Call for more funds to fight violence

Domestic violence could be costing the country up to $3 billion a year and agencies and organisations dealing with the problem urgently need more funding, the "Stop violence towards women" rally and concert in Dunedin heard yesterday.

The four-hour event, part of the 21st anniversary of the international White Ribbon Day which aims to eliminate violence against women, attracted hundreds of people, including families.

Guest speaker University of Otago faculty of law dean Prof Mark Henaghan told the crowd there were 90,000 police callouts to domestic violence every year, but that was considered to be just 20% of the actual incidence of violence.

"There is no justification for violence against anyone.

"Violence in the house is not an aberration; it's how our society works; that it's all right to bully, to put women down," Prof Henaghan said.

He called for recognition of volunteers, highlighting that 50% of Women's Refuge staff were unpaid, and for more Government funding to help fight violence, the latter being an unpopular political call because it meant admitting the extent of the problem.

After his talk, Prof Henaghan said he became involved in the issue initially through research projects, and subsequent involvement with Women's Refuge, Barnardos, police and other groups.

Next year he hopes to apply for six-figure funding to conduct a two- to three-year study into socio-economic factors affecting women, families and violence, where the law can be changed, and combine this with findings and data from earlier studies.

Bonnie Scarth, co-ordinator for concert organisers Dunedin Collaboration Against Family Violence, which liaises with several dozen groups, organisations and government departments, was pleased with the turnout for the event, the first organised in the city on such as big scale.

She said reports of violence were increasing. So too were the numbers of incidents, with a trend emerging that worsening economic pressures were to blame.

"The economic gap is widening and that is driving violence up as people get stressed and find they're not coping," Ms Scarth said yesterday.

Performers included five bands, poetry readings and high school Kapa Haka groups.

Several social agencies and entities also ran stalls.


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