McGrath family organise public march through Whangarei

By Kristin Edge

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John McGrath will carry a poster of his dead sister in a public hikoi through Whangarei in the hope it will prompt women to leave violent relationships.

And others who will be joining the march will include Queenie Dunn, mother of murdered Whangarei woman Mairina Dunn, Lesley Elliott, mother of Sophie Elliott who was stabbed 218 times by her former boyfriend in Dunedin and Karen Edwards, mother of Ashlee Edwards, who was found dead under a bridge in central Whangarei last year.

They will all be carrying posters of their loved ones.

The march, planned for next Monday morning, has the backing of Whangarei police and the Northland District Health Board, who also want to send out a message that violence is unacceptable in the community.

Mother of two Patricia Ann McGrath died on January 8 after she was taken off life support following an assault four days earlier in her Kamo home.

A man charged with her assault is to appear in Whangarei District Court on the same day and police said it was likely more serious charges would be laid.

Her family have vowed to not let Patricia's death be in vain.

"We must find a way to stop the abuse starting. Educating that it is unacceptable to hurt those closest to you and that even one experience of domestic abuse can be enough to alter people's lives irreparably," John McGrath said.

"We fully support the white ribbon campaign and intend on doing as much as possible to educate and motivate others to leave or change similar situations in which they might find themselves."

Police are called to thousands of family violence incidents across Northland every year.

Police figures show 2011 domestic violence incidents were reported in Whangarei/Kaipara in the 12 months to June 30, and 1504 in the Far North; a total of 3515, or 67 a week on average. That includes an increase of about 500 reports from last year.

Whangarei/Kaipara area commander Inspector Tracy Phillips said police supported the McGrath family stance against family violence as it promoted a safer Northland community.

Head of the Northland DHB Nick Chamberlain said as one of the main healthcare providers in Northland they were acutely aware of the harm family violence has in the community.

"Our staff is involved in the care and protection of families and we are very clear that family violence is not ok and strongly advocate that people seek help."

Chief Medical Officer Mike Roberts said staff saw first-hand the affects of violence.

"In our emergency department we are all too often dealing with the effects of domestic violence harm and very sadly people who have suffered abuse are reluctant to disclose it and even when they do they often don't feel able to act on the advice about how to keep them safe."

Hikoi details Monday January 21, 10am. Gather at Laurie Hall Park 9.30am, start Bank St outside the Court House, proceed down Bank St, left Cameron St, Rathbone St and finish Laurie Hall Park.

- Northern Advocate

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