South Auckland initiative a lifesaver for victims of violence

By Jessica Tyson

The pandemic lockdown had an unfortunate side-effect on victims of family violence.

Te Whare Ruruhau o Meri Trust chief executive Dee-ann Wolferstan says for many victims of violence and sexual harm, the Covid-19 lockdown period meant they were not safe to be out in the community but also not safe in their own homes.

“It’s a terrible thing to be locked inside of your kāinga in fear of an invisible threat (Coronavirus) only to be trapped with a person who physically threatens your life and the life of your children. We have heard some horror stories that are deeply unnerving," Wolferstan says.

Police statistics showed a 21 per cent spike in family harm cases on the first Sunday after the lockdown started, compared with the Sunday three weeks before.

Te Whare Ruruhau o Meri Trust, which helps people as young as five up to age 65+ who require crisis support as a result of sexual or physical abuse, has set up a collaborative initiative with Counties Manukau Community Police, a new multi-agency family harm prevention hub, Te Taanga Manawa, to tackle family violence in South Auckland.

Te Taanga Manawa refers to a place of respite, safety and refreshment. 

"This is why Te Taanga Manawa is such a critical need in our community," Wolferstan says. "It is going to be a lifesaver to those trapped in severe trauma-inflicting domestic abuse."

Te Whare Ruruhau o Meri Trust is a kaupapa Māori service operating under the guidance of Te Pīhopatanga o Te Tai Tokerau, the northernmost Maori Amorangi in the Anglican Church of Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia.

Te Whare Ruruhau o Meri Trust Board chair and Tāmaki Makaurau archdeacon Dr Lyndon Drake says the trust's kaupapa Māori approach is essential for providing solutions for whānau.

“Our hope is that as Dee-Ann and her amazing team continue to demonstrate the effectiveness of a Māori-led approach, the government will support us in growing our capacity further.”

Prime Minister Jacinda Adern opened Te Taanga Manawa last week in Manukau, South Auckland.