Empowering Diverse Communities

A fantastic announcement yesterday from Minister Marama Davidson of much needed funding for family and sexual violence prevention initiatives focused on LGBTQIA+ people, disabled people, older people and new migrant communities.

Our team has been working alongside other key individuals and agencies as part of the Rainbow Violence Prevention Network to identify the specific areas of need in LGBTQIA+ communities. With a portion of the new funding, we’re now looking forward to being able to get to work on practice guidelines for those working with rainbow identifying people on sexual violence issues.

The funding provides:

• $399,000 for LGBTQIA+ centred violence prevention initiatives, including the development of practice guidelines, healthy relationships and consent resources, and an awareness raising campaign

• $350,000 to mobilise disabled communities to begin the process of addressing systemic barriers faced by tāngata whaikaha, deaf and other disabled people, implement the Safeguarding Framework and grow and strengthen the Safeguarding Adults From Abuse (SAFA) response in the Waitematā to safeguard adults at risk

• $242,000 for new violence prevention initiatives for ethnic communities, including the expansion of the Shama community development programme to six new locations and the expansion of Let’s Talk, plus the development of community conversations and healthy relationship resources

• $200,000 to support the violence prevention needs of older people.

• $250,000 to build relationships and capacity for diverse communities to engage with Joint Venture agencies

• $137,500 for Community Advisory Groups established by Massey University Center for Culture-Centered Approach to Research and Evaluation (CARE) to develop localised violence prevention initiatives and frameworks in five locations.

Read more here: https://www.beehive.govt.nz/release/empowering-diverse-communities

Pūroro Rangaranga | Social, Cultural and Economic Committee meeting – 2 September 2021

RespectEd Aotearoa participated in the Pūroro Rangaranga | Social, Cultural and Economic Committee meeting held 2 September 2021 and commented on what we would like to see more of as part of The Pōneke Promise. The Pōneke Promise is a coordinated, community driven initiative creating collective change to keep our city safe. Here is a link to the video recording; public participation starts approximately 5 minutes in.

A few highlights:

Thursdays in Black, a student-led, nationwide university student-oriented group that focuses on sexual violence prevention and supporting survivors of sexual violence, was the first to speak. They discuss sexual violence in the context of university students, the correlation of alcohol abuse to sexual harm, and the need for effective preventative measures, such as consent education.

Chief Exec Fiona McNamara of RespectEd Aotearoa comes on after and reinforced the need to “increase focus and spending on sexual harm prevention and response across all ages and to all parts of our community.” Funding needs also to be long-term, to ensure it can be sustained beyond a 3-year cycle. She also outlines some key initiatives that the increased funding would support, such as in hospitality environments. These include bystander training, consent education, and a safer bars accreditation scheme, the latter of which RespectEd Aotearoa has advocated for the past 10 years. Beyond prevention, funding needs to continue to focus on response as well, particularly in services that support survivors of sexual harm as well as services that work with those that do harm.

Following this, representatives from the Wellington branch of National Council of Women State stressed the importance of Wellington City’s commitment to eliminate all forms of discrimination against women. This commitment would involve applying a gender lens to all policy and decisions made. The Sexual Violence Prevention Action Plan that is currently underway was also praised, but more could be done, such as “develop[ing] a strategy for eliminating sexual violence and unite [complementary] initiatives in this way… [that currently] The Pōneke Promise doesn’t completely satisfy.

Watch the full video on Youtube.

Kia ora koutou katoa, it is with sad but also excited hearts that we announce the upcoming departure of Judy O’Brien, a key member of our Leadership Team. Judy has been our Programme Manager – Community Mobilisation & Organisational Development for upwards of four years, where she was not only part of the programmes delivery team, but was also in charge of planning for the development of the department. She has been an instrumental part of the team guiding our growth, and we thank her for her service. Judy, we wish you all the best in your future endeavours.

COVID-19 UPDATE: 18 August 2021

The snap lockdown is a huge and sudden change for all of us, but our team of 5 million has done it before, and we will do it again – together.

Staff at RespectEd Aotearoa will be physical distancing and working from home in accordance to New Zealand’s updates. For those in communication with us, we will be in touch regarding rescheduling programmes or transferring meetings online for the time being.

Please do not hesitate to contact us if you have any questions via our contact form, or through phone at 04 801 8975.

Kia kaha koutou katoa.

RespectEd Aotearoa’s submission on National Strategy for Prevention of Family and Sexual Violence

On 30 June 2021, RespectEd Aotearoa made a submission to the Joint Venture for Family Violence and Sexual Violence, towards their development of the National Strategy and Action Plan to eliminate family violence and sexual violence.

We urge the Government to recognise the need to increase spending on primary prevention of sexual harm across all ages in our community and within our submission, included a series of recommendations to Government. These recommendations are aimed at ensuring the coordinated effort of key stakeholders and raises key areas for the Government to focus on in order to end sexual harm in Aotearoa.

For more information on 14 recommendations set out, please download the submission below.

Pre-Election Panel Event

Last month we had a thorough cross-party discussion with the panelists and are pleased to share the full recording of the Pre-Election Panel Event on Sexual Violence issues here.

This video has the full korero from the panel but is missing the opening mihi from the moderator and an opening statement from RespectEd CEO. Our NZ sign language interpreters join the call at the 9-minute mark. Thanks for your understanding!

COVID-19: A Level 2 Update

Kia ora te whānau

Here we are again in Level Two. Despite being prepared for the reality of community transmission, we couldn’t help but feel a little shocked when it happened. Our thoughts are with those directly affected and wider community in Tāmaki Makaurau, including our fellow Mates and Dates providers.

At RespectEd Aotearoa, we are closely following the Ministry of Health guidelines and continuing to provide education in the community across the Lower and Central North Island. We are taking additional precautions at Level Two. Our staff will, of course, be maintaining a two-metre distance from those we don’t know and a one-metre distance where two metres is not possible. We will also be wearing masks while out in the community, including in the classroom.

Additionally, we have reduced shared high touch surfaces by removing physical resources from our programmes, with group activities happening instead by discussion or using the whiteboard.

Our staff will be based from their homes during Level Two, with minimal office use. You can continue to contact us as you normally would on our emails, mobile phones and our portable office landline: 04 801 8975.

We, like all of you, are hoping to be back in Level One soon but are prepared should we need to keep working at the higher levels. We’ve done this before, and we can do it again.

Kia kaha Aotearoa.

Why feeling safe and supported matters at school

Kaarin Slevin is the Academic Lead at Toi Whakaari, the New Zealand Drama School. In working with RespectEd Aotearoa, Toi Whakaari have taken pro-active steps to create a safer, healthier and happier learning and working environment for everyone in the Toi Whakaari whānau.

MPs’ bad behaviour shows Parliament needs to look at its workplace culture


This week there have been revelations of poor behaviour by Members of Parliament across the political spectrum beginning with the news of Andrew Falloon, a former MP from the National Party, allegedly sending pornographic images to multiple young women, including a 19-year-old.

These issues speak to poor decisions on behalf of the members involved, and of a cultural problem in Parliament – one that links to issues more widely in New Zealand society.

In the case of Andrew Falloon, the story has been spun to be one of a man suffering mental distress and of drinking to cope with this, resulting in making bad decisions. This spin is an attempt to elicit sympathy and to excuse his actions. By not addressing the actual behaviour in question, it does nothing to indicate that he views himself as accountable for it or to show he understands what actually might have led to these bad decisions – which would be a step towards changing his behaviour.

Firstly, on the mental health line: mental distress is not a risk factor for sexual harm.

Most people who suffer mental distress and illness do not engage in sexually harmful behaviour towards others. It is important that society does not lean into this idea, because to do so would risk creating a myth that people with mental health concerns might be at risk of sexually harming someone – and of course, the vast majority will not. It’s not only offensive and unhelpful, it also risks adding to the already long list of unfounded assumptions that create stigma around mental illness and therefore inhibit society’s understanding of it.

Alcohol has also been mentioned as a contributing factor in at least one of the instances and is another issue that distracts from the central one.

There is a link between alcohol and sexual harm: in New Zealand, 50 percent of sexual assaults involve alcohol, and 50 percent do not. This shows that alcohol does not directly lead to harmful sexual behaviour. Any adult who has drunk alcohol can work that out: most adults have experienced having too much to drink, and they did not do sexual harm as a result.

So, if not from an individual’s mental health and if not from alcohol, where does the urge to send unsolicited pornography, or to do any other sexual behaviour without consent, come from?

Well, it is embedded within our society. We live in a culture in which pornography is becoming increasingly accessible, increasingly widely used, and often normalises harmful behaviour.

Alongside that, the idea of sending these images to others has become a normalised behaviour. Where there is consent from everyone involved, image sharing and use of some pornography can be OK, but other pornography, as well as a lot of mainstream entertainment, normalises and glorifies a lack of consent.

To add to this, women are often sexualised in the media, in advertising and in everyday interactions. These societal influences combined can result in individuals seeing some of the harmful behaviour depicted in pornography as normal, seeing women as sexual objects, and not valuing asking for consent as an ordinary part of most interpersonal interactions, leading to them taking actions like sending pornography to women who have not requested it.

Does this mean we can say Falloon was a product of society and as an individual it’s not his fault?

No. Ultimately, he chose to take those actions, intoxicated, distressed or not.

We all live in this same society and most of us do not do sexual harm. Harmful messages are pervasive and those certainly do influence people’s behaviour, but ultimately, we do know what is right and wrong. As part of the work of RespectEd Aotearoa I work through these issues with groups including teenagers, community groups and professionals. While I have heard and experienced a range of harmful attitudes in these group settings, it’s extremely rare that an adult, or even a 14 year old, thinks that sending pornography without someone’s consent is an OK thing to do.

Ultimately this is about someone in a key national leadership role using harmful sexual behaviour. This person’s actions have shown disregard for the women to whom he sent the pictures and he should be held accountable for his actions. Of course, issues around his mental health are real too, and when this topic is being discussed in the public arena, that can add additional stress, so there needs to be support around him at same time as he is held accountable.

Falloon’s actions have occurred within a wider context of many stories of poor behaviour from Members of Parliament in terms of bullying, harassment, sexual harassment and inappropriate relationships – including today’s news of Labour’s Iain Lees-Galloway conducting an inappropriate relationship with a staff member.

Just as an increasing number of workplaces around the country are already doing, Parliament, as a workplace, needs to undertake comprehensive work to ensure its members understand not only what bad behaviour is but also what good behaviour is.

Parliament should lead the way towards a healthier positive culture in New Zealand, by looking at its own culture, and taking action to support other organisations and communities to do the same.

This opinion piece was originally published on Radio NZ.