Simon Collins is the Herald’s social issues reporter.

Anti violence forums seek victims' views

Inquiry members invited to Waitangi to listen to people on how to overcome issues of abuse.

About 500 people marched through Whangarei last week to draw attention to the problem of domestic violence after the death of Patricia McGrath. Photo / APN
About 500 people marched through Whangarei last week to draw attention to the problem of domestic violence after the death of Patricia McGrath. Photo / APN

Sir Owen Glenn's independent inquiry into child abuse and domestic violence will hold its first public forums at Waitangi next week in a symbolic move tying in with the annual Treaty commemorations.

Three members of Sir Owen's "think-tank" will go to Waitangi at the invitation of Te Pataka Ki Waitangi, a group fronted by Mana Party leader Hone Harawira's sister Hinewhare Harawira, which was part of a march of 500 people through Whangarei last week protesting at the death of 34-year-old Kamo woman Patricia Ann McGrath.

"At the end of the hikoi there was a rally and it was from that rally that it was decided that they would not only bring this kaupapa to Waitangi but they see the significance of it going nationwide," Ms Harawira said.

"This time around it's the voices of the victims that are being heard, as opposed to the agencies meeting and talking to each other."

Ms Harawira said forums would be held throughout next Tuesday and Wednesday, in a marquee for agencies such as Women's Refuge and Victim Support between the campground and the marae.

"We expect to have people like Owen Glenn give a korero on why he felt it was important to establish such an inquiry, and also looking at how other agencies like police, refuge, victim support and just whanau in general can do something about it," she said.

Glenn inquiry director Ruth Herbert said inquiry members agreed to go because they wanted their work to be "led and driven from the grassroots".

"We are going to listen to what they have to say about what's working and what's not working," she said.

Sir Owen was to attend on Tuesday, but cannot get back from the US in time.

Former social worker Anton Blank, 50, who co-founded the Maori child advocacy group Ririki and will be one of the three think-tank members attending, said the forums would be "an opportunity for us to explore the dynamics of the treatment of Maori children, given that we are over-represented in child abuse statistics".

He hoped some people would tell their personal stories in one-to-one meetings with him and think-tank colleagues Kirimatao Paipa and Dr Te Kani Kingi.

Ms Paipa, an Auckland grandmother, former women's refuge worker and a survivor of domestic violence herself, said Waitangi was "a perfect opportunity to talk directly to our people and get feedback from our people".

Other Maori among the inquiry's NZ think-tank include Auckland human rights worker Marama Davidson, Maori TV journalist Carol Hirschfeld, Te Wananga o Aotearoa head Bentham Ohia, Kaitaia GP Dr Lance O'Sullivan, AUT Maori health professor Dr Denise Wilson and former Prison Fellowship director Kim Workman.

- NZ Herald

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