The Southern Police District has the lowest rate of family
violence deaths in New Zealand.
Five family violence-related deaths occurred in the area,
which covers Otago and Southland, from 2009-12 - a rate of
0.41 deaths per 100,000 people in the district during the
period, according to the Family Violence Death Review
Committee's report released yesterday.
University of Otago dean of law Prof Mark Henaghan said the
report was ''positive'' news for the Southern district.
He could not speculate as to why the Southern district had
the lowest rate, but it might reflect a cultural difference
in the lower South Island.
The problem was ''violence in the home is just an extreme
reflection of society's norms'', he said.
''It's still five deaths too many.
''One has to remind oneself that these are totally
''We should be down to zero.''
Te Whare Pounamu Dunedin Women's Refuge outreach worker
Amanda Durham agreed.
While it was ''really good'' to see the Southern district had
the lowest family violence death rate, ''any death is one
death too many'', she said.
''It doesn't really reflect the family violence in our
Domestic violence response services were underfunded to
handle increasing demand.
''We certainly do our best, but we are under-resourced to
meet the needs of the community at times,'' she said.
The reform of the family court system had also been ''quite
confusing and quite overwhelming for our clients'', she said.
The Family Violence Death Review Committee recommended
several changes in the report, including establishing
non-fatal strangulation as a separate crime, modifying the
test for self-defence in homicides and introducing a partial
defence for victims of family violence who were not acting in
self-defence when they retaliated against their abusers.
Committee chairwoman Julia Tolmie said societal change was
needed as many New Zealanders had no experience of life
without family violence.
''Children are conceived and born into families that already
have a dangerous level of abuse,'' she said.
''If we are to be serious about addressing the unacceptably
high incidence and seriousness of family violence in New
Zealand, we need to take responsibility for victims' safety
rather than expecting them to keep themselves safe.''
Prof Henaghan said the recommendations of the report should
be considered as it was a ''very thorough'' look at family
violence with a ''strong factual and evidential basis''.
''It's a good wake-up call for all of us,'' he said.
Justice Minister Judith Collins said she welcomed the
findings of the report and had asked officials for advice on
its recommendations, particularly making non-fatal
strangulation a separate crime.
''Addressing family violence is a high priority and a huge
amount of work is being done across Government,'' Ms Collins
''Ministers have been working for some time on a
comprehensive response to address family violence and support
victims. This will be announced shortly.''