The Dunedin mother of a victim who had her head split open with an axe is campaigning for tougher penalties for offenders who breach protection orders.

Brenda Whiteman, spurred by her experiences and those of others, is among a group backing a petition to Parliament for change.

''My daughter is still alive ... due to the heroic action of a 5-year-old little boy. My little hero,'' she said.

Her 22-year-old daughter was assaulted in July 2011 by her then 18-year-old partner in the young couple's Dunedin home.


The offender later told police he ''just lost it'', and picked up a kitchen knife and stabbed her multiple times.

When the knife handle broke, he left the blade in her chest and picked up a tomahawk, which he used to fracture her skull, exposing her brain.

She also sustained multiple stab wounds to her neck, left breast, right elbow, right cheek, three of her teeth were fractured and her right eardrum was perforated.

The victim's 5-year-old son raised the alarm after telling a neighbour ''someone is dead''.

''He saved her life,'' the proud grandmother told the Otago Daily Times.

Her daughter's road to recovery had been long, and while everyone was amazed at her progress, she was left with emotional and physical scars.

She has lost some vision in one eye and had a plate in her head, but the family remained grateful she survived.

Her former partner, Jerome Folimatama, admitted to attempting to murder her and was sentenced to six years and four months' jail.

At his sentencing he blew a kiss and a did a victory sign to supporters in the public gallery.

Ms Whiteman told the ODT outside the court at the time ''We are disgusted. It's absolutely ridiculous. It basically excuses that sort of violence''.

The family continues to make submissions to the New Zealand Parole Board, before which Folimatama has appeared twice - most recently on May 22.

''Parole hearings cause us to be retraumatised,'' she said.

Before each hearing, Ms Whiteman talks to police to discuss enforcements of protection orders in case he is parolled.

''I just wanted to know someone would come if there was a concern.''

Last year, 2063 final protection orders were issued, with police receiving 2819 calls about breaches, resulting in just over 1900 convictions.

Earlier this year, the ODT reported a national directive for police to focus on monitoring protection orders was issued just a month before the death of two Dunedin children.

Edward Hamilton Livingstone (51) shot his two children in their St Leonards home earlier this year.

Livingstone, who later turned the shotgun on himself, was the subject of a protection order.

The order was first issued on May 5 and Livingstone breached the order in August by contacting his estranged wife.

He admitted the charge and, as it was his first offence, he was granted police diversion.

Following a September 14 incident, he was charged a second time with breaching the protection order and again admitted the charge.

Ms Whiteman said those deaths and her own experience prompted her to join other ''grandmothers, mothers and girls'' campaigning for tougher laws for those who breached protection orders.

She urged people to sign the petition calling for a stronger stance, including the implementation of a ''three strikes'' policy for breaches of protection orders.

''All of these girls go to the trouble of getting a protection order, but they are no good unless they are enforced. That is why we are going to Parliament with this petition.''

Their petition will be delivered to Parliament on July 22.

Asked for a response, Justice Minister Judith Collins said addressing domestic violence ''is a high priority and a huge amount of work is being done across Government''.

The protection orders regime had been reviewed last year as part of the Family Court reforms and the Government had increased the maximum penalty for breaching a protection order in September 2013 from two to three years' imprisonment.

The minister said increasing numbers of protection order breaches were being prosecuted in court and a third of convicted offenders were imprisoned. ''This shows breaches are taken seriously by the police and the courts.''

More changes to the Domestic Violence Act would take effect in October and a further work programme was expected to be announced shortly.

That couldn't come soon enough for Ms Whiteman.

She acknowledged her daughter was ''one of the lucky ones'', who had miraculously survived.