“ … if only you knew that when I think of why I even bother at all, I think of men like you.
… If you only knew that it’s the shame that you pushed down that whispers in your ear telling you I’ll leave if I knew.
Because if the truth whispered it would tell you nothing you could ever tell me would change my mind about you.
Because I see you my best friend, and when I see you.
I don’t see the gangster … “
The words of Matt Brown of She is Not Your Rehab always bring a reason to pause, to reflect, and reaffirm the non-negotiable importance of whānau-led approaches and solutions.
Speaking on the first day of Hiwa-i-te-rangi, the 2023 National Family Violence Conference and Masterclasses, in Te Whanganui-a-Tara on Thursday, Matt recited a poignant poem he wrote for a client, who became a friend, who became a brother. I See You recounts a conversation which spoke to the shame many tāne who have been involved in violence carry.
I doubt there was anyone who was not affected by Matt’s words when he spoke as one of two keynotes on the first day of the conference. His words highlighted that solutions can be found, when people are heard and seen, and held accountable to themselves, and not to a system.
It has taken a decade for successive governments to somewhat understand what a true Whānau Ora partnership looks like, and there is still work to be done as the Auditor-General’s recent report noted. But it was heartening to hear Minister for the Prevention of Family and Sexual Violence, Hon Marama Davidson, in opening the conference, reaffirm the need to involve whānau and community from the start, not only when thinking about support for people who use violence, but across many situations. After all, we know issues do not exist in silos and neither do the solutions. It requires everyone working together.
The crisis in the North Island is one example. We know levels of need are still very high and we also know that levels of violence increase after a crisis. That is why right now, as Hon Davidson noted, is the right time to be flexible, to put in place higher trust relationships and focus on primary prevention work. Now is not the time for these types of partnerships to be deferred and reprioritised in order to make balance sheets more politically appealing.
However, it is not policies alone which will support people to be able to live violence-free lives, or funding, or even the academic evidence. It is also the people themselves, the community, peer support, people with lived experiences who may not be qualified in a traditional sense but who can guide with the support of professionals.
It is this inter-connected approach of Whānau Ora that we must look to.