Family Violence in New Zealand: What is it, and what is government doing about it?

It is okay to ask for help

What is family violence?

The current definition of family violence used by Government agencies is: a broad range of controlling behaviours, commonly of a physical, sexual and/or psychological nature, which typically involve fear, intimidation and emotional deprivation. The term domestic violence is also sometimes used.

It occurs within a variety of close interpersonal relationships, such as between partners, parents and children, siblings, and in other relationships where significant others are not part of the physical household but are part of the family and/or are fulfilling the function of family.

The predominant pattern is one of male violence directed at a female partner. There is also significant co-existence of intimate partner violence and child abuse and neglect.

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How much is happening?

While there are gaps and limitations in the statistics relating to family violence,  New Zealand’s knowledge base generally compares well with those of other countries. We have sufficient family violence data to be certain that it remains one of our most pressing social problems, with a high prevalence in the population as a whole, and with extensive consequences in terms of health, criminal, justice, social and economic costs.

View the report Towards Freedom from Violence: Family Violence Statistics Disaggregated by Ethnicity in Slideshare or PDF - 772kb.

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What is Government doing?

The Taskforce for Action on Violence within Families (the Taskforce) was established in June 2005 to lead and coordinate Government action to address family violence, including abuse and neglect of children and older persons. The Taskforce consists of key decision-makers from the government and non-government sectors, the judiciary and Crown agencies.

The Office of Ethnic Affairs is a member of the Taskforce for Action on Violence within Families and has been assigned to:

  • Raise awareness in ethnic communities
  • Increase the service capabilities of service providers to respond to family violence within ethnic communities; and  
  • Assist in the development of community-driven prevention and education work.

The vision of the Taskforce is that all families and whānau have healthy, respectful stable relationships, free from violence. For information about the Taskforce and the programme of action for 2013 go to

There are existing campaigns which ethnic communities can take part in, these websites have information about family violence, what it is and where to get help.

The Campaign for Action on Family Violence - information about family violence, what it is and where to get help

The Families Commission operating as the Social Policy Evaluation and Research Unit (Superu) – takes a lead role in the White Ribbon campaign against family violence.

The National Network of Stopping Violence – a network of 42 independent community-based organisations.

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New Zealand’s Faith Communities take an important stand against family violence

In December 2012 the Children’s Commissioner worked alongside a range of faith communities to release a National Statement Against Family Violence. The statement has been signed by over 40 faith groups from around New Zealand. To read the statement go to this

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Forced Marriages in New Zealand

Forced marriage is not accepted or condoned in New Zealand.

A forced marriage is defined as one where "...marriage is conducted without the valid consent of both parties where duress is a factor." Duress may include physical, psychological, financial, sexual and emotional pressure. Duress may occur during the arrangement of a forced marriage and continue once it has taken place.

In New Zealand a person under the age of 16 years old is unable to marry another person, whether or not they have parental consent. Any marriage of a person under 16 years old is not a legal marriage. Underage forced marriage is child abuse and will be dealt with as a care and protection concern.

The right to freedom of choice and an unfettered decision to marry is a fundamental human right.
Go to this link to find out more about the Government Multi-Agency Agreement on Response to Forced Marriage:

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