Credit where credit is due

Peter Glensor, General Manager
Hui E! Community Aotearoa

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We in the community sector too often get stuck in a “poor me” attitude.  Life is tough in our sector – there are always new demands, and there’s never enough time or people or money to do all the things we need to do.  And we’re surrounded by people who don’t really understand how we work, what drives us, and where our strengths and skills are.  These past years have been especially tough – as money is held and reduced, and expectations keep growing about what we’ll do.

So – it’s no wonder that we can get po-faced and negative about stuff.

But I want to offer a couple of bouquets – perhaps surprising – to groups we don’t often hand out praise to.

First – big ups to the Minister of Justice for the discussion paper on legal changes in Family Violence.  The document shows in horrifying graphs that NZ has one of the worst records of reported domestic violence in the world.  Our NZ culture still tends to minimise and excuse acts of domestic violence, and, deep within many of us, a violent attack on a person in the street by a stranger still generates more anger and distaste than the hundreds of (mostly) women attacked by a family member in their own home.

The document proposes some significant changes in how the law deals with “Family Violence”.  Police will get more autonomy to apply for, and monitor, protection orders.  A person can be warned that their new partner has a past history of domestic abuse, even when they haven’t yet begun to repeat the pattern this time.  The Courts will be able to deal with a pattern of abuse – not just single events that individually don’t constitute an offence.  One of the slogans is “Safety trumps privacy”.  We’ve convened a number of discussions and have encouraged people to make submissions.  The Minister made it clear that those proposals which get strong support will be put in place – those that don’t won’t.  It’s sadly true that these proposals, on their own, won’t do anything to improve NZ’s terrible record of death, injury and misery from domestic violence.  And there’s so much more that could be included, but isn’t.  But all strength to the Minister for raising the issue at all, and offering up some innovations which I hope will be turned into practice.

Second – the Productivity Commission, for actually listening to our sector.  This Commission – the fruit of the confidence and supply agreement between the National and Act parties – offers thoughtful proposals on client choice, on the efficiency of agencies, and of new funding models.  We’ll all debate them at length

But the bouquet is the thorough way the Commission listened to the sector.  They responded to phone calls and emails.  They came to meetings, and invited people to meetings.  I’m sure the record number of submissions is in part due to their signals that they want to listen.  And the final report shows that some of what we said helped change the final document.

So – well done, for raising hard issues.  And well done for listening carefully.  More of that would be great!

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