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NZ's highest rate of family violence in the developed world - Amy Adams has 'had enough'

Justice Minister Amy Adams says an overhaul of the Domestic Violence Act needs to result in people acting sooner "to keep victims safer''.

Justice Minister Amy Adams says she's had enough of the country's appalling family violence record and will be taking part in a live chat with Stuff on Facebook at 12.30pm today to discuss ways the Government plans to address these issues and more.

OPINION: There are plenty of successes to celebrate in this country.

There's much in our economy, our society and in schools, on our fields and at home to be proud of. We regularly top the world in the best indicators. Just this year we were named one of the least corrupt countries in the world. The list goes on.

Less well-known, however, is that we also top the world at the rate in which we beat our partners and kids. We have the highest rates of family violence in the developed world.

This is a shameful record.

READ MORE:
* Overhaul of family violence laws goes before Parliament
Strangulation, forced marriage to be new crimes
New family violence laws could tackle 'insidious' abusers
'Underbelly of abuse' in NZ

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Every five minutes police are called out to respond to abuse happening somewhere. Kids are present at two thirds of these incidents. Each year the number of family violence cases climbs.

Even after the bruises fade, the damage lives on.

Those who experience family violence go on to perpetuate the abuse on others. They are less likely to finish school and keep down a job, and are more likely to turn to drugs and alcohol, and end up homeless. They are three times more likely to attempt suicide.

When someone dies at the hands of another in this country, nearly half of these are family violence.

I've had enough. And so have most of you.

So we're doing something about it.

The system is broken but the Government introduced sweeping reforms to overhaul it.

I'm not under any illusion that laws in themselves will be the urgent fix we all crave. But it is the beginning.

This significant piece of work overhauls the Domestic Violence Act, amends six Acts and make consequential changes to over thirty pieces of law. In short, where we've seen an opportunity to make effective change, we've made it.

We need to act sooner to keep victims safer.

We need to act earlier to change perpetrator behaviour.

And we need a new approach to better identify risk and recognise the patterns of family violence.

Our new family violence laws introduced this week will help make all that possible.

Our changes across the system will better support victims and keep them safe. This means making it easier to get a protection order, maximising the opportunities of police safety orders, and making property orders more effective in keeping victims in their homes.

It includes new offences to prosecute violence, a focus on getting in early, and connecting perpetrators with the help they need to stop the abuse.

It sets up the system, holds perpetrators to account, and puts a stake in the ground.

Three years ago I set out to put the focus of family violence at the centre of our Justice Sector.

This included starting a national conversation around family violence law reform and asking for input and ideas from New Zealanders about how we might improve the 20-year old Domestic Violence Act.

I want to thank the 500 or more submitters who took the time to share their stories and insights with us.

We benefited enormously from getting an on-the-ground perspective of how laws work from those on the frontline, who deal with family violence every day, who see the abuse in all its shapes and sizes, and are there to pick up the pieces.

We also heard from and on behalf of victims themselves, who made brave and personal submissions.

It's easy sometimes to look at law and policy simply as words in statutes.

But in fact this is about people. It's about real lives, lost potential and those men, women and children who have their futures taken from them, at the hands of those who are supposed to love them.

The result is real and tangible action. We understand the size and magnitude of the problem, and its intergenerational nature. We're committed to fixing the system that has failed so many.

But family violence is not a problem that Government can solve alone – it requires all New Zealanders to think differently.

Making real and lasting change in this area is a hard and uphill battle involving a myriad of changes across the whole of society.

But then, some of the toughest and most challenging work is also the most important.

We can halt the trend of rising family violence and reverse it. I look forward to the day when New Zealand is toppled from our number one spot. Every success is a life changed and saved.

I'm proud to be part of a Government that's prepared to take on the big challenges.

Stuff

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