Symposium tackles the issue of domestic violence


Inaugural domestic violence symposium in Hamilton tackles the issue of domestic violence

The impact of domestic violence on families will be in focus at an inaugural two-day symposium in Hamilton next week.

The event, organised by Waikato Women's Refuge - Te Whakaruruhau, will run from Thursday 19th to Friday 20th July at Te Wānanga o Aotearoa in Glenview, Hamilton.

The "Partnering for Whānau" symposium aims to bring together a range of people working in the family violence prevention sector, as well as those touched by it, to discuss the challenges whānau face when dealing with domestic violence.

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.

"It will be an information-sharing forum, a time for networking and exchanging success stories, and together developing more effective ways to stop violence against women," says Ariana Simpson QSM, co-founder of Waikato Women's Refuge, who has been working advocate for social change around violence to women and their children for more than 30 years.

The symposium will feature 25 guest speakers from a variety of backgrounds talking on topics related to domestic violence. Waikato Women's Refuge is partnering with Ngā Pae o te Māramatanga, New Zealand's Māori Centre of Research Excellence, to organize the event.

Topics cover everything from the legacy of state care on tamariki, to dealing with the long-term impact of domestic violence and trauma on women and children. A domestic violence survivor will share her story, and a former domestic violence perpetrator will speak about his journey to non-violence.

"We hope the symposium will raise awareness of the institutional, systemic and legislative changes that are needed to ensure we are partnering for best outcomes for women and their whanau," says Simpson, who will be speaking at the event, along with Waikato Women's Refuge co-founder Ruahine (Roni) Albert QSM.

Other speakers include Judge Philip Connell, Professor Ngahuia Te Awekotuku MNZM, Nathan Wallis, Ezekiel Raui, Dr Rawiri Waretini-Karena, Roma Balzar, Maree Tukukino, Linda Waimarie Nikora, Jacinta Ruru, Khylee Quince, Horiana Irwin, Heather Gifford, Paora Crawford Moyle, Rolinda Karapu, Armon Tamatea, Dr Mohi Rua, Darrin Hodgett, Ottile Stolt, Bill Cochrane, Thomas Stubbs, Tiniwai Te Whetu, Kerry Chamberlain, Darrin Haimona, Eugene Ryder and Tracey McIntosh. The symposium will be MCed by radio and television personality Brent Mio.

Simpson says the most important partnership must start with the whanau of the women who are the primary targets of violence and abuse. 

"We have learnt over the years, that any collaborative approach must have everyone singing from the same song sheet," she says.

Building relationships and partnering with statutory organisations and community groups is also vital to achieving the best outcomes for women and their whanau.

"It's about meaningful partnerships that lead to a purposeful outcome for families," she explains. "Alone we are not going to be able to do much, but by working together we can support women to live a violence-free life. We all have a responsibility."

Simpson says that, for Waikato Women's Refuge, that involves building relationships where others may not - with gang leaders.

"We want to be able to have a conversation and ask them 'what are you doing to change things for women and families?'" says Simpson.

"When you look after women, children and family, and you change the culture of violence in a whanau you help protect the next generation and the generations beyond that. The health and wellbeing of our people is dependent on the health and wellbeing of women because they nurture the next generation. It's about the preservation of whakapapa."

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.

Simpson says the large majority of people who contact them for help are women, but that domestic violence affects "all races, faces, ages and creeds".

Simpson hopes the inaugural symposium, which has been months in the planning, will become an annual event.

 "This is important; we need to talk about better ways of doing things," says Simpson. "If I look back to when the refuge started I have to ask, are women and children any safer now than they were 20 or 30 years ago?  The answer is no. "It's about challenging institutional barriers, and re-establishing social norms that place women and children at the center of our response.," says Simpson.

To register for the Partnering for Whanāu symposium please go to or call 07 855 1569.