A breakdown in Island culture in New Zealand may be behind family violence in Pacific Island families, says Taeaomanino Trust chief executive Gerardine Clifford.
She was speaking at the 10th Australasian conference on child abuse and neglect in the Michael Fowler Centre in Wellington yesterday about support systems needed in Pacific Island communities.
The trust, based in Porirua, was set up due to an increasing gap in the delivery of services to Pacific people, Ms Clifford said.
"And amongst other things this gap is characterised by increasing levels of child abuse and neglect notifications, the unnecessary removal and inappropriate placement of Pacific children and young people into homes that did not encompass the cultural upbringing and family values, and the diminishing of Pacific identity and high instances of low self-esteem.
"So basically our children and families who are coming out of the system are worse off than when they went in."
Ms Clifford said that the trust found many of its clients "drowning in waters as they navigate their way through life in New Zealand".
"Central to this struggle is finding a framework that supports them to progress to a healthy state of social and economic wellbeing while maintaining their cultural values and beliefs."
In the Pacific culture the rights of the child could not be considered in isolation from that of the family.
She said the trust worked with troubled families by implementing a "wrap around" process that included developing trust and respect and setting goals.
"For example, if a man is referred to us for violence against his wife and child or children, we would use the [wrap around] model of practice as the framework."
Specialised anger management counselling, family therapy, social workers, youth programmes and a home-based support team would help the family create a progressive outlook.
Ms Clifford said the trust was often challenged about their methods by palangi (pakeha).
"I often hear palangi practitioners [say] that it takes a village to raise a child and if this is the case I don't know what makes you think that it doesn't also take a village to support a family."