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The Impact Statement Podcast - Hon. Marama Davidson

The Impact Statement Podcast - Hon. Marama Davidson

Yellow Image card - The Impact Statement with Hon. Marama Davidson

In this episode Petrina is joined by Hon Marama Davidson - the inaugural Minister for the Prevention of Family and Sexual Violence, whose goal is to turn family and sexual harm statistics around and make Aotearoa violence free.

Welcome to the Impact Statement, where we bring victims' issues into the public spotlight and challenge narratives around victims and victimisation. Most of us never think of victim support or what it's like to be a victim unless we are affected by crime or trauma ourselves, but anyone can find themselves a victim and the impact of victimisation is far-reaching.

I'm Petrina Hargrave, and I'm going to share with you the stories, research and people that are making an impact in the lives of everyday New Zealanders affected by crime, trauma and suicide.

It is estimated that more than half of New Zealand women have experienced physical, sexual or psychological harm in an intimate relationship. Family and sexual violence can happen to anyone of any age, gender or family structure. The impact is huge, with family violence implicated in nearly half of all homicides and reported violent crimes. What's being done to address this?

Today I'm joined by Honourable Marama Davidson, the Inaugural Minister for the Prevention of Family and Sexual Violence, whose goal is to turn those statistics around and make Aotearoa violence-free.

Petrina: Thank you for joining me, Minister, and welcome to The Impact Statement.

Hon Marama Davidson: Tēnā koe.

Petrina: Minister Marama Davidson. You're the Minister for the Prevention of Family Violence and Sexual Violence, the Inaugural Minister, and I mean, that's a really exciting thing that we've got a Minister for this now in Government, but it also makes me think that there's a sadness in it that we even need to have a position like this, so it's a double-edged sword. Is that how you feel as well?

Hon. Marama Davidson: Yeah, I would love to get to the point where we don't need a Minister for Prevention Violence because we have managed to largely eliminate violence, and that's what the whole point of having a Minister is, that's what the whole point of Te Aorerekura, the strategy is, which I know we'll talk about more. But, you know, being appointed as the first Minister, that's meant a lot to the sector. You know, it's been a signal that finally there is Government priority and focusing of efforts across Government, bringing all of that work together and, you know, common sense stuff, just being coordinated and aligned and prioritising the work to eliminate violence. And so, it's not only having a ministerial position means that there's accountability, you know, there is a key role for accountability.

The problem, one of the many problems that we've had so far across the system is there has never been a single point of accountability, particularly across Government. There has never been a single point of overview and leadership. We had, of course, I mihi to Jan Logie, my colleague, the previous Under-Secretary, the first ever Under-Secretary in this space, and her groundwork to do things in a joined-up way absolutely led to the Government seeing the value in that, but also hearing the call from the sector, Tangata Whenua communities, that actually it's going to take a Ministerial level position and leadership. So, yeah, I wish we did not need one, but I'm very, very honoured to have been appointed into this highly important, you know, highly significant role.

Petrina: So, we do need the position, unfortunately. Do you think that there are New Zealanders who will be shocked to learn the extent of family violence and sexual violence here in our country?

Hon. Marama Davidson: Yes, I do. I do know that there will be people who, because it's largely hidden, right? So, I firstly want to say that there are people, entire families and communities, actually, who have been living with the trauma and the impacts of violence for generations, that many of those people can feel alone and isolated, and there are also so many people who have absolutely no idea that this is happening around them, whatever community you are from.

I want to be really clear that New Zealanders, that people need to understand that violence is happening across all communities, across your own communities. You know, as I can unfortunately speak with confidence to say to every single person in this country, that violence is happening across your communities. But the reason why it has been an intergenerational issue is because it is often invisibilised and silenced and isolated.

So, there will be many people living with violence who think they're on their own, you know, and that's why the system has also not given people enough faith and confidence to feel like people can even put their hand up for help, so it can stay hidden.

So, you know, it's one of our jobs, one of our things to do, is to raise the awareness and be really clear. Unfortunately, violence is happening everywhere. It does not discriminate. People need to know that it's happening everywhere because we're all part of the solution to change our attitudes and behaviours that are the drivers behind violence.

You know, and I do want to make a particular point, if I can, because right now, at this very time, you know, even as recent as yesterday, we've got some politicians who try to continue to make people believe that violence only happens in poorer communities or brown communities or marginalised communities. That's simply not the case. It's happening in leafy suburbs and exclusive private boarding schools.

Petrina: Yep, absolutely. And we see that in the media and, I mean, we see that in Victim Support as well, that it really does cut right across society. And something that we're really passionate about is letting people know in society that victimisation of any nature is actually everybody's business. And, you know, we get such an attitude of people coming to us saying, oh, I didn't even know you existed until I needed you. You know, it wouldn't be great if we can change the attitude so people realise that they're, like you say, part of the solution.

Hon. Marama Davidson: Yeah. And family violence, sexual violence is everybody's business, is also everybody's responsibility. We all have a role to play. And they are two of our greatest shames of this country. You know, they transcend all communities, ethnicities, social classes, as you say. And we all want an Aotearoa that is safe from the impacts of family violence.

So we can all do something. That's like, that needs to be seen as a positive. That we can all do something, whether it's about the language that we are using every day, whether it's about the attitudes that we have towards genders, towards different genders and the roles that different genders have to play, whether it's our own understanding of what a healthy relationship looks like.

We all have a role. We can all contribute, all of us, to resisting coercion and control and that sort of harm that can lead into deeply, deeply traumatic harm as well. So, you know, I'm just lastly on that, I've spoken with young women, for example, who are genuinely asking the question, is it OK for my partner to be holding my phone and having a say over who I talk to or who I meet with, to be monitoring all of my texts and my phone calls? No, it's not. And that's the role that all of us have to play, is understanding what positive, healthy relationships look like and calling it out when we see different.

Petrina: Absolutely, exactly. And you don't know, do you, until someone actually tells you, hey, actually, that's not healthy. And then you might think, oh, OK, that's probably why I didn't feel good about that interaction with my partner. Yeah. So those are some of the things that we can do on a societal level to change this problem, which is great because every single person at Aotearoa can adopt one of those strategies. But there are also things that can be done on a government level, which is where Te Aorerekura comes in, which is an ambitious strategy to eliminate family violence and sexual violence over the next 25 years, right? So what can be done on that government level?

Hon. Marama Davidson: So much because we have to acknowledge that how can we be changing attitudes and behaviours in society when it's very clear that the government systems, departments and agencies have been responsible for creating harm and perpetuating harm? And that's very clear. And Te Ao Rerekura is about accountability of government system, government agencies. And we make no bones about that. In fact, there is no way of eliminating violence if we don't also acknowledge the violence of the system.

And I've worked throughout my role as a minister with organisations like Backbone who conduct research and get the experiences, the first-hand experiences of particularly women trying to get justice when there has been harm, when there has been violence. And our systems are not yet set up to respond in a safe way, to believe victims, and they put their hands up to vindicate victims and then give them the proper support right through to healing and restoration. So there's a lot that government has to do.

For example, work together for the first time rather than continue to work in isolated ways, focusing on prevention, being accountable for the harm that systems and governments cause. But also, you know, also providing users of violence with support to change their behaviour, to be able to stop being violent, to be able to stop using abuse.

And also, one of the most important things that has come through is the government can devolve power to communities to lead this work and to lead this change. That's one of the most important principles of Te Aorerekura as well.

Petrina: That's right. Yes. And you talked at your recent hui about this high trust trust model and letting people, letting communities find the solutions that they know work for them rather than the state doing things to victims or to the people who need support. It's coming from the ground up. So there's a lot of empowerment really, isn't there, behind your vision?

Hon. Marama Davidson: Yeah, and I like to say it's affirming the power of community that it already had, that it has always had. Removing the barriers in the way of community leading this work. And, you know, that's just come through everywhere, how important that is.

We saw through COVID how effective it is when government has an authentic relationship with community-led work, and we've seen how effective that can be. We need to hold on to a relationships approach to working with communities, working with Tangata Whenua, working to uphold the mana of Te Tiriti. We need to continue with that approach rather than a sort of transactional approach that we've had traditionally and so far. And so that's one of the key things that needs to change, is how we work with and affirm the power of communities to lead in this work.

Petrina: Awesome. So could you explain to listeners who might not be familiar with Te Aorerekura what the vision is and how it will work?

Hon. Marama Davidson: My absolute pleasure and honour. Thank you for this opportunity. So Te Aorerekura, the strategy is to eliminate family violence and sexual violence over 25 years. So it's a generational vision, because we know that's the minimum of what it will actually take to transform the deeply embedded nature of the system that we've got and have had to date.

So Te Aorerekura itself actually offers us the entire sort of approach to this work, because Te Aorerekura is about a journey of enlightenment. Te Aorerekura is one of the many star formations that we have, you know, just come from Matariki. Te Aorerekura is safe passage and safe journey as we do this work through to enlightenment. And so the strategy itself, if I can very simply just signal that there are six key shifts that signal the way that we have to change doing this work.

So we've already spoken about some of them. Shift one is a broader strength-based well-being that understands that, you know, people need good housing, decent incomes, good health care, good education system, good justice system for broader well-being. And that goes a long way towards eliminating violence.

We need to mobilise communities to lead this work. That's the second shift. Shift three understands that we need a workforce to do this work that is safe, culturally competent, skilled, and supported and valued.

And shift four, again, recognises that we've got to shift toward major investment in primary prevention. Mostly we've been focused at the response side. Shift five, though, still recognises that we are going to need responses, and they have to be safe and accessible and integrated.

And shift six, I've already spoken about actually increasing our capacity for healing. There hasn't been a good enough and you there at Victim Support will understand how important - It's not just the crisis work and the crisis support. We need the long-term restoration and healing, and that will look different for everyone, and it will be different time lengths, time frames for everyone.

So, you know, that's the strategy. Those are the six key shifts that have to change, and we know that we started off the strategy with a two-year action plan to go alongside the strategy, and all 40 actions are underway. So, you know, we're right at the beginning, and we'll continue to test and learn as we evolve through those six shifts.

Petrina: Oh, it's excellent. I love the fact that it's holistic and that it's not looking for instant results overnight. You know, you acknowledge that this is something that's going to take a couple of generations, so therefore it's a 25-year moemoeā, you know, that dream that you've got, and it involves everybody in different levels. So, you know, we've never seen anything like this before in New Zealand. And it's based on extensive consultation too, isn't it? So what have you learned along the way as you've been out there listening to victim survivors?

Hon. Marama Davidson: Yeah. Well, if I could start with the strategy, Te Aorerekura, because it is based on extensive consultation, it belongs to the people. So no matter what, no matter what government is in power, no matter who is a minister or not, the people need to be really clear that they will not, that the people will not tolerate the strategy being watered down in any way. And I want to be really clear about that.

This strategy belongs to the people, not to any minister, not to any one political party or government. So the extensive consultation, you know, we heard, and I was privileged to be on the ground as well as receiving the feedback from around the country, we heard about accountability and healing for victims and survivors, and that it will be different for everyone.

But whatever the process, it must be led by victims and survivors and have victim survivors' agency and consent along the whole way, you know? So whatever the process is, whoever you're engaging with as a victim survivor, the agency and power of the pathway needs to stay with victims and survivors. That's not what we've currently got.

A punishment-focused system actually isn't about victims and survivors. It's about perpetrators, you know? And so that's one of the big things that jumped out. We heard from some victim survivors is they really also want the support for, you know, let's say I remember one woman saying, I just want my husband to stop using abuse. I don't want him to be taken to jail. It's not necessarily what every victim's want, but I want support so that he can stop using abuse and harm and violence.

And so the Family Violence Death Review Committee report that we are working with, the recent report, it pulls through so much of what we heard from those consultations about government needing to be humble, to learn from the experts across the sector and from communities. A duty to care, not a duty of.

Petrina: I love that.

Hon. Marama Davidson: A duty to care. Yeah, right? It's a far more empowering, affirming the power rather than a paternalising approach from government. And it also centres whānau, allowing whānau to be the experts of their own lives and their own solutions. And one of the things I love in the Family Violence Death Review Committee report is that a te ao Māori approach is good for humans, not for te ao Māori.

Petrina: Absolutely. I know, I was going to ask you about that, actually. I agree. So can you explain to some of our listeners the benefits of a te ao Māori approach and how significant that is for all people in Aotearoa?

Hon. Marama Davidson: Yeah, and I just want to say that having a te ao Māori approach across Te Aorerekura is quite a big deal because it hasn't always been supported across governments, across different terms of government. And in actuality, I'll be really upfront because it's out there publicly. All incredible courage to Jan Logie. She had a hard time trying to instil and support the leadership from Te Rōpū about the benefit of having a te ao Māori approach. And the fact that we've been able to bring that through is a massive deal because it took a fight. You know, I'll be honest about that. So here we are.

So it means, for a start, is acknowledging the violence of colonisation. Yes. And therefore, upholding the Crown's responsibility to Te Tiriti, which is resolving that violence of colonisation and addressing the ongoing impacts, which is an example of that is, we have a deeply biased and also racist justice system and health system. We've seen some changes to start to resolve those systemic racist bias that are deeply embedded throughout our systems. And that's good work that needs to start. But that's part of accountability. And that's a te ao Māori approach that will actually improve the systems for everyone.

Also, the equity lens is part of a te ao Māori approach. And again, an equity lens is good for everyone. It understands that there are whole entire communities who are missing out on good income support, housing support, health support. And that needs to be addressed and fixed. It also establishes the Tangata Whenua Ministerial Advisory Group, which provides that mana ki te mana independent te ao Māori advice to keep the Crown to account, to support the mandate for me to do my mahi. And again, it means whānau first.

This is good for all families, for all people. And the holistic approach, as you yourself acknowledged, that dealing with violence, and this is what we heard from the consultation. People said, this isn't about violence. This is about community well-being. This is about having what we need to live, dignified, quality lives. So that's also part of the te ao Māori approach that is good for everyone as well.

Petrina: Yeah. Oh, that's great. You explained it so beautifully. Yeah, it's such an important message because I think, well, I wonder whether sometimes that can be a barrier for people within our society, accepting that this is something that is related to them and that it's not, like you say, just a problem for people with brown skin. Yeah, I'd imagine that might be one of the challenges that you expect to face. I was just about to ask you, what sort of challenges do you expect to face with a project this new and this ambitious?

Hon. Marama Davidson: Yeah, I mean, the system, working within the system, the deeply embedded nature, we're talking decades at the least in terms of a siloed approach across agencies that separated out, how can you separate the issue of being homeless with the issue of mental health, with the issue of addiction, with the issue of education? You can't. And so that's one of the biggest challenges is pulling all of that siloed approach together after decades of that approach.

The challenge is seeing on the ground the actual devolution of power and resource to community. There is a whole lot of ministers who are on the same page collectively, CEs of agencies, DCEs, operation managers. There is broad agreement that that is what needs to happen for the good of all of us. What is difficult is actually making that work on the ground.

As you said at the start, yes, this is an intergenerational strategy. Yes, it's going to take at least a generation to fully turn things around. However, we are seeing clear, solid outcomes, pockets of good practice around the country, particularly when we devolve power and resource to the community where possible. That needs to be scaled up times a million. That is a challenge because of, again, deeply embedded systems of contractual arrangements and built-in risk. And so that's going to be a challenge, but I think there is an opportunity that we've never had before because there is broad agreement that the evidence is clear, the outcomes are clear. When we do that is when we see the impacts as quick as possible.

And I just wanted to mention a political challenge, which I think is really important. The tough on crime approach and narrative is actually harmful politics. It's harmful for victims and survivors. It's harmful because it distracts from perpetrators getting the proper support that they need to become better in their behaviours and attitudes. And it doesn't even really pick up a proper restoration justice approach. Tough on crime isn't about justice, it's about perpetrators.

And it also continues to uphold the stigma of crime and violence only happening in some places and some neighbourhoods. And, you know, people deserve better. So that's going to get rougher in an election year and we're going to have to continue to collectively call for community voice about knowing what works and tough on crime approaches do not.

Petrina: That's right. Well, it's a time to be listening to the evidence, isn't it? And not to listening to the loud, emotive voices. And we've got no shortage of evidence within our country and internationally that the tough on crime approach is even not necessarily the victim-centric approach. For some victims, obviously it will be, but like you said earlier, many victims that we see who have been affected by family harm simply want to stay in that relationship and they just want to feel safe.

Yeah, and they don't want to, it's not about punishing anybody. And it's about giving... justice. Yeah, that's right. And what is justice? You know, for many people, justice isn't something that's found in the criminal justice system. It's a sense of feeling like right has been done, whatever that right might be for you.

Hon. Marama Davidson: And feeling believed.

Petrina: And believed, absolutely.

Hon. Marama Davidson: Yeah. I'm really clear that justice, and that can look like many different things. And in some cases, it could look like a sentence in court. Yep, absolutely. I acknowledge that. But again, a sentence in court is again, really about vindicating victims and survivors who have asked for help. Yes. So it's justice, you know? And justice needs to be about true accountability. And often a prison cell isn't even accountability. So I have a great responsibility to speak from a victim-centric lens at all times as well.

Petrina: So Marama, what gets you through? What drives you personally when you think of all the challenges ahead and the vision, the moemoeā, that you have for Aotearoa?

Hon. Marama Davidson:What gets me through is when I see communities, grassroots providers and organisations doing the good work and knowing that that good work is going to continue, but it needs more support from us. And seeing the communities have the answers, honestly, honestly. And that gives me incredible hope. Because we are making a commitment to support that better in a way that we never have.

There's still a lot more work to do, but that just drives me every single day, hearing about the commitment of the workforce and the frontline workers who just care so, so deeply and go above and beyond. We have to do this together. And so I'm driven, you know, the challenges and that vision are held by all of us, not just by me. And when I get, when I hear directly from victims, survivors first hand who write to me or message me, who talk about their experiences and that they absolutely need to see and hear and feel their voices and stories in parliament, you know, that's a massive responsibility that continues to drive me personally as well.

Petrina: And personally, I know you've got your own lived experience of being a victim survivor yourself, which you have spoken about publicly. So if you could reach out to that little girl now, what, you know, you've gone so far and you're bringing the country with you, what advice would you give her?

Hon. Marama Davidson: She's not alone. I think that's one of the biggest things is you just feel so isolated that no one on earth could possibly understand what you're feeling. And also as a sort of seven to nine year old, I didn't even have any words. I couldn't explain it. I didn't have any words for it. I couldn't understand it.

So the main message to anyone, no matter what your age actually, but especially to young children is you are not wrong. What you are feeling is valid and real and pain and that needs to be validated. And it's wrong, it's harmful. You know, what has happened to you is harmful. And there are people who will help. There are people who know how to help. You know, that's one of the biggest things I think that it just feels so isolating because it's so...it's shame. You don't want to talk to anybody. Even if people don't want to talk to anybody right now, I think people still deserve to know that they're not alone.

And you know, they're definitely not alone. And there are people who get it. There are people who get it.

Petrina: There are so many people who get it. Yeah. And that's such a powerful message, I think, for people of all ages who have been, who've experienced family harm or sexual violence. And I thank you for that. Yeah. So we'll just finish with one last question. And that is, if you had a magic wand and you could wave it just once and change one thing for victim survivors of family violence, sexual violence, what would that be?

Hon. Marama Davidson: That victim survivors are believed immediately and supported at every stage without pause and are given the right support to heal for as long as it is needed and have what they need to go on and live beautiful lives. That's something that would just, that would interrupt intergenerational violence as well with intergenerational healing instead.

Petrina: Oh, I love that. Yes. That's such a powerful message of hope, which is what we really need to hold on to because that's really the driving force in the mahi that you're doing.  

Kia ora Honorable Marama Davidson, thank you so much for joining us today. I really appreciate that kōrero and the mahi that you're doing. And it's a pleasure and an honor to be part of it as well at Victim Support. Thank you so much for your time today.

Hon. Marama Davidson: Thank you so much for your ongoing work. I know that you're a light and often incredibly dark, dark times for so many people, far too many people. And thank you for the love and care that you continue to provide and will continue to provide. And thank you for the opportunity to speak to you all today. Kia ora.

Thank you for joining us today for The Impact Statement. I hope that you'll tune in for the next conversation. And a big thank you to Scots College here in Wellington for the use of their recording studio. Victim Support really appreciates their generous support.