The impact of the COVID-19 lockdown on domestic violence in New Zealand

One of our wonderful White Ribbon Ambassadors Mele Wendt MNZM was invited to speak about domestic violence in New Zealand with a particular focus on the impact of COVID-19 in a webinar jointly presented by UN Women Aotearoa New Zealand and the United Nations Association of New Zealand and Wellington. We are delighted to be able to share this link to the webinar if you missed the opportunity to take part on the 23rd of June. The webinar was really informative and featured four fantastic speakers Mele, Dr Ang Jury (Chief Executive of Women’s Refuge), MP Jan Logie (Parliamentary Under-Secretary to the Minister of Justice -Domestic and Sexual Violence Issues) and Superintendent Eric Tibbott (NZ Police).

Dr Jury highlighted some of the challenges Refuges faced and the ways they adapted to the lockdown. While she was happy to make observations about what occurred Dr Jury noted that the true impact on women and children will only emerge over time. She is very concerned about the effect of a recession coming on the heels of the lockdown, describing it as the “perfect incubator for family violence.”

MP Jan Logie was very positive about the response to COVID-19 locally, calling it “the best example of government and community partnership she’s seen.” The government response was shaped by research based on the overseas experience and previous New Zealand crises like the Christchurch earthquakes. They wanted to ensure there was clear communication that help was available, that Family Violence was still being taken seriously and that financial support was accessible.

Superintendent Eric Tibbott provided a lot of information about changes in the way NZ Police are responding to domestic violence call outs. He acknowledged the value of international research that demonstrates that there are usually multiple episodes of family violence before a person reaches out to police. They are now focused on getting officers to think beyond the incident and focus on identifying underlying stressors and contributors to help prevent harm. Superintendent Tibbott noted a UN population fund report which predicts a twenty percent increase in family violence across its member states as a result of COVID-19 and its impact globally. In light of these dire warnings it was really positive to hear that the helpline Hey Bro saw a significant increase in people reaching out for support during the lockdown.

Mele Wendt MNZM spoke about the key drivers of violence, her own experiences of domestic violence as well as White Ribbon’s kaupapa and COVID-19 campaign to try to provide sensible suggestions to keep people safe. Mele emphasized the importance of reaching out for help, contacting the Police and advocated strongly for greater resourcing to support perpetrators to change their behaviour.

With the current community transmission of COVID-19 and the return to the Level 3 restrictions in Auckland the thoughts of the speakers on the impact on domestic violence are especially relevant at this time.


Judge Ajit Swaran Singh, White Ribbon Ambassador, advocates for zero tolerance of family violence on Apna TV

Auckland District Court Judge Ajit Swaran Singh recently featured in a programme focused on family violence for Hindi television channel Apna TV. Judge Singh has been a vocal champion of violence prevention for many years and is one of White Ribbon’s longest standing Ambassadors.
It is so important for ethnic communities in New Zealand to hear anti-violence messages from community leaders in their own languages. We are extremely grateful to Judge Singh and Apna TV for highlighting the issue.  The interview is predominantly in Hindi, but the White Ribbon message is also in English and begins at 12:20 on the recording.
Born and raised in Fiji, Judge Singh completed his legal qualifications (LLB & LLM Honours) at Victoria University in Wellington. He also graduated with Doctor in Civil Laws (DCL) from the Institute of Comparative Laws, McGill University based in Montreal, Canada. He was admitted as a Barrister and Solicitor at the High Courts of Fiji, New Zealand and Australia.
Judge Singh became the first Fiji-born Indian to be appointed to the District Court Bench in New Zealand. He was sworn in as a Judge in Manukau, Auckland, on Diwali Day, 4 November 2002. Since 2012, Judge Singh presides at the Auckland District Court.

Judge Singh is the recipient of numerous national and international awards for his outstanding achievements in the field of public service, including Pravasi Bharatiya Samman Award presented by the President of India and Kiwi Indian Hall of Fame Award presented by Sir John Key (NZ Prime Minister at the time). He regularly speaks at the EthnicA Conferences and community forums on cultural issues concerning family violence/child abuse/mental health/bullying in schools and racially motivated crimes, particularly as such issues affect the immigrant & refugee communities.
For many years Judge Singh has been involved with community education on family violence issues, particularly for recent refugee and migrant groups, youth and senior citizens. Judge Singh’s long-term commitment to violence prevention and spreading the White Ribbon kaupapa is truly inspirational.  If you would like to nominate someone in your community to become a White Ribbon Ambassador please click here.

White Ribbon Ambassador Arish Naresh in Queen’s Birthday Honours

We were delighted to learn that White Ribbon Ambassador Arish Naresh was made a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit in recognition of his services to the community and dentistry in the Queen’s Birthday Honours. At just 34 years of age, Arish has already made a substantial contribution both to the community as a whole and in his field.

Arish was born in Fiji and moved to New Zealand in 2006. When he was growing up his opportunities were limited so he created his own path. Now, he is dedicated to seeing other people succeed. In 2018, we were thrilled to have him become a White Ribbon Ambassador. There had been challenges in his wider family with family violence, which he attributes in part to poverty and alcohol issues. Working with migrant communities in his many roles, Arish was aware that family violence and a general lack of equality and respect for women were areas that needed to change. There is a culture of keeping these things hidden and last year’s campaign to Challenge the Unspoken Rules really resonated with him, as that was part of his motivation in stepping up to take on the Ambassador role.

Arish has held a number of senior leadership positions within the healthcare sector in New Zealand and is currently residing in Adelaide in a fixed term role as Program Director for Specialty Medicine at Royal Adelaide Hospital. He is enjoying the opportunity to learn about the Australian health care system but he is also really looking forward to returning to his home base in Gisborne soon.

Helping others is a core principle for Arish. He has been a Board Member of UNICEF New Zealand and a Justice of the Peace. He is also the Founder of OWDSOCKS –Opportunities without Discrimination. Arish is committed to working to prevent violence against women and looks forward to continuing this mission on his return to New Zealand.

We are extremely grateful to Arish for his commitment to White Ribbon and his dedication to helping migrants thrive, not just survive, in New Zealand. If you know someone in your community who is willing to stand up, speak out and act to prevent violence against women, please talk to them about becoming a White Ribbon Ambassador. Having community leaders spread the kaupapa within their community, is a vital part of our efforts to prevent violence against women. Please click here to download a nomination form. If you have any questions about the process or the role please contact us at


White Ribbon Spoken Word 2020

White Ribbon are holding their second spoken word competition via zoom on Thursday September 17th and it’s going to be a night of hot poetry, sizzling truths and fiery performances.

The theme of the night is ‘Respectful Relationships’ so get ready for some amazing rhymes and inspired takes on ending (men’s) violence in New Zealand.

Last year’s White Ribbon campaign focused on #Unspoken Rules – clichés about masculinity that men and boys inherit from society. By turning these rules around into positive statements, we encouraged people to challenge them.
This year it is Challenge the #Outdated. This will pivot the focus from the unspoken to the outdated and focus on the advice men have been given when growing up that we can now see as unhealthy. The campaign will continue to take a conversational tone and use the common expressions that men would have heard growing up. These unhealthy attitudes will literally be overwritten with positive alternatives – creating new, modern alternatives to outdated ideas of masculinity.
Contestants can speak to any of these concepts.

Judges and prizes will be announced soon.


Poems must be the original work of the performer/s. Plagiarised material will result in disqualification.
Performers must be students at a NZ secondary school (or equivalent) and 15 years or older
Poets can perform by themselves or with a team.
No accompaniment by sound, props, or costume is allowed.
Each poem should be between 1-4 minutes (max of 5 minutes).

Contestants will be marked down for going over time.
No musical accompaniment. No props. No costumes. Personal poem transcripts permitted.
Judges mark score cards using a 1-10 scale, with 10 being the highest.
Scores will be based on: performance, writing ability and uniqueness.
All performances must be inspired by the theme of ‘Respectful Relationships’
All entrants must supply their script.
White Ribbon reserves the right to take photos and videos of the performers at the event and utilise the video/photos/script to promote Respectful Relationships.


You will need to provide your email address, school, name and stage name if applicable, and upload or send us the text of your poem. You may also upload a video of you performing the poem if you wish. You’ll also need to provide a photo for the programme and a brief bio for our MC so our MC can introduce you. Entry form.

Entries due by Monday 14th September 5pm.

On the Night:

Information about the evening will be sent to all performers. There will be an opportunity for a brief technical sound check prior to the event beginning.

Public can join the zoom webinar here
Passcode: 809348

Finalists will get the chance to perform their piece on Thursday 17th September to an online audience via zoom. The judges include the CE for Woman’s Refuge Dr Ang Jury, Award-Winning Comedian and Playwright James Nokise and Jordan Hamel who took out the 2018 New Zealand Poetry Slam championship and competed at the World Poetry Slam Championships in San Diego.


First prize is $500, with $200 for the runner up and $100 for third place. Your work may also be selected to feature in the November Nationwide White Ribbon Campaign.


Download the poster as a PDF as a jpg

Facebook events page is here

History of Slam Poetry

One of the most vital and energetic movements in poetry during the 1990s, slam has revitalized interest in poetry in performance. Poetry began as part of an oral tradition, and the Beat and Negritude poets were devoted to the spoken and performed aspects of their poems. This interest was reborn through the rise of poetry slams across America; while many poets in academia found fault with the movement, slam was well received among young poets and poets of diverse backgrounds as a democratizing force. This generation of spoken word poetry is often highly politicized, drawing upon racial, economic, and gender injustices as well as current events for subject manner.

A slam itself is simply a poetry competition in which poets perform original work alone or in teams before an audience, which serves as judge. The work is judged as much on the manner and enthusiasm of its performance as its content or style, and many slam poems are not intended to be read silently from the page. The structure of the traditional slam was started by construction worker and poet Marc Smith in 1986 at a reading series in a Chicago jazz club. The competition quickly spread across the country, finding a notable home in New York City at the Nuyorican Poets Café.

taken from

Riders’ perspectives on the Ride

For eleven years, White Ribbon Riders have travelled New Zealand every November visiting towns, large and small, to connect with people, share their experiences and help to prevent violence by changing attitudes and showing that a different life is possible. We wanted to connect with a couple of our Riders to get their perspectives on the Ride and share their experiences and reasons for getting involved.

We spoke with White Ribbon Rider (and now also Ambassador) Maurice Tarei who has been regularly involved since 2015 and Simon Garwood who has been involved with local Ride events and activities for some time but undertook his first full Ride last year.

We recently undertook some research into the impact White Ribbon is having on individuals and a significant number of those interviewed highlighted the value of hearing from Riders, who were open and honest, and how that connection helped individuals to commit to change.

One of the reasons Maurice got involved was because of his own background. He is an ex-gang member and when he left that environment he needed some guidance to help rebuild his understanding of healthy whanau relationships. He grew up with some of the unhelpful stereotypes like “men don’t cry” that we have been trying to challenge in the #unspokenrules campaign. Maurice has undergone a metamorphosis and he wants to support others to do the same. He has a lot of empathy for people who find themselves in challenging situations and knows how important it is for them to connect with genuine people that will help to set them on a more positive path. He is especially keen to ensure we are “securing the next generation, that there is a structure inside the school if you need to talk to counselors and things like that.” The fact that Maurice and his wife Mechelle can both go on the Ride and work together sharing their stories is also an important aspect of the Ride for him.

Both Maurice and Simon commented on how strategic the Ride leader Takurua Tawera and other senior Riders are in planning who will speak and ensuring they have the right people for each situation and that those Riders have the time and support necessary to really tailor the message to the specific group they are working with. Maurice also noted the significance of having Riders steeped in Te Reo Maori who have a real strength in that area.

Maurice highlighted the importance of authenticity, “society can be chaotic and young people are looking for role models but they need to be authentic”. Some of the Riders have been through “the school of hard knocks” and in working to change attitudes and behaviours they approach the Ride with good humour and provide support for one another.

Simon commented on the nature of the ride family itself and the way he was fully welcomed and accepted by all the other riders and enjoyed being part of this amazing group of people, who have decided to dedicate a part of their lives to this cause. “I learned so much from each of the other riders, to see some them in front of the various groups, how they interacted, how they touched the hearts and minds of those attending. I was truly humbled by the experience.”

As Simon pointed out: “The Ride is great for getting the message across because from a young person’s point of view, “bikers” for want of a better word come with a certain image and expectation, and for them to turn up at the school or a public event, and speak and share a message that contradicts that image, to show vulnerability and be open. I think that really does work.”

As Simon watched experienced speakers tell their personal stories and weave the messages into them. He noticed “some in the audience in front of you breaking down and reacting to the message being delivered. The riders moved from the stage to those that had obviously been impacted.”

“It’s in these moments that connections are made and the Riders are able to comfort them, and also point them in the right direction for help, by providing them with details of local services in the area that can provide them with the support that they require, knowing we will be moving on.”

“The Riders with more experience can pick out subtler changes in people, and discreetly chat with the individuals so as not to draw attention to them. Some of these members of the public would have been the ones that needed assistance the most, and I was so glad that we had those in the group that have the talent and experience to first spot those people and secondly to be able to connect with them and then help. I was truly struck by how each rider displayed compassion for all those that confided in each of them.”

We are really grateful to both Maurice and Simon for their commitment to spreading the White Ribbon kaupapa through the Ride and for taking the time to share their experiences. To find out more about the Ride please click here.

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White Ribbon has released an online campaign to help prevent family violence and encourage New Zealanders to practice Respectful Relationships.

“In an unprecedented national emergency, everyone in New Zealand has found themselves cooped up inside for the COVID-19 lockdown period”, says White Ribbon Manager Rob McCann. “In any household, ‘cabin fever’ creates tension – but it becomes a huge risk for families with a history of domestic violence, and organisations such as Women’s Refuge and the New Zealand Police are concerned.”

To continue our messaging about Respectful Relationships, White Ribbon have come up with #ourhouserules – simple behaviours to create a safe and happy lockdown for everyone. It creates a platform to talk about positive behaviours in the home, and helps us reach out to vulnerable families.

“There are three sets of images to convey the messages to families,” says Mr McCann. “We will be posting these online and asking our thousands of supporters, White Ribbon Ambassadors and Riders, as well as community organisations and businesses to share them with family, friends and workplaces.”



Stay at home – but stay connected.
Noho takitahi, engari, tūhono tonu.

There are so many ways we can stay in touch these days – from the classic phone call, a simple txt, to video calls and online games. It’s important that we stay connected, even if we’re in isolation. If you feel like you’re getting overwhelmed or angry – call a mate you trust to vent and talk it through. Give your partner some time out to have a coffee or a cuppa with a mate over a video call. Set up a video call with the kids and their grandparents, cousins or friends. And if you’re concerned about someone in a bad situation, reach out and ask how they’re going. Emergency services and refuges are essential services that are always available, lockdown or not. Contact Women’s Refuge on 0800 733 843 or Shine* on 0508-744-633. If you are in immediate danger, call 111 and ask for the police. If you think you are going to harm a loved one, reach out and call – 0800 HEY BRO.



Not scared spaces – shared spaces.
Tē wāhi whakamataku, he wāhi manaaki kē

All of us have the right to feel safe, happy and cared for in our own homes. As families, we all get on each other’s nerves – even without a lockdown – but in these challenging times we need to look out for each other and make sure we’re creating positive places to spend time together. As parents, our kids learn their behaviour from us. Be respectful of your partner, be kind to your kids and together let’s create a space where we can say #ourhouserules! If you think you are going to harm a loved one, reach out and call – 0800 HEY BRO.



Don’t take it out on them – take a walk.
Kia kaua e riri, me hikoi ki te pai

While we’re in lockdown, it’s ok to go outside for fresh air and exercise. As long as we’re staying in our neighbourhood, and sticking to advice about keeping a 2-metre distance between us and others, we’re all good. If you find yourself getting frustrated, let your family know that you need to take a walk. Be respectful too – check how your partner is doing, maybe they could use some fresh air. If the kids need to burn off some energy, take them for a bike around the block. Find ways to get outside and take that time out, but stick to the lockdown rules. If you think you are going to harm a loved one, reach out and call – 0800 HEY BRO.


“With everyone confined together, it’s especially important to remind men who struggle to control their emotions that they can choose alternative behaviours,” says Mr McCann. “The focus is on making decisions that create safer and happier environments for our partners and children. We’re encouraging everyone to think about their house rules, and check in with their friends and family to see how they’re doing in these challenging times.”
If you are experiencing family violence contact Women’s Refuge on 0800 733 843 or Shine* on 0508-744-633. If you are in immediate danger, call 111 and ask for the police.


White Ribbon promotes respectful relationships to prevent domestic and sexual violence against women.
Respectful relationships are based on:

  • Equality between men and women. Gender equity in personal relationships and all social spheres, reduces violence against women.
  • Flexible gender behaviour for all. Having men breaking out of the Man Box and choosing their own masculine identity prevents the use of violence.
  • Non-violent communication. Men being emotionally aware and expressive gives them alternatives to aggression.
  • Enthusiastic consent for all sexual activities. Having willing participation is crucial to preventing sexual violence.




Toolboxes on Respectful Relationships can be downloaded from here

Graphics for the #OurHouseRules campaign can be downloaded below

Videos for #OurHouseRules can be downloaded (or shared directly from White Ribbon’s Facebook site)

click on the share button on the top right hand corner of the videos to share to Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or via email.

You can also copy the link and past that directly, or you can download the videos. Please share widely.



Row for Respect

 Last June, Nicola Goss walked away from an abusive relationship that had lasted seven months. She received government-funded counselling including EMDR therapy. She has found the counsellng and therapy very effective and she is really grateful for the support she received.

Nicola decided she wanted to give back and raise awareness of the importance of respect in all aspects of life – respect for partners, family members, work colleagues, teachers, students, teammates, the environment and self-respect. In order to raise awareness and help to prevent others suffering as she did she committed to two physical challenges to raise funds for White Ribbon to assist us in our efforts to prevent violence through challenging unhelpful attitudes and encouraging behavioural change. Respect, especially within relationships, is central to White Ribbon’s kaupapa.

Her fundraising events “Row for Respect” took place in November. The first was a half marathon on the rowing machine which she did on the 2nd of November at her gym in Palmerston North and the second was a full marathon on the rowing machine which she did at the New Zealand Indoor Rowing Championships in Cambridge.

The first event was the 3rd time she had completed a half marathon. Nicola bet her personal best time, set a New Zealand record for her age group (it’s the fastest time recorded for all females) and she is currently the fastest female in the world for this year’s Concept 2 world rankings (1st May 2019 – 30th April 2020).

The full marathon was the first one she had ever done. She got a singlet, t-shirt and information board printed for the event. Nicola noted: “I started well however with 19km to go it became quite challenging, I got a few blisters and I had to stop a number of times to fuel up. I managed to avoid cramp, which I could start to feel coming on – I was super lucky it magically disappeared but I timed my sprint finish a little too late. The marathon was a new experience and there are a lot of lessons to take away from it.”

We are extremely grateful to Nicola for choosing to fundraise for White Ribbon and for committing to raising awareness of the issue of violence in our society and the need for respect to underpin all our relationships. We are delighted she achieved her goals and want to celebrate her success both in rowing and in surviving an abusive relationship.

If you have a great idea to raise awareness in your community or fundraise for White Ribbon please get in touch with us at We are happy to provide resources and help to publicise community events.

Trek for Trish

On the 19th of January, two sisters Rosie and Barbara shared memories of their sister Trish Wallis with 60 horse riders and 9 walkers in their “Trek for Trish”, an event created by her friends and family to honour Trish’s life. Trish was murdered by her ex-husband Mike Douthett on the 26th of November 2018.

Horses were Trish’s passion and she took part in the annual Great New Zealand Trek from Cape Reinga to Bluff, her death denying her the chance to complete the 14th and final leg. Some of her friends and family organised the trek in her honour for what would have been her 52nd birthday, so it was a very special day. Her cousin Fred Wallis came all the way from the UK to take part.

At the time she was shot and killed, Trish had recently left her husband and sadly that has repeatedly been proven to be one of the most dangerous times for women in abusive relationships. If you are in danger or you know someone who is, please click here to see a list of organisations that can provide advice and assistance including putting together a safety plan.

The organisers made the event a fundraiser for White Ribbon in the hope that others don’t have to go through what their family did. In the words of Trish’s sister Barbara: “Stand up against control and violence. If you think that someone you know is in a situation then more than likely they are. Ask and talk. Do it without judgement, these people are not weak, in fact the opposite.”

Trish’s sister Rosie Wallis made a video with a personal call to action on preventing violence against women, highlighting the terrible statistics around family harm in New Zealand and ensuring equality and respect for women. Her video can be viewed here.

We know most men are not violent and we need those men to speak out on this issue and challenge other men when they display abusive behavior toward women. We need to undermine the attitudes and behaviours that support violence and instead encourage healthy, respectful relationships.

We are extremely grateful to Trish’s family and friends for raising awareness about the serious issue of violence against women in this country. This violence affects women from all walks of life. We are also very thankful for the funds raised to help us in our efforts to spread that message throughout the wider community.


Seeking New White Ribbon Researcher

Last month we mentioned White Ribbon’s Researcher Dr Fiona Shearer has taken up a permanent role elsewhere. We are very sad to farewell Fiona as she was a really valuable member of our small team. As a result, we are now looking for someone new to take on this important role.

While there are occasionally busy periods conducting research and interpreting data, it is predominantly an advisory position. It is a paid position with variable hours and it is a role that can be undertaken from home so if you are currently seeking some additional work please get in touch.

The researcher plays an vital role in educating the Trust and staff on evolving research into best practice regarding violence prevention and ensuring campaign messaging is appropriate and effective. As we are a small team it’s essential that the researcher is a team player, willing to collaborate with others and respond to external enquiries when required.

The ideal candidate will have a thorough understanding of social services in New Zealand and experience developing research questions, conducting interviews and writing reports. It would be helpful if you had well-developed community networks. An understanding of media and communications would also add value.

If you would like to know more, or express interest in this role please contact the White Ribbon Campaign Manager Rob McCann at We look forward to hearing from you.

Essential services functioning during Level 4

Domestic violence sadly will not stop while the country deals with COVID-19. Internationally there have been reports of increased incidences of family harm during these stressful times. If you have concerns about anyone’s wellbeing during this challenging period please contact Shine or Women’s Refuge, which are both classified as essential services, for support. If there is immediate danger please contact 111 and ask for the police.

If you would like to contact Shine please call their Helpline for domestic violence information and support for yourself, or advice about helping someone you know, at 0508-744-633. This number is answered 7 days a week, 9am to 11pm of Women’s Refuge on 0800 733 843 or you can contact your local Refuge here

Women’s Refuge have provided some excellent advice about the impact of COVID-19 on those experiencing violence and tips for providing assistance. They note:

“Some people using violence may use COVID19 to further isolate their partners. The impacts of the pandemic on families and communities do not cause violence, but it can mean abusers have more opportunities to perpetrate and conceal violence. Abusive people might withhold essential items from victims, [use] scare tactics about the virus, or prevent them from seeking help. Victims might feel reluctant to enter Refuges or seek social support if they think it will put their health at risk.” Although their services may look different and they may need to ask health questions, they remain open and able to assist.

If you are worried about a friend or loved one Women’s Refuge suggest:

You can support them by keeping in touch with them. Some people may find it difficult to talk while in isolation if the abusive person is monitoring their devices. You can:

  • Agree on a ‘code word’ in advance with your friend. If they message you that word, you can call the police and ask them to check on them.
  • Ask them if they have the essential things they need (such as food, medication, and sanitary items) and help them to get them. Some abusive people will withhold these items.
  • Help them to feel less isolated by setting up regular times to talk to you and to others.
  • Encourage them to get in touch with Women’s Refuge if they feel unsafe.”

For men who feel like they might harm a loved one or whanau member another valuable service is the Hey Bro helpline: 0800 Hey Bro (439 276) which is staffed 24/7

It is also important to note that the Family Court is still accepting urgent without notice applications for protection and parenting orders, and most family lawyers are set up to work from home to facilitate this. The Family Court have amended the requirements for applications, so that they can be made without requiring people to leave their homes and do not require people to have access to a printer or similar device – lawyers can now go from the initial discussion to filing an application with the Court and Legal Aid without having to meet in person at all.

There is a much larger list of organisations that may be able to assist anyone experiencing violence or concerned about someone else here.

If you are in immediate danger, call 111 and ask for the police.
Leaving a violent relationship can be the most dangerous time for you. Contact an organisation like Women’s Refuge or Shine* to work out a safety plan.
You can contact the following agencies for help.

Pacific Family Violence Support Service Providers in Auckland

Pacific Family Violence Support Service Providers outside Auckland