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The time for talking is now

Marlene ‘Ma’ Gaskin and Ronald Karaitiana. PHOTO/EMMA BROWN

It’s the long game Marlene ‘Ma’ Gaskin and Ronald Karaitiana are interested in as they work each day to reduce family harm in the Wairarapa. EMMA BROWN reports.

For the past nine years, Ma Gaskin has worked as a family advocate as part of a joint initiative between the New Zealand Police and Te Hauora Runanga O Wairarapa.

Her role in the Family Safety Team was created in 2004 after police found there was a large number of high-risk families who weren’t talking to anybody for family violence support.

“We are part of the wider network that works closely together in reducing family harm in Wairarapa,” Ma said.

When she was a child, she was exposed to family violence and was later adopted by her birth mother’s sister.

She said her childhood and formative years could have been so different had she been left in the abusive household, and her passion to reduce family harm stemmed from this.

Each day, she encourages people to have open conversations so she can let them know what support is out there and what their violence-free life could look like.

“Everything we talk about is confidential … at the end of the day, let’s have a korero first.

“[At first], they tell you go f*** off, but I go in there anyway, and it’s just about having that talk.

“And it may be six months or 12 months before they decide they can trust me to want to make some change … they are testing the waters, seeing whether you are going to be there [for them].”

Te Hauora Runanga O Wairarapa chief executive Ronald Karaitiana talked about the three E’s of family harm resolution – “social engineering [influencing an attitude and behaviour change], education [eradicating ignorance], and enforcement [reinforcing the change needed].”

He said the police focused on enforcement whereas Te Hauora and Ma focused on education and engineering.

He said there was a fourth “E” of empowering people to want to change and become a White Ribbon ambassador.

“The stem of violence isn’t necessarily one thing, it is multi factorial,” Karaitiana said.

He said “99 per cent” of those coming through the doors of Te Hauora had experienced violence, whether as the perpetrator or the victim.

“This is just the proverbial iceberg in a sense of what is below the water.”

Te Hauora works on resilience, challenging violent behaviour, and managing conflict.

“Because we’ve got a Maori name, it’s misunderstood that we are only for Maori, we are here for everyone.”

Anyone can self-refer by just walking through the door or get referrals from other agencies.

“When you come into this organisation, getting rid of us is the trick, because we connect before we correct,” Karaitiana said.

“When you walk to the door as a self-referral, you are our gift.

“Because it takes courage to seek help. We should be looking after you to get results.

“We will try to send the right person with the right set of skill to meet your needs.”

As the 99th White Ribbon ambassador in New Zealand, Karaitiana said people needed to see an example of violence-free living.

“As an ambassador, we need to walk the talk of violence-free.”

This is the second of a five-part series sharing the White Ribbon message.

Up next: Rape Crisis.

Family violence helplines

For emergencies call NZ Police 111

Te Hauora Runanga O Wairarapa 06 378 0140 0800 666 744

Women’s Refuge crisis line 0800 733 843 – 24 hours

Family violence information 0800 456 450

Shine National Helpline 0508 744 633 – 9am to 11pm

Shakti – for women from migrant and refugee communities 0800 742 584 – 24 hours

National network of stopping violence 03 391 0048

Elder Abuse Helpline 0800 32 668 65 – 24 hours

Wairarapa Rape Crisis 0800614614 regional free number, 0800 883 300 National free number

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