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The value of people

The value of people

Image of road injury victim Michelle

In late March 2022, Michelle and her husband Gary were walking hand-in-hand outside a mall in Manukau, South Auckland. After a driver mounted the curb, Michelle and Gary were struck, resulting in severe injuries for Michelle, and devastatingly, Gary losing his life.

Almost a year later, in March 2023, Michelle bravely took the stand at the offender’s sentencing hearing to deliver her victim impact statement. It marked the end of a long and at times overwhelming court process. A process that Michelle isn’t sure she would have been able to get through without her Victim Support Worker, Deborah.

“I’ll be honest, I really did not know Victim Support existed before this,” Michelle says. “It was just like a ray of sunshine from nowhere when Deborah popped up at my bedside.”

Deborah first met Michelle in person after she was transferred from hospital to a rehabilitation facility, and the pair immediately clicked. “While I was visiting Michelle on that first day, she let me know that she was getting very overwhelmed with the calls from the court and Police,” Deborah explains. “For me those calls were a reminder of everything, and I struggled with it,” says Michelle. “So, when I met Deborah, I asked her if she would be able to take those calls for me and pass on any important information.

"We were given financial support, emotional support, and practical support – I was totally blown away, and extremely grateful."

On that same day, from Michelle’s room in the rehabilitation facility, Deborah called the court and requested that all updates be passed on to her, and that she would then relay them to Michelle.

“Deborah was always so considerate of contacting me with updates,” says Michelle. “She just had a way of softening the information and was so compassionate.”

The court process can be incredibly intense, and often takes a huge emotional toll on those involved. Pair this with Michelle dealing with the loss of her husband, as well as life altering injuries, Deborah’s support was absolutely vital for her and her whānau.

“Deborah was my support in so many ways,” she says. “We were given financial support, emotional support, and practical support – I was totally blown away, and extremely grateful.”

On the day of the sentencing hearing, Deborah was there in court with Michelle and her family. She watched Michelle as she read her victim impact statement, and then took the stand herself to read statements on behalf of Michelle’s son and daughter. “I couldn’t have read those myself,” says Michelle, “so it was really lovely to have Deborah’s support.”

For Deborah, the mahi she does is a true privilege. Journeys like the one she has had with Michelle remind her of this. “It’s humbling that Michelle has allowed me to walk this journey with her, and it really brings home just how important our service is.”

“You shouldn’t underestimate the value of people,” Michelle adds. “The support doesn’t take away the pain, but it helps you progress, and it’s so, so valuable.”

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