Simon Collins

Simon Collins is the Herald’s social issues reporter.

Glenn probe teetering on brink

Inquiry into family violence continues to disintegrate but project has staved off wholesale walkout.

Dr Susan Morton, who heads a study of 7000 babies born in 2009-10, says she is 'definitely heading in the direction of resignation'. Photo / Sarah Ivey
Dr Susan Morton, who heads a study of 7000 babies born in 2009-10, says she is 'definitely heading in the direction of resignation'. Photo / Sarah Ivey

Sir Owen Glenn's inquiry into family violence continues to disintegrate with the resignation of three more members of his expert think-tank.

Waikato University women's studies lecturer Dr Rachel Simon-Kumar, Auckland University psychologist Dr Nicola Gavey and disabled community leader Dr Huhana Hickey all said yesterday that they had resigned from the 38-strong think-tank.

And Dr Susan Morton, who heads a study of 7000 babies born in Auckland and Waikato in 2009-10, said she was "definitely heading in the direction of resignation".

But the inquiry has staved off a wholesale collective walkout that had looked possible after founding director Ruth Herbert and three of the inquiry's four co-chairs quit over the past few weeks, citing safety concerns for survivors of family violence giving evidence to the inquiry.

Waikato University psychologist Dr Neville Robertson, who said on Friday that the think-tank hoped to make a collective response by Sunday night, said he told other think-tank members by email yesterday that he used to think it would be possible to end violence against women and children in his lifetime.

"Alas, I am running out of time but I have baby twin granddaughters and I'm hopeful that perhaps such violence will come to an end in their lifetimes," he said. "For their sake I will continue my involvement with the Glenn inquiry."

Four others said they would also stay, at least for now: Otago University social work lecturer Dr Nicola Atwool, Queensland Centre for Domestic and Family Violence Research director Heather Nancarrow, AUT Maori health professor Dr Denise Wilson and prison reform campaigner Kim Workman.

New inquiry chief executive Kirsten Rei said Kiwi expatriate Graham Barnes, who works with the Battered Women's Justice Project in Minnesota, had also opted to stay.

Eight others said they were undecided. The rest did not respond to emails and phone messages.

The inquiry has also lost two other key people - rape survivor advocate Louise Nicholas, who was liaising with survivors of sexual violence, and mental health worker Debbie Hager, who was co-ordinating a three-day hearing for disabled people to give evidence, intended for next month.

Ms Nicholas said she pulled out as soon as she heard Ms Herbert and operations director Jessica Trask had quit. "Those that are on the panel and in this think-tank - there is nobody there who understands sexual violence," she said.

Ms Hager said: "I'm withdrawing because I went to work with them, because I trusted the analysis of domestic violence that Ruth and Jessica and the other people had, and I don't know anything about the analysis that these people have."

Among the undecided group, Green Party Ikaroa-Rawhiti candidate Marama Davidson and Gisborne District councillor Manu Caddie, who were campaigning together in Gisborne yesterday, said they were waiting to see the outcome of a review of the inquiry's safety standards by Mr Workman and Women's Refuge chief Heather Henare.

Ms Henare, a 30-year veteran of work against domestic violence, said it was crucial that survivors who gave evidence were not further traumatised.

"That's why we have taken it on. Our point is that we should always be ensuring that the voices of women are heard."

Mrs Rei said she hoped to settle terms of reference for Ms Henare and Mr Workman in the next day or two and hoped they could complete the review in two or three weeks.

Glenn think-tank tally

Resigned

* Catriona MacLennan
* Dr Rachel Simon-Kumar
* Dr Nicola Gavey
* Dr Huhana Hickey
* Likely to resign
* Dr Susan Morton

Staying

* Dr Nicola Atwool
* Heather Nancarrow
* Dr Neville Robertson
* Dr Denise Wilson
* Kim Workman

Undecided

* Manu Caddie
* Marama Davidson
* Dr Te Kani Kingi
* Dr Ian Lambie
* Dr Bonita Meyersfeld
* Dr Teuila Percival
* Janfrie Wakim.

https://glenninquiry.org.nz

- NZ Herald

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