Covid-19, especially during the weeks of lockdown level 4 and 3, slowed life to a snail's pace for many New Zealanders, but not for women's refuge.

Waimaria Veza, chief executive of Kaitaia's Whare Timatatanga Hou Ora, is hoping that will change.

"As we enjoy the freedom of level 2 after six weeks of lockdown, it is timely for us to look forward with fresh eyes at this new world that has been shaped by Covid-19," she said.

"Some establishments have opened, while others are slowly working towards opening. Establishments that look very different than they did six weeks ago, with masks, gloves, sanitiser and sign-in registers being the new norm. It has certainly been a strange world without our marae, churches and schools. Not having the awhi and support of our families near and far has been very challenging for many. Feeling fearful for the safety of our families, friends and children living abroad has been a harsh reality for many of us."


It had been work as usual for Whare Timatatanga Hou Ora, and other refuges throughout the country, however.

"Domestic violence never sleeps," Veza said.

"In fact it increased for us by 65 per cent.

"Please, spare a thought for the refuge workers who have continued to answer their 24-hour crisis lines. Who leave their homes in the middle of the night to pick up someone in distress, who has been ejected from their homes by their partners or family, some with little babies in tow and others pregnant as well. If you don't think this happens in our community, it does, and it did while we were all in lockdown, safe in our own homes.

"Refuge workers who have been going to the supermarkets and chemists to pick up supplies for their clients because children are not allowed in and people could not travel around, or even afford to go.

"These frontline workers have left the safety of their homes to pick up victims who have been left in isolated areas with no food or clothing, and no families to turn to. Because their families couldn't fit them in and were feeling at risk of Covid-19 themselves, or because they have had enough of the fights and/or the drugs. Or they are just struggling to keep themselves and their families afloat.

"We have delivered food packages to many families throughout Te Hiku o Te Ika, as have many other organisations. I acknowledge those service providers that have worked alongside us, remotely and often by phone. Co-ordinating deliveries, transportation to and from our region, making it all happen to achieve our objectives of keeping families safe.

"It is often when we are faced with adversity that we witness strengths unseen before. I salute those organisations and individuals who have donated food, medical supplies, hygiene packs, toiletries and more, to help us to support those without.


"With a lot of services and agencies unavailable during this time, families have had to self-manage through their issues, some returning to the often-forgotten methods of survival. Gardening, making their own bread, cooking their meals, foraging and preserving food. For some it is their normal, but for others these are skills not learnt or long forgotten."

Meanwhile she was excited about the new funding announcement for family and sexual violence services over the next four years, funding that would be dedicated to stabilising current services and filling gaps in service delivery.

"This will benefit refuges throughout Aotearoa New Zealand, allowing us to work sustainably to ensure our workers are being valued for the enormous work that we do," she said.

"Often the poor cousins to the frontline workers in government departments, it is timely that our expertise is being recognised accordingly."

Whare Timatatanga Hou Ora intended to further strengthen its relationships with government and non-government agencies. With the increased funding it was planned to expand its staffing to work more intensely with families experiencing multiple issues, exacerbated by domestic violence.

"It takes a whole community to combat a disease like domestic violence," Veza added.

"Like we have done with Covid-19, families, friends, frontline workers, colleagues and members of the public need to band together using the resources available to make a stand against this horrific issue. Agencies need to honour the commitment we made to working collaboratively with each other. Although we all said that this is what we would do, we haven't done this, as we continue to work in our silos.

"A few interagency meetings are being held, but not all the players are present. If we don't have everyone's input then it won't work.

"Let's talk to each other about how we can make a difference in our community; working together, not in isolation.

"If you or anyone you know is being impacted by domestic violence or abuse, call our 24/7 crisis line on 0800 (refuge) 733-843."