New Zealand's First Refuge     40 Years of Service    Steps in the Journey

New Zealand's First Refuge

Aviva has evolved from what was originally Christchurch Women's Refuge - New Zealand's first family violence Safe House. 

In 1973 a group of Christchurch women took inspiration from changes taking place in the United Kingdom. They decided that to really help advance the cause of women, they needed not only a space just for women, but a safe place for the women and their children who were living in fear in their own homes here in Canterbury.

Despite hostility and even open aggression, their courage and commitment saw the first women’s refuge in New Zealand - the third in the western world– established here in Christchurch. Listen to Diane Shannon and Rosemary Howard - two of our founders - share their story.

Since 1973 there have been many changes - legal, social and societal. Christchurch Women's Refuge was part of many of those changes, by lobbying for amendments to statutes, implementing community based services for women, raising community awareness and addressing the effects of family violence on children. Hear and watch more about our history and evolution.

40 Years of Service in 2013

Aviva is proud to hold the history as the first refuge to be established in New Zealand (1973). We helped establish what is now known nationally as the ‘Women’s Refuge’ network in 1981 and have helped make the concept of ‘Refuge’ strongly associated with safety for women and children. As part of our 40th anniversary celebrations in 2013, CWR became Aviva, to better represent all the people we support - children, women and men - and all the many services we offer beyond refuge. Our change of identity reflects our belief that family violence solutions must acknowledge, incorporate and support all members of a family to overcome violence and achieve their potential. Hear and watch more about our rebrand story.

Some of the Steps in the Journey

1973 – Christchurch Women’s Refuge (CWR) established - New Zealand's first refuge 

1975-78 - Other refuges open throughout the country

1977 - Human Rights Act outlaws discrimination on a number of grounds, including sex and marital status

1980 - Family Proceedings Act requires that a Family Court judge cannot dissolve marriages until satisfied that custody, maintenance, and welfare arrangements for any children are the best possible.

1981 - CWR and 10 other refuges form the National Collective of Independent Women's Refuges - now known as 'Women's Refuge'.

1980 - CWR Community Services founded

1982 - The Domestic Protection Act 1982 introduces non-violence orders that give police powers of arrest without laying formal criminal charges.

1984 - Ministry of Women’s Affairs established to improve the status of women and to work towards the achievement of social, political, and economic equality.

1984 – CWR helps form Canterbury Abuse Intervention Project (CAIP), the first network of statutory community agencies supporting a combined voice against family violence.

1984 - Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) – the 1981 United Nations initiative to affirm principles of fundamental human rights and equality for women around the world is ratified by New Zealand

1985 - Section 28(3) of the Crimes Act (1961) removed, finally making it illegal for a husband to rape his wife.

1985 - Parallel Development implemented, a model which allowed Maori services and refuges to develop in tandem with those for other cultures.

1987 - The first Maori Women's Refuge was established in Hamilton.

1989 - The first Tangata Pasifika Women's Refuge is established in Auckland.

1989 - Children and Family Act introduced the Family Group Conference as a means of making decisions about a child or young person and made “best interests of the child” the first consideration in removing a child from a parent’s care. The Act also provided for a Commissioner for Children.

1995 - Domestic Violence Act 1995. Significant changes were the recognition of psychological abuse (including causing or allowing a child to see or hear violence) as a form of family violence; introduction of Protection Orders that remained valid whether the woman left the violent person or not; increasing the range of applicants who could apply for a Protection Order e.g. flat mates, lesbian and gay couples, extended whanau/family members; and introduction of compulsory programme attendance for the violent person, and optional programmes for protected persons (including the children).

1995 - CWR and Police partnership established; CWR undertakes domestic violence training for Police.

1996 - CWR moves from ‘collective’ to ‘management and governance’ structure

1997 - Shakti Asian Women's Refuge established inAuckland

1998 - CWR Children Services established

2002 - Te Rito - New Zealand Family Violence Prevention Strategy established

2003 – CWR establishes full-time office in Rangiora, North Canterbury

2004 - Care of Children Act – emphasizes maintaining family links after adult relationship breakdown and appoints a lawyer to act for the child in parental disputes. ‘The best interests of the child’ are paramount. However, in practice there can be a conflict between ‘best interest’ in regard to maintaining relationships with both parents, and children’s safety.

2005 - CWR partners with Accident Compensation Corporation to pilot the first specialist programme for Child Witnesses of family violence

2005 - CWR partners with Police and Maori services to develop the Christchurch Safety Team, a response to families at highest risk

2007 - CWR launches Igniting Change, the Canterbury response to the national It's Not Ok campaign

2008 - Repeal of Section 59 of the Crimes Act, removing 'reasonable force' as a justification for child abuse

2009 – CWR adopts family support model

2009 - CWR joins the Jigsaw network

2009 - CWR awarded Medium/Large Enterprise Winner of the charity section of the Champion Canterbury Business Awards

2010 – Police Safety Orders introduced. A five-day order issued on the spot by police officers who have safety concerns for a person, but lack sufficient evidence to charge an offender with a violent offence.

2010 - CWR withdraws it's membership of the National Collective of Independent Women's Refuges

2010 - 2011 - a series of devastating earthquakes occur throughout Christchurch and mid-Canterbury, killing 185 people and destroying the city and it's physical and social infrastucture

2011 - CWR announces a new strategy that includes working with men who perpetrate family violence, and which is based on a belief that overcoming family vioelnce is possible for everyone, with the right support

2012 - With support from North Canterbury Police, CWR launches ReachOut, a new and unique service which proactivley offers support to men named on Police Incident Reports

2012 - CWR completes research into peer support, and develops New Zealand's first Specialist Peer Support service linking women and men who have overcome family violence with those still on their own journey. Hear and watch April and Brian share their personal journies.

2012 - CWR offers the Shine safe@home home security service in Canterbury to families at highest risk of repeat family violence

2013 - CWR extends ReachOut into Christchurch as a self-referral service

2013 - CWR becomes part of a Christchurch city project to support men named on Police Safety Orders

2013 - CWR celebrates 40 years of service and launches a new brand - Aviva

2013 - In partnership with Good Shepherd New Zealand, Aviva launches No Interest Loans to those families living with violence and on low incomes

2013 - Aviva and alliance partners begin a scoping project to identify a way to co-locate their agencies within two years

2014 - Aviva begins management of the Sexual Assault Support Service Cantebury (previoulsy Safecare), in partnership with START

2014 - Aviva signs a Memorandum of Understanding with Christchurch Police which enables ReachOut to proactivley contact men named on Police Reports fo violence

2014 - Aviva wins the Medium - Large charity award section of the Champion Canterbury Business Awards, and is one of only three agencies to be highlighted by the independent Glenn Inquiry into family violence as an example of innovation and responsiveness to community.   

2014 - We ceased operating a Safe House, putting limited resources instead into making people safe@home