kaumatua and kuia, “especially those who have worked in the area of mahi tukino most of their lives”.

“They are the pillars in our community and are often overlooked or undervalued.

“At Whānau Ahuru Mowai we have a programme called Nga Puawai (coming into full bloom). This programne was designed to instil the importance of their roles.

“Grandparents have a bond with mokopuna that some of us will never understand until we become one. Therefore the protection of that mokopuna needs to motivate us to become kaitiaki (guardians)and ensure that we have kawa (protocol) to protect mokopuna from being violated (sexually and physically). The funding is vital for us in continuing these initiatives.”

Gisborne and Wairoa Victim Support service co-ordinator Vicki Crosswell said they welcomed the funding.

“We are especially pleased to see a focus on those who are impacted most by both violence and our current response gaps — Māori, Pasifika, disabled, rainbow, ethnic and migrant communities, as well as older New Zealanders — because we know that many of these groups are particularly vulnerable to becoming victims of crime.

“Victims of family and sexual violence in our region have expressed concerns about their inability to access support services due to a lack of internet access, lack of transport and geographic isolation.

“Early intervention using a kaupapa Māori approach would involve engagement with iwi to outline and discuss the issues, and then collaborating to develop appropriate prevention solutions.”

Hauora Tairāwhiti Violence Intervention Programme coordinator Claire Jones said all disitrict health boards had a contract with the Ministry of Health to embed the programme into their service delivery.

Ms Jones said some of the responses collated at a Tairāwhiti hui in regards to the Joint Venture on the National Strategy for Elimination of Family Violence and Sexual Violence strongly indicated “it was critical to have a Te Ao Māori and whānau voice at the top”.

“There is a need to increase research into mātauranga Māori approaches and prevention. Ensuring there is whānau and community voice in decisions about investment, strategies and plans is crucial. And an increase in local communities of practice focusing on prevention is needed.

“These responses appear to align with the ACC's intent to establish a sexual violence primary prevention system and are indicative of the fact it's critical that any initiatives have to be flexible and responsive to the needs of each individual community, and that they are community-driven and community-led to reflect this.”

Te Hōkai Male Survivors Tairāwhiti co-ordinator and Tauawhi Trust member Tim Marshall said the funding was an opportunity for “a change in approach because existing kaupapa Māori providers often say they come second”.

Tauawhi Men's Centre counsellor Winton Ropiha said to prevent violence there “needed to be awareness about abuse going on now and in the past, and whether whānau have dealt with it or not”.

The funding was “a pathway forward . . . to create awareness about the reality of what happens in some spaces across all cultures, not just Māori”.

ACC chief customer officer Emma Powell said New Zealand had one of the worst rates of sexual violence in the OCED (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development). It was estimated to be costing the country over $6.9 billion a year.

“Our investment in primary prevention of sexual violence aligns with the cross-government joint venture to reduce family and sexual violence.

“We are working with other government departments and agencies, specialist services, iwi, communities and employers to design and implement new initiatives that comprehensively cover education in schools and communities, building capacity for collective community action, challenging and changing social norms and behaviours, workplace and policy reform; all supported by continued monitoring, evaluation and learning.”

ACC said in the 2020/21 financial year there were “537 active sensitive claims (for mental or physical injury caused by sexual violence) in the Gisborne region”.

“This means that those clients are receiving a payment and support from ACC but these claims were not necessarily lodged in the 2020/21 financial year.”

Over one hundred sensitive claims were filed with ACC from Tairāwhiti/Gisborne region in the year 2020/2021.

Out of these, 13 were accepted, 47 were declined, less than ten were held (cover decision is yet to be made) and 60 were withdrawn.

ACC said clients could withdraw claims for many reasons.

“They may have accessed pre-cover support and feel that is sufficient or they may decide it isn't the right time to go through the process and re-engage at a later date.

“Claims managed by accredited employers aren't included in this report.”

“Through ACC, survivors of sexual abuse or assault can access up to 14 hours of one-to-one therapy, 10 hours of social work, 10 hours of cultural support and advice, and up to 20 hours of family/whānau support before having their claim assessed for cover.

“The client's therapist will work with them to determine the need for these supports, hours required and how they will be used. Clients who require longer-term support and who wish to seek cover for a mental injury as a result of sexual abuse can then proceed to a supported assessment

“Following the supported assessment, if the client is eligible for cover, additional supports become available, including up to 48 hours per year of one-to-one therapy.

“If they are found to be ineligible for cover of a mental injury, ACC will consider the treatment recommendations in the supported assessment report, and the client's provider will work with them to identify and transition the client to an alternative service if required.

“ACC funds a further two sessions with the therapist to allow for transition to another appropriate agency or provider.”

Minister for the Prevention of Family Violence and Sexual Violence Marama Davidson said: “We can't continue with the status quo, so we are fundamentally changing how we think about preventing sexual violence.

“The approach being taken by ACC, aligns with the wider kaupapa of the joint venture and soon-to-be-released national strategy, which recognises that we cannot eliminate violence if we focus solely on response.

“Instead we need to work with communities to develop prevention and healing components so that when families seek help, they are greeted with a holistic approach that takes into account their individual circumstances.

REMOVING BARRIERS: Whanau Ahuru Mowai (Gisborne Rape Crisis) co-ordinator Ngarongo Eaton says government funding for a fit-for-purpose sexual violence primary prevention system, including kaupapa Maori approaches, will be a great help to them removing barriers preventing whanau from accessing the support they need. Picture by Paul Rickard
OPPORTUNITY FOR CHANGE: Te Hokai Male Survivors Tairawhiti co-ordinator and Tauawhi Trust member Tim Marshall and Tauawhi Men's Centre counsellor Winton Ropiha. Mr Marshall says $11.72 million in government funding for kauapa Maori approaches as part of a sexual violence primary prevention programme was an opportunity for 'a change in approach because exisiting kauapa Maori providers often say they come second'.Picture by Rebecca Grunwell