"Every four minutes": Chief Science Advisor publishes paper on family violence

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The Prime Minister’s Chief Science Advisor has delivered a report on preventing family violence and reducing incarceration rates.

The paper Every 4 Minutes: A discussion paper on preventing family violence in New Zealand, was presented by Dr Ian Lambie, Chief Science Advisor to the Justice sector.

The paper takes the position that family violence is a "solvable problem" which "can and must be stopped." Using research findings it seeks to "prompt informed reflection on preventing violence in New Zealand and to encourage us all to take some responsibility for beginning to repair the damage and distress that family violence does to the society to which we all belong."

The report notes the significant involvement of family violence in the child protection and criminal justice systems:

"For example, 80% of child and young offenders that come to the attention of the state have experienced family violence; most (87%) young offenders aged 14 to 16 years old in 2016/17 had had prior reports of care-and-protection concerns made to Oranga Tamariki; 75% of women in prison have reported sexual and family violence; and a history of sexual abuse is the strongest predictor of reoffending by young females at 12-months follow-up."

The paper says "Talking about the wellbeing of babies seems a long way from arguments about the prison muster, but that is where the evidence says we must begin."

The paper also notes that one in four women from New Zealand high-income households experience physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence in their lifetime (New Zealand Violence Against Women study).

The paper calls for a range of measures including:

  • Early intervention and a life-course approach
  • Programme design, implementation and evaluation in accord with a Māori worldview, informed by relevant science
  • Culturally appropriate approaches to family violence in Pacific communities
  • Skills and resources to respond to family violence in "diverse" communities, including children and adults with disability, LGBTQI people, and refugee and migrant families
  • Primary prevention initiatives relevant to "diverse" groups
  • Communities becoming better at finding ways to be available, take notice, reach out and help
  • Improving the wider environment for children and families
  • Understanding the importance of childhood and the lifelong, preventable impact of adverse childhood experiences
  • Changing social norms to support positive parenting, healthy relationships and a non-violent New Zealand
  • Strengthening economic supports for families and "family-friendly" policies
  • Building workforce capacity and capability
  • Enhancing parenting support and skills to promote healthy child development
  • Providing quality early childhood care and education
  • Intervening to lessen harm and prevent future risk with a trauma-informed approach
  • Addressing barriers to implementation of evidence-based prevention and intervention strategies
  • Supporting emerging and promising practice, and fund and utilise diverse research and evaluation methods.

The paper concludes,

"Preventing family violence is very simple and very complicated. Day-to-day, it’s about not ignoring the way your friend’s partner behaves towards her, or not judging the disruptive kid at school and just wanting him kicked out. But it’s also about reflecting on our beliefs about relationships; who is responsible for family wellbeing in our communities; and how public and private resources should be applied."

Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Domestic and Sexual Violence Issues) Jan Logie received the paper, saying "I welcome the Chief Science Advisor’s contribution on this critical subject. Everyone need to be part of this work, and this paper provides accessible information about what we can all do, together, to end family violence."

Every 4 minutes is the third in a series of papers related to the criminal justice system, written by Ian Lambie and published by the Office of the Prime Minister's Chief Science Advisor. The previous two paper are:

Using evidence to build a better justice system: The challenge of rising prison costs (March 2018)
and
It’s never too early, never too late: A discussion paper on preventing youth offending in New Zealand (June 2018)

Selected media

The Empathy Gap and Me, E-tangata, 16.12.2018

Cultural identity part of violence reduction plan, Waatea News, 14.12.2018

Early intervention crucial in reducing family violence numbers, Radio NZ, 12.12.2018

Historic trauma linked to prison numbers, Waatea News, 12.12.2018

Colonisation trauma linked to family violence – Report, Māori TV, 11.12.2018 

New Zealand lacks comprehensive strategy to counter family violence - new report, NZ Herald, 11.12.2018

Domestic violence found in all communities - report, Radio NZ, 11.12.2018

Charity welcomes paper on preventing family violence, Scoop, 11.12.2018

Protecting children from family violence will prevent them perpetrating it later - report, Stuff, 11.12.2018