Quote of the day

September 14, 2016

When motherhood becomes the fruit of a deep yearning, not the result of ignorance or accident, its children will become the foundation of a new race.  –  Margaret Sanger who was born on this day in 1879.


Home should be safe

September 13, 2016

Sweeping reforms to our laws will build a better system for combatting abuse and will reduce harm, say Justice Minister Amy Adams and Social Development Minister Anne Tolley.

The Government is proposing a broad overhaul of changes to family violence legislation, stemming from the comprehensive review of the 20-year old Domestic Violence Act.

“New Zealand’s rate of family violence is horrendous. It has a devastating impact on individuals and communities, and a profound impact that can span generations and lifetimes,” Ms Adams says.

“Our suite of changes are directed to earlier and more effective interventions. We are focused on better ways to keep victims safe and changing perpetrator behaviour to stop abuse and re-abuse.

“This is about redesigning the way the entire system prevents and responds to family violence. The reforms are an important part of building a new way of dealing with family violence.

“For many, family violence is an ingrained, intergenerational pattern of behaviour. There are no easy fixes. Our reforms make extensive changes across the Domestic Violence Act, Care of Children Act, Sentencing Act, Bail Act, Crimes Act, Criminal Procedure Act and the Evidence Act.”

Changes include:

  • getting help to those in need without them having to go to court
  • ensuring all family violence is clearly identified and risk information is properly shared
  • putting the safety of victims at the heart of bail decisions
  • creating three new offences of strangulation, coercion to marry and assault on a family member
  • making it easier to apply for a Protection Orders, allowing others to apply on a victim’s behalf, and better providing for the rights of children under Protection Orders
  • providing for supervised handovers and aligning Care of Children orders to the family violence regime
  • making evidence gathering in family violence cases easier for Police and less traumatic for victims
  • wider range of programmes able to be ordered when Protection Order imposed
  • making offending while on a Protection Order a specific aggravating factor in sentencing
  • enabling the setting of codes of practice across the sector.

“These changes are the beginning of a new integrated system but on their own have the potential to significantly reduce family violence. Changes to protection orders and the new offences alone are expected to prevent about 2300 violent incidents each year,” Ms Adams says.

The package makes changes to both civil and criminal laws, and provides system level changes to support new ways of working. It will cost $132 million over four years.

“Legislation is part of but not the whole change required. These legislative reforms are designed to support and drive the change underpinning the wider work programme overseen by the Ministerial Group on Family and Sexual Violence. The work is about comprehensive and coordinated system change with a focus on early intervention and prevention,” says Mrs Tolley.

“Social agencies and NGOs I’ve been speaking with are desperate for a system-wide change so we can make a real shift in the rate of family violence.”

“Laws alone cannot solve New Zealand’s horrific rate of family violence. But they are a cornerstone element in how we respond to confronting family violence. It sets up the system, holds perpetrators to account, and puts a stake in the ground,” Ms Adams says.

The full pack of reforms are set out in the Cabinet papers and are available atwww.justice.govt.nz/justice-sector-policy/key-initiatives/reducing-family-and-sexual-violence/safer-sooner

In a speech announcing the changes Prime Minister John Key said:

For most children, New Zealand is a great place to grow up.

We have a high quality education system, easy access to the outdoors and a strong culture of participation.

Most children can rely on the adults in their house, family and whanau for nurture, encouragement and support.

This helps those children to grow, flourish and be ready as adults to take advantage of all the opportunities that today’s world offers.

But we know that, unfortunately, that does not describe the growing-up that every child experiences.

For most New Zealanders, home is a sanctuary.

But for some, home can sometimes be the opposite.

It can be a place of fear, anxiety and danger. . . 

Today I want to focus on how we intend to address the harm in our society caused by repeated family violence.

This is usually, though not exclusively, perpetrated by men on their partners or former partners, and on one or more of their children.

Family violence isn’t only a problem for women and children, although it is less common, men can be victims too.

The issue isn’t one of gender or age. Violence is violence and it’s unacceptable no matter who is the perpetrator and who is the victim.

All New Zealanders wish family violence did not happen.

Many wish that those involved might just fix it themselves.

Some families do manage to improve their circumstances, but some do not.

They need help to stop the violence and repression so they can lead healthier, happier and more fulfilling lives.

Obviously, the most important reason to help is to protect victims from the pain, fear and consequences of living in a violent household.

The sooner we stop it, the better the chance of lives being saved and of injuries being avoided; and the better the chance of adults and children living with the confidence, security and opportunities that most New Zealanders take for granted.

In addition, the greater the reduction in family violence now, the greater the chance of it not blighting another generation.

New Zealanders generally resist government interference in their private lives, and I get that.

But let me say straight up that in households where anyone is being assaulted, threatened, intimidated, belittled or deprived, the perpetrator has no right to expect privacy so they can go on being a bully.

If they won’t stop that behaviour, and the victims can’t stop it, then we must ensure that someone else stops it.

Home should be the safest place for children and family the people who make and keep it that way but there are far too many children for whom home isn’t a sanctuary which is why the state and its agencies must step in.

We know the effects of this type of offending are cumulative and profound.

Children subjected to family violence, and those who witness it, are at risk of serious problems with their physical and mental health, poor educational and job outcomes, drug and alcohol abuse, and homelessness.

None of this will surprise any of you here today.

This audience knows that police respond to 110,000 family violence call-outs a year.

And you know that kids are present at nearly two-thirds of these incidents.

You also know that, tragically, nearly half of all homicides are acts of family violence.

We are all aware of terrible cases where a woman has predicted, “my ex is going to kill me”, and he has.

Victims, mostly women, are often trapped because their spouses or partners have isolated them, cut them off from support and finances, and undermined their confidence.

It’s easy to think this is someone else’s problem.

But it is not someone else’s problem if you are a New Zealander who cares.

That’s why Ministers have been working together to come up with a different and better approach to family violence to get different and better results.

Everyone knows there is no single answer and the Government cannot be all of the solution.

However, we have a key role.

We have resources when victims often do not.

And we have the ability to make laws laid down by Parliament and enforced by police.

That is quite different to the laws laid down by some guy in his own home, and enforced by him.

Today I am announcing an overhaul of the family violence prevention system.

Our new approach will revolve around intervening sooner, and more effectively.

That is because the sooner we can identify problems and get victims and perpetrators the help that they need to change their lives for the better, the fewer serious assaults there will be.

We have already started with a new Integrated Safety Response pilot that is running in Christchurch, and soon to get underway in the Waikato.

This has brought in the widest range of agencies to work together, share information, and assess and plan responses for every family violence notification to police.

It involves daily case triage, specialist high-risk case management, and help for perpetrators to get the services they need to change their behaviour.

We know we have developed a better way of working on behalf of the people who need us most.

It’s early days but we also know that at least one life has been saved.

The feedback so far gives us hope that with the dedication of those in the sector, and a new way of working together, we can reduce family violence across New Zealand.

That is our aim.

Justice Minister Amy Adams has been carrying out a legislative review over the past two years that has led to the changes I am outlining today.

We will create a legislative regime that is built on best practice and ensures high-risk domestic abuse can be recognised, recorded and responded to properly. . . 

 

These changes are by no means the end of creating the effective, prevention-focused system that we aspire to — but they will provide its essential building blocks.

It will take time for services to be redesigned to appropriately meet the needs of the range of victims and perpetrators of family violence, and for the necessary capacity to be built.

We also need to ensure these services are integrated with existing initiatives like children’s teams.

These changes have the potential to significantly reduce family violence.

The increase in protection orders alone is expected to lead to 1200 fewer violent offences each year.

The increased imprisonment of violent offenders is expected to prevent a further 1100 violent offences per year.

These will be significant gains.

We know that half of all young people exposed to family violence will themselves be on a benefit before they turn 19.

We know that boys who witness family violence are twice as likely to grow up to abuse their own partners and children.

We know the cost of such violence to individuals, families, neighbourhoods and our country.

So we also know that every step we take to reduce this level of harm is worthwhile.

I want to personally make a couple more points, very plainly.

First, I want to say to victims: you are not alone.

You deserve and are entitled to a life free from fear, and your children deserve and are entitled to that too. Help is available.

Secondly, to the perpetrators of this misery I say this: recognise what is going on in your home and take responsibility for it.

A good father, a good step-father and a good man does not hit, intimidate or control his spouse, partner, ex-partner or her children. The same goes for women who are abusers.

You do not create a better family by hitting them, belittling them, or by making them live in fear of you.

You do not own your spouse, your partner, your ex-partner, your children or your step-children.

If you act in a violent and controlling way, you can change that behaviour.

Own the problem.

Nothing will get better until you do.

Ask for help. There is no shame in that.

This audience knows that family violence is not restricted to the poorest communities, or only to violence by men against women.

A quarter of women who live in a home that earns over $100,000 a year have experienced physical or sexual violence from their partner.

Around one in four women with a university education have been assaulted.

20 per cent of all adults experience violence at the hands of their partner at some point in their lifetime.

Kids from abusive homes are three times more likely to end up in violent juvenile offending and three times more likely to try to take their own lives.

Just as the effects of family violence are widely felt, so is the challenge of reducing family violence widely shared — by the Government, the police, social agencies, families and by everyone who knows that violence is occurring, including those who are inflicting it.

None of us should be deterred by the difficulty of the problem. Rather we should be motivated by the positive difference we can make. . . 

 

So, increasing support in practical ways for those who need a hand has been a consistent theme of this Government and has been well supported by New Zealanders since we were first elected.

If this focus has surprised some commentators, it should not have.

In 2007, I stood up in the Burnside Rugby Clubrooms in Christchurch and made a speech about defining the sort of country I wanted New Zealand to be.

At the heart of that speech was the belief that every New Zealander deserves a fair chance in life.

A belief that all kids should have the kind of start that will enable them to make the most of their potential, and the most of the opportunities out there in the world today.

That does not mean that kids need to have everything.

No kid needs everything.

But they all need love, care and encouragement in order to flourish, and those can only be provided in homes where children feel safe and secure, because they are safe and secure.

Ministers in this Government are united in condemning abuse in the home.

All kinds of abuse.

Nothing justifies it. Nothing excuses it.

Succeeding in reducing family violence will save lives, and transform lives.

For some, it will feel like a new life.

There is so much to be gained.

This Government intends being part of the solution. I am sure you do too.

We have moved a long way from the bad old days when violence in the home was only a domestic but there are still homes which aren’t safe and families who live in fear of at least one of their family members.

Changing the law won’t make a difference by itself but it is part of the chain of change which must happen to help everyone whose homes aren’t the safe havens they should be.

 


366 days of gratitude

September 4, 2016

My paternal grandfather died when my father was only six.

I never asked him who his role model was or if he learned to be a good father by trial and error because he was a good father.

My brothers and I were never in doubt that he loved our mother and us and together they gave us a happy childhood, set us boundaries, made us face consequences when we breached them, modelled a strong work ethic, compassion, consideration for others, loyalty and honesty; and encouraged us to be independent.

Dad wasn’t as involved in our childhood as many fathers are today, but it’s important not to judge what happened in the past by today’s expectations.

As Lindsay Mitchell reminds us, We should stop giving the baby boomer and baby boomer’s dads a bad rap. Mostly they stuck around, come hell or high water. To me, that is the ultimate expression of care for a child.

Not everyone was or is blessed by a good father, by yesterday’s or today’s standards but thankfully most of us are and today I”m grateful for good fathers.


Fatherhood tips

September 4, 2016

These tips from Leo Babauta are all common sense but in the heat of parenting we aren’t always sensible:

  1. Cherish your time with them. One thing that will amaze you is how quickly the years will fly. My oldest daughter is 15, which means I have three short years with her before she leaves the nest. That’s not enough time! The time you have with them is short and precious — make the most of it. Spend as much time as you can with them, and make it quality, loving time. Try to be present as much as possible while you’re with them too — don’t let your mind drift away, as they can sense that.
  2. It gets easier. Others may have different experiences, but I’ve always found the first couple of months the most difficult, when the baby is brand new and wants to feed at all hours of the night and you often have sleepless nights and walk around all day like zombies. It gets easier, as they get a regular sleeping pattern. The first couple of years are also a lot more demanding than later years, and as they hit middle school they become almost functioning, independent adults. It gets easier, trust me.
  3. Don’t look at anything as “mom” duties — share responsibilities. While there are a lot of good things from our grandparents’ day that we should bring back, the traditional dad/mom split of parenting duties isn’t one of them. Some men still look at certain duties as “mom” duties, but don’t be one of those dads. Get involved in everything, and share the load with your baby mama. Changing diapers, giving baths, getting them dressed, even feeding them (you can give them breast milk in a bottle).
  4. Love conquers all. This one sounds corny, but it should be at the center of your dad operating philosophy: above all, show your children love. When you’re upset, instead of yelling, show them love. When they are upset, show them love. When they least expect it, show them love. Everything else is just details.
  5. Kids like making decisions. While it is easier to be an authoritarian parent, what you’re teaching your child is to submit to orders no matter what. Instead, teach your child to make decisions, and he’ll grow up much more capable — and happier. Kids like freedom and decisions, just like any other human beings. Your job is to allow them to make decisions, but within the parameters that you set. Give them a choice between two healthy breakfasts, for example, rather than allowing them to eat a bowl of sugar if they choose to.
  6. A little patience goes a long way. As a parent, I know as well as anyone how easy it is to lose your patience and temper. However, allowing yourself to react in anger or frustration is not the best thing for your child, and you must remember that. That means you need to take a deep breath, or a walk, when you start to lose your patience. Practice patience with your child and your relationship, and your child, will benefit over the long run. . . 

You can read the other dozen tips here.


366 days of gratitude

September 3, 2016

Extended family and friends, about 70 in number,  met at Dunedin railway station today to be serenaded by a bagpiper before climbing onto the Taieri Gorge train for an afternoon of fun in celebration of an 80th birthday.

When the train returned to Dunedin we walked to the Duke of Wellington before repairing to the birthday aunt’s home for more food and fun.

While the aunt was explaining to a friend who was who and from whence they came, she said, “and the Oamaru ones are particularly good at family.”

She’s right, we are and for that and a very happy day I’m grateful.


Do it for Denmark

August 17, 2016

Denmark, like much of the developed world, is facing a population problem – not enough babies.

Spies travel agent has come up with a marketing campaign do it for Denmark, do it for Mum:


366 days of gratitude

August 13, 2016

What’s the secret to a happy marriage?

The answers to that question could be many and varied. They could also be complicated.

But it doesn’t have to be.

How about: communication, consideration, cooperation, kindness, laughter, love.

It really can be that simple and I’m grateful for that.


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