WWOOFing it Up in Kiwiland: organic farming in New Zealand 2012

3 years later and life brings me back to New Zealand. This time for a longer period, for a different purpose, with a different outlook on life than last time. I hope what transpires from a few years of travelling as far and as wide as possible across this beautiful country is a basic but decent knowledge and experience in organic farming, self sustainable living, and food production. Come and join me, there's loads of room in the car.

Saturday, 19 September 2009

Every 12 days, a woman or child is murdered in New Zealand; a woman is murdered every six hours, in South Africa.

I met an interesting woman at Viviana, skeptic and disappointed in New Zealand's domestic violence services, or 'family violence, as they call it here, and the title was the alarming fact she told me. I replied with that little known and more alarming fact that a woman is killed in South Africa every 6 hours. There's always someone else,  somewhere else, who has it worse... I'm not sure if there is a higher femicide rate that South Africa's: does anyone know?

Viviana is not a member of the National Collective of Women's Refuges, the equivalent to Scotttish Women's Aid back home, for the following reasons that Membership Rules dictate (however I can't seem to access them from the website so I go by the worker):
  • refuges can only house women for 2 weeks only 
  • refuges do not accept women with additional support needs
  • volunteers run refuges with few paid staff
She said they also are fundamentalist feminists, lacking a grounding practical application of their theory and holistic understanding and approach to anti-violence work. Women aren't supported to leave abusive relationships and re-establish new lives with their children; how can you possibly do that in 2 weeks? Maybe you can, but only in exceptional circumstances; most women need more than 2 weeks to break free from the chains of an abusive partner, and even then, it's only the physical chains. The psychological and emotional damage takes sometimes a lifetime to heal, or never...

Anways, she talked disparagingly of New Zealander's and her colleagues' work ethic. While she's comfortable working with women with additional drugs, alcohol, mental health needs, her peers aren't and it's because there is a mentality resistant to change. It's not just about resources, although that is an issue, she said; staff have no training budget but they wouldn't use it even if they did. The only reason she's different is because she's travelled and worked around the world, Ireland, England, Korea, etc. etc. 9 years after, she was horrified when she came back that things had gone back 50 years... I'm not really sure in what ways because she didn't explain.. She did have an interesting take on co-gender prevention group work. When in groups, there can be no collusion. It's probably more difficult, but it's not impossible... group's have cliques and couples and relationships within aren't necessarily equal... when I work in groups there is the attempt to prevent that from happening, definitely however I believe that where there's a will, a way shall be found, or created and if two people want to collude, they'll make it happen... isn't that how doemstic abuse starts?

Back to the refuges:
  • weekly rent costs $450 to $600 per week, that's approx 200 to 300 pounds, not including bills, living costs so women do receive benefits but they come nowhere near to covering it
  • women seek refuge so that they recieve priority when applying for council housing with Housing NZ however, unlike Edinburgh, the council have no obligation to house women presenting homeless because of domestic abuse
  • some refuges at Viviana are not staffed ie. women don't receive support while there and basically have a building (There are only 5 staff, down from 9 when the previous manager left. Not only that, but those staff are on call 24 hrs outside of office hours...unpaid) ... is it better to have volunteers rather than no staff at all...??
So the picture's bleak for women being tortured by their abusive partners in New Zealand. I almost rescheduled the meeting to next week because the 5 staff were snowed under with court appearances at the Family Violence court each Wednesday. They seem to do a lot more legal support and advocacy work for women here... the staff I spoke to was also of the opinion that the Family Violence Unit were biased towards men, as part of a patriarchal society originating from england. She felt that all the men got programmes and support services for them and very little for women. I'm beginning to see her point; fathering week was a big deal and I've heard more about the men's counselling and parenting programmes that I have for women. I thought that this might be correctly directed towards the men as they're the ones who are at fault, but maybe she was expressing a disatisfaction more with the unequal allocation of resources between men's rehabilitation and women's protection, understandably.

This meeting was different from any other I've had with agencies so far. Partly to do with their stretched staff time and resources I guess. Partly to do with this staff's strange contradictory, ambiguous and indignant attitude towards her own sector. While she complained and compared New Zealand to other countries harshly, she wasn't trying to change it. Indeed, she was criticising in others the very short-comings she displayed herself. This woman's possibly been in this field too long. Or maybe her character's just the kind to look at the worst in people and get fixated on them, despite all the good that's there. Shame, because that's the first sure sign of a dying organisation: people tend to leave organisations with a self-defeating culture. People need to celebrate achievements and have visionary focus on change for the better, together. I'm feeling really sad about the anti-violence sector in New Zealand. the more I learn about it..and I haven't even been to the maori refuge yet...

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