Women's Refuge is appealing to New Zealanders to think of children affected by domestic violence as they make their plans for Christmas.

Bunnings stores nationwide will accept gifts on the children's behalf until Friday December 21. In the very Far North, anyone who can't easily get to a Bunnings store is welcome to leave their contribution with the Northland Age, which will pass them on.

Women's Refuge chief executive Dr Ang Jury said it was not uncommon for women who fled from violent relationships around Christmas to leave with nothing, including presents under the tree. In December last year, almost all of the Women's Refuge safe houses around the country were at capacity, with 1629 children among the occupants.

"Christmas is a particularly stressful time of the year for most people, and the addition of family violence can seriously impact what is supposed to be a joyful and fun occasion for all," Dr Jury said.


"All the whanau we work with during the festive season just want to give their kids a safe and happy Christmas. We believe every child deserves this. We need New Zealand's help so that all the families we work with can open a gift on Christmas day and celebrate the holiday with joy and dignity."

Gifts were needed for all children who were "doing it tough," but teenage boys could often be forgotten at Christmas.

"Boys aged between eight and 16 can be an especially tough to buy for, and because of this they often miss out on presents at Christmas. Nice clothing, sports equipment, such as soccer balls and cricket sets, head phones and backpacks are all useful gifts for young boys," she added.

"For all age groups, soothing toys and equipment are most helpful in the aftermath of trauma, such as sensory toys, art supplies or building blocks that create entertainment for a long time. We ask that gifts are unwrapped, so they can best be distributed to local Women's Refuge centres, which will assist families in need."

See the panel on this page for ideas regarding appropriate (and inappropriate) gifts for various age groups.

New Zealand had one of the highest rates of domestic violence in the world, with one such act reported every five and a half minutes. Last year 4847 women and children called on the help of Women's Refuge during Christmas.