Domestic violence survivor says we need to come together
At nine years old, Mereana Love walked into her family's Hamilton home after school with her two brothers to find her grandmother sobbing on the phone. Seeing the children, Love's grandmother broke the news - 'Mum's been in an accident. Mum and Leon got into a fight with a knife.'
On 3 June 1996, Leonie Doris Newman was beaten, strangled with a belt, and stabbed 27 times by her ex-partner Leon Wilson. That day, the eldest of her three children, heard words that would change her life forever. 'Mum's dead.'
Since that day, in memory of her mother, Love has been fighting to end domestic violence.
Love spoke at a two-day symposium in Hamilton yesterday where Waikato Women's Refuge Te Whakaruruhau has been leading the charge against domestic violence.
She acknowledged the work Waikato Women's Refuge and other organisations are doing to prevent domestic violence and spoke passionately about the need to broaden that approach by parties working in a more integrated way to effectively break the cycle of abuse.
"We need to come together as a whānau," Love says.
"New Zealand police, CYFS [Oranga Tamariki], Waikato Women's Refuge, WINZ, corrections, schools, tertiary providers, councillors and victims need to come together because this needs to stop. Or we going to remain broken and isolated like the families we say we are trying to help."
The "Partnering for Whānau" symposium has brought together almost 80 people involved in the prevention of family violence, as well as those touched by it, to discuss the challenges whānau face when dealing with domestic violence.
Love hopes the symposium will begin the change to how domestic violence is handled in New Zealand both by government agencies and education providers.
Love now lives in Whanganui with her husband, 14-year-old step daughter, and 18-month old baby boy.
Other speakers and delegates include women's refuge advocates, government and non-governmental workers, researchers, family lawyers, iwi and community groups as well as victims and former perpetrators of domestic violence.
Tomorrow's speakers include a male domestic violence perpetrator on his journey to recovery and Ezekiel Raui who earned the Queen's Young Leader Award in 2017 for his work around leadership and mental health.
The symposium, hosted by Waikato Women's Refuge Te Whakaruruhau, runs today and tomorrow at Te Wānanga o Aotearoa in Glenview, Hamilton.
Waikato Women's Refuge was established in 1986 and helps an estimated 100 women and their children affected by domestic violence each week in the Waikato. In 2017 alone, Waikato Women's Refuge supported 2988 women.