Today is White Ribbon Day which marks the start of a week of events to raise awareness of family harm and to promote healthy relationships.

The Dannevirke White Ribbon Action Group aims to help reduce family violence, working under the national theme Building Respectful Relationships.

The official opening of White Ribbon Day will be held today at the Clock Tower on High St at 11am.

It will be opened by Regional White Ribbon ambassador Tamai Nicholson and Tararua mayor Tracey Collis will cut the ribbon to mark the start of the week's events.

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On Tuesday there will be a radio presentation which will feature interviews with a victim of family harm and a perpetrator.

A special activity has been organised for children on Wednesday in the form of a rock hunt that will involve Dannevirke and Pahiatua schools.

A total of 50 painted rocks will be hidden around the schools and some parks which children will be able to hunt for.

Once they have found a rock they will be able to take it into the Tararua REAP office where they will receive a goodie bag and have their name entered into a draw to win a tablet donated by REAP.

On Thursday Dannevirke police Sergeant Gary McKernon is hosting a barbecue with the help of other police staff in Copenhagen Square at 11.30am. If the weather is fine the barbecue will be moved to the Clock Tower.

McKernon said he is hoping there will be a kapa haka group performing.

Food can be purchased with a gold coin donation.

Dannevirke police are also involved in Friday's activity in which it is hoped there will be a game of touch rugby between a combined police and fire brigade team and a team of parents. All going according to plan, it will take place at 4pm at Coronation Park.

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Action group secretary Deanna Veerkamp is Tararua's first woman White Ribbon ambassador and has been organising the week's events along with committee members.

Tararua Abuse Intervention Network chairwoman Hannah Kingi of Women's Refuge is the new head of the action goup and was the second woman ambassador to be appointed in this region.

There are seven ambassadors for Tararua, the other five being Tamai Nicholson, Tom Kamura, Roly Ellis and newly-appointed Gary McKernon and Stephen Dunn.

The action group organised a fundraising and promotional dine and dance at the Dannevirke Services and Citizen's Club on Saturday, November 16.

During the evening Kingi and Dunn were both inducted as ambassadors.

McKernon is also a new ambassador but because he was unable to attend the function he was inducted separately.

Tararua's first woman White Ribbon ambassador Deanna Veerkamp with newly inducted ambassador Dannevirke police Sergeant Gary McKernon.
Tararua's first woman White Ribbon ambassador Deanna Veerkamp with newly inducted ambassador Dannevirke police Sergeant Gary McKernon.

Guest speaker at the White Ribbon dinner was Greg Motu who delivered the sobering message that statistically one in three women in New Zealand have suffered violence.

He noted violence by men to women is inter-generational.

"Having experienced it themselves they know no other alternative and New Zealand society does not encourage the opportunity for men to talk the issues through."

He promoted Man Up as one programme which allows this to happen, as does Manline.

Dunn said his former role in the police revealed the need to act against domestic violence.

He felt his new job with the council gave him the opportunity to be an ambassador to help people.

Kingi said her role in the Tararua Abuse Intervention Network made the choice to become an ambassador a no-brainer.

The evening's MC Sharon Wards asked those present to spread the message that there was help out there to prevent violence in relationships and asked that they help the ambassadors.

"They can't do it on their own," she said.

Veerkamp said to become an ambassador a person must be nominated and undergo a police check and provide references.

The White Ribbon Trust then decides whether a person is suitable and if so they take the White Ribbon stand and complete an online course.

Veerkamp's work as a financial mentor brought her into contact with women who were living in violent relationships.

"They come in with a black eye or bruises and I ask them if they are okay. Many of them make up excuses for their injuries, such as they walked into a door.

"Many of them come in because their finances are controlled by their partner and they need food for their kids so we send them to a food bank as the children always come first."

Tararua REAP general manager Claire Chapman says there is a collaborative approach in trying to increase support for people in unhealthy relationships with a number of community groups offering help.

"As a community, if people need help to say 'are you ok', we can help with providing training for this because it's a community problem.

"We are taking a multi-pronged approach to get people engaged."

Veerkamp said the action group is not just about promoting White Ribbon Day. It holds events throughout the year. It's also working to have a presence Tararua-wide.

In his role as a police sergeant McKernon says promoting healthy relationships is something that needs to happen throughout the year.

"While White Ribbon tends to focus on violence against women, family harm is the big deal for us. If a young person's home life is good, they're not going to join a gang or go out at night and break into cars.

"When we talk to young offenders, when we break it back to why they offend, it's most often because things are bad at home. So if we can nail this back then there would be less offending."