Waikato Women's Refuge unveils new documentary on domestic violence


Waikato Women's Refuge - Te Whakaruruhau's 30-year battle against domestic violence will be screened in a documentary for the first time on Wednesday 14 March in Hamilton.

The production premieres at Lido Cinema at 8pm on 14 March and documents the group of local Māori women who formed the refuge and charts their journey to create long-term change for families affected by domestic violence.

The title of the documentary is '220 Miles,' which is a nod to the length of the Waikato River, and its importance to Waikato Tainui.

Waikato Women's Refuge founding member and CEO Ruahine Albert QSM says the documentary celebrates the bravery, collaboration and generosity behind the refuge.

"This documentary highlights the people who fostered the refuge's growth from a one-bedroom flat into the six safe houses and 24/7 crisis service we operate today in Hamilton.

"I could only have dreamed 30 years ago that Te Whakaruruhau would grow into the organisation it is today, having helped more than 100,000 women, children and families since 1986. The people and organisations who have partnered with us to get us this far have lifted our team's vision and thinking and are helping us make a crucial impact on Waikato families," Albert says.

Founding board member Ken Williamson worked with the refuge for 23 years and says Te Whakaruruhau's work is key to breaking the cycle of violence for many women and their children. 

"I learnt from Roni that nothing is resolved by anger. Indeed, she showed me that anger simply breeds greater anger, and violence only leads to more violence. The way to break the cycle of violence is through kindness and care. That's why my 23 years with the refuge team were so humbling," says Williamson.

The Waikato Women's Refuge currently helps an estimated 100 women and their children affected by domestic violence each week in the Waikato alone. '220 Miles' profiles several of these women and how they survived their abusive situations.

Jane Cook speaks on the documentary about her experiences. "I didn't know where to go, I didn't know what to do. I ended up at the police station and they put me in contact with the Waikato Women's Refuge. They came and they took me to a safe house straight away."  The refuge then worked with Jane to help her escape violence and rebuild her life.

The documentary highlights the refuge's integrated approach to family violence by knitting together government and non-government agencies - Police, Ministry for Children, Corrections, Health, specialist family violence groups and kaupapa Māori services.

A service that sets Waikato Women's Refuge apart from other New Zealand refuges is that their work is family-centred and includes working with men who are willing to change. The Waikato Women's Refuge supports women of all ethnic backgrounds and is not connected with the national women's refuge collective; therefore, the refuge relies on local support.

People can contact the refuge to donate items, or to volunteer their time and support. Please phone 07 855 1569. This is also the refuge's crisis line, and help is available 24 hours a day.

For more information on the 8pm screening of 220 Miles and to purchase tickets, visit lidocinema.co.nz. Tickets cost $20 and all ticket holders are invited for tapas and a cash bar, followed by an address from Ruahine Albert who will introduce the documentary.