Conference tackles domestic violence

Sir Mark Solomon gave a powerful speech about family violence and sexual abuse on the final day...
Sir Mark Solomon gave a powerful speech about family violence and sexual abuse on the final day of Oamaru’s Ripple Effect Family Harm conference yesterday. PHOTO: KAYLA HODGE
Maori women make up a minority of New Zealand’s population — but they represent nearly half the country’s domestic violence victims, an Oamaru audience was told yesterday.

"How can 7% of this country be 50% of family violence?" Sir Mark Solomon questioned.

That was one of the many powerful messages Sir Mark raised at Oamaru’s Ripple Effect family harm conference, which finished yesterday.

Sir Mark was one of 14 speakers, including Nigel Latta and Ranjna Patel, at the two-day event, attracting 190 people from throughout New Zealand to the Oamaru Opera House.

The discussions explored the interrelationships of family harm, mental health, addictions and vulnerable children.

Speaking after his presentation, Sir Mark said conversations regarding sexual abuse and family violence needed to begin with communities and families.

"My view is that the only ones that can stop all of this nonsense are the families. Everyone else is what I would call is the ambulance at the bottom of the cliff.

"We need to be courageous as families to speak up about it. It’s not acceptable in our families — it’s a simple statement."

In New Zealand, one in six men, and one in three women, were sexually abused.

"It’s the sector we don’t talk about [and] because we don’t talk about it is why it keeps happening."

Nobody should be a victim of violence, and it was a widely-spread issue through both the rural and urban sectors. It was conferences like the one in Oamaru — the third version of the event — that were helping the conversation move freely.

"They are awesome for the organisations because this is not a nice field to work in. These are the people that are ... dealing with it, so it’s positive because they deal with all the nasty stuff."

Waitaki District Council community development manager Helen Algar said Sir Mark’s presentation brought the whole conference together.

The event as a whole exceeded her expectations and provided important key messages.

"It’s been indescribable. It’s been an amazing conference and it’s set us up well for the future."

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