Addressing Family Violence with 'Ideas worth Sharing'

23rd of November, 2017

A four-minute speech as part of a ‘Broadly Speaking’ evening earlier in the year led to an invitation for our CEO, Nicola Woodward, to present her thoughts about contemporary approaches to addressing family violence at the TEDx Christchurch event in September. TEDx is an international movement that brings people together to spark discussion and share thought-provoking ideas – “Ideas Worth Spreading”.

Nicola shared her views on the need to reframe our approaches to family violence. In particular she challenged the notion that refuge - first established in New Zealand in 1973 by Christchurch Women’s Refuge - should still be our default response in 2017 for those experiencing violence.

Nicola explained, “I believe that the concept of refuge in contemporary New Zealand society is paradoxical and unjust. As women, we are not intrinsically vulnerable to violence. Vulnerability is the consequence of extrinsic inequalities. Remove these and we remove the need for protection.”

You can watch Nicola’s talk at the TEDx Christchurch YouTube site


Aviva Wins Community Impact Award

6th of October, 2017

We're very proud to announce that Aviva was named winner in the Medium-Large Community Impact category of the 2017 Champion Canterbury Business Awards. 

In a category with stiff competition from Cholmondeley Children's Home, the SPCA and Pathway, and so to win was a real endorsement of the work that Aviva does.


It was also an acknowledgment of people living with and overcoming family violence.

Thanks you to everyone who supports Aviva, in whatever way you do so. We're all part of a team that is privileged to support people on their journeys to violence-free lives.



Achieving Lofty Ambitions

24th of April, 2017

We are almost one year in our new home at The Loft! This time last year the space was still under construction, and now we are planning our one-year anniversary celebration.

The Loft opened to the public on 4 July 2016. Initially Family Help Trust and Aviva were the two agencies to take up residence; since then we have been joined by staff from Caring for Carers, Citizen’s Advice Bureau, Community Law, Dual Recovery Network, He Waka Tapu, Plunket and NZ Red Cross.

We all hoped it would be a place that would make service and support-seeking easier and more accessible to people, and enable the agencies within it to work together in new ways to enhance client outcomes; all of that is happening. By the end of March 2017 approximately 300 people unconnected with any agency within had walked in the door of The Loft to seek advice, information or support. Almost half of those are seeking support with family violence issues, and the vast majority of those are referred to Aviva.

It is great to hear and see people from different agencies go to each other’s desks to talk about clients and the support they need. Apart from sharing information about services, we have been able to share donations of food and goods for clients. This growing relationship is reinforced by participation the front-of-house Navigator roster, which requires all client-facing staff to learn about the other services available here in order to provide appropriate referrals to people who walk in the door without any prior agency connection. We have also made connections with other local groups and networks, learning about what is on offer locally, and what The Loft and its agencies can contribute.

An Example of The Loft in Action

Melissa* was in financial difficulties, with a huge outstanding electricity bill when she came to The Loft to find out about a No Interest Loan (part of the microfinance options offered by Aviva). She had tried other agencies but they couldn’t help her.

Unfortunately she didn’t meet the criteria for the loan but, thinking outside the square, our front-of-house team considered how The Loft might support her. Our Navigator contacted the Mayor’s Welfare Fund, then linked her to the Woolston Development Project for support going to WINZ, and to Kingdom Resources for budgeting advice. Meanwhile, our Receptionist contacted Globug to get connection details to help her manage her electricity better in the future. By the end of the interaction the client’s whole demeanour had changed, and she was really happy with the help she received from The Loft team.       

We have created a Loft evaluation form for clients and feedback so far has been overwhelmingly positive, with 100% of people saying that they would recommend The Loft to others.

*not her real name


Motivated to Help

24th of April, 2017

“I get to help people live their lives free of family violence; I love it.”

Since July 2016 Aviva has been part of a new pilot response to family violence called the Integrated Safety Response (ISR). ISR sees core agencies such as Police, Child Youth and Family, Corrections, Health, specialist family violence NGOs and kaupapa Maori services work more closely together as a team to provide intensive support to families to whom Police have been called in relation to family violence, or when a potentially high-risk person is going to be released from prison. The aim is to provide more intense, immediate and comprehensive support that will lead to increased safety for those who have experienced violence, and a reduction in repeat offending. If successful in its aims, this response may be rolled out throughout the country.

Aviva provides the high risk Independent Victim Specialist (IVS) service and Perpetrator Outreach Services (POS) components of this pilot. One of our IVS is Katie Dixon, who joined Aviva in September 2016. Her role is to connect with women and children identified as high risk by the six-day per week Safety Assessment Meeting (the ‘SAM table’).

“The first thing I do is look at all of the information and review the file, to identify if there are any gaps in the information that might be relevant to our response” says Katie. “Then I have to consider how best to approach that woman (Katie’s adult clients are all female) – is it by phone, face-to-face, or through a visit by, or with, someone else? I try to engage her so that she trusts me enough to start the journey with me.”

The focus of Katie’s work is to decrease the current risk and increase safety for the woman and any children she may have. Katie will assess what supports the woman has in place and what she might need, to see if other referrals (e.g. for housing, or mental health issues) are required. She will undertake safety planning in relation to the home, and school or pre-school. Katie also attends the weekly Integrated Case Management (ICM) meetings at which all high risk cases are discussed, as well as other meetings related to specific families she is helping support.

Typically Katie will work with approximately 12 women at a time; some will be requiring intensive support for high risk situations, whilst others may be transitioning to lower risk levels and require less support. The pilot sets a preferred limit of 12 weeks maximum support, but this is not always realistic says Katie. It may take some time and effort to get someone to engage in the first place (Katie has an 80% engagement rate), before work can begin. Once immediate risk is decreased, women or children may be referred to Aviva’s education programmes, or for individual, ongoing support with a Family Support Worker or our Children’s Worker.

Ideally, when a high risk report goes to the SAM table, the person using violence will be contacted by a POS, and the person who has been assaulted will be contacted by an IVS. However, in reality this is not always possible. The abusive person may have current charges in place which are being acted on first, or they may not be aware of the disclosure of violence by the victim, so contact by a POS could put the victim at higher risk says Katie. “But I’ve seen some good results where we have been able to engage on both sides - better results than just engaging with one partner.”

Whilst the work is intense and can be difficult, Katie wouldn’t want to do anything else. “I love my job” she says emphatically. “I get the opportunity to work with women, and their children, who are experiencing family violence and I can help them make changes. Being able to provide the right support at the right time is really motivating. I get to help people live their lives free of family violence; I love it.”


Forging Violence-Free Futures

24th of April, 2017

People often ask us, “how do we stop family violence?” If only we had an easy answer.

But one thing we do believe is vital to changing our bleak and alarming levels of family violence is breaking the intergenerational cycle, which often sees children and young people who have been exposed to family violence going on to perpetuate those unhealthy relationship behaviours themselves.

Interrupting that cycle requires effective intervention with children and young people. Aviva has been providing specialist children’s services for many years, but young people – from adolescents through to late teenagers – have not been as well supported in the family violence sector; that is particularly true for boys and young men.

Adolescence represents a critical period in which the effects of family violence can have a profound and long-lasting impact on young people’s futures as they form a sense of self, build platonic and intimate relationships, and explore personal boundaries. It therefore also represents a critical period to support young people and help ensure that they are well prepared for the future in the complex area of human relationships.

Thanks to the generous support of the Wayne Francis Charitable Trust, Aviva has been able to recently begin to offer one-one-one support to young people. This supplements the education and awareness-building we have being offering since 2015 via our in-school Healthy Relationship programme. The result is the specialist Aviva Youth Service.

Darragh Fahy has led the development of the Youth Service since November 2016. Darragh was previously employed in Aviva’s ReachOut service for men. It was during that time that he saw the need for support for younger people who were using family violence and being named on Police reports, but who were not being offered any support; the youngest boy named on a Police report and eligible for contact was just 11. With support from Aviva, Darragh began to attempt to engage young men in their pre-teens, early teens and late teens in an attempt to break the intergenerational cycle of violence.

After also becoming involved in the Healthy Relationship programme, Darragh was keen to help develop a more unified and focussed response to young people. Darragh works with two other full-time youth workers, and he and one of his colleagues work closely with the Integrated Safety Response team, supporting young people named on Police reports. Also in the team are two part-time workers who offer Aviva’s Healthy Relationship programme in selected intermediate and secondary schools.

The Healthy Relationships programme, which was first piloted in 2015 with support from the Dublin St Charitable Trust and Youthtown, is going from strength-to-strength says Darragh. “We’ve had the time and resources to build on it and develop it, and we are able to get evaluations from students and teachers after each session – there is really positive feedback.” Schools that have welcomed the programme are finding that it is worth making the space in the timetable for it. Apart from supporting the young people, it is raising awareness and knowledge of family violence amongst teachers of what is actually happening in the lives of some of their students. It is also creating an environment for young people to talk about a subject that is often hidden away.

“We are supporting school teachers and counsellors to deal with issues arising from sessions, and we’ve found that by going into schools we are getting lots of disclosures (of family violence). Now that we have dedicated Youth Workers we can better support those kids. Young people are also another way into the family, and enable us to link up with other family members.”

The programme is now becoming a victim of its own success - demand is outstripping ability to deliver due to limited and short-term resources. In the first six months of 2017 the 25-hour per week team will deliver the programme to 10 classes in four schools.

Since the establishment of a Youth Services team in November 2016, the Youth Workers have developed a range of resources to support delivery of the wider service in a way that will be relevant to young people; this has included developing a dedicated Facebook page and brochure.

“We use different methods to connect with younger people, such as text” says Darragh (because young people will often not answer calls from people they don’t know). “Establishing an initial connection with them out of the office environment is very important. Meeting in a café, or at their home, puts them at ease, and then we can work with them from there onwards. We have a programme of resources for different issues and so we draw on those resources to create a programme for individual needs” says Darragh.

Young people can self-refer, or they can be referred by another organisation. Unlike other Aviva services, Youth Service clients are equally split between male and female, and approximately 80 young people have been in touch with the service since it began. 


Supporting Others to Overcome Sexual Assault

24th of April, 2017

“It is an intense time to meet someone, but it’s immensely rewarding”

Since mid-2014 Aviva has been operating Canterbury’s Sexual Assault Support Service Canterbury (SASSC), in partnership with START. Like family violence, sexual violence is far too prevalent and the effects can be devastating and long-lasting.  

SASSC is a vital service that provides confidential and professional specialist support to women and men following either recent or historic sexual violence or abuse. Whilst paid staff provide this crucial service 9am – 5pm, Monday – Friday, sexual assault, like family violence, doesn’t keep office hours. During evenings and weekends it is a trusted, trained team of dedicated volunteers who provide SASSC.

Erin Helliwell is one of those volunteers. She started volunteering with SASSC when Aviva and START took over the service, formerly known as Safecare, in 2014. Erin was looking for volunteer work related to crisis and trauma that would be relevant to her studies in clinical psychology – SASSC certainly fitted that bill.

Erin commonly volunteers overnight on the weekend, during one of the service’s busier times. Ninety percent of her role involves being on-call on the 24-hour phone line, and accompanying people to the Cambridge Clinic for medical assessment following recent assaults. She also supports people to make Police statements.

“It is an intense time to meet someone” Erin says, “but it’s immensely rewarding. Police and doctors have their jobs to do, and we get in between and have a role that is really unique. We make the victim a cup of tea, hold their hand, and remind them they are not alone. The Police and doctors feed back how valuable that role is.”

Most of the callouts Erin attends are for acute, recent events, whilst phone support may be provided for more historical events; in those cases Erin will talk with people about what they have experienced, and refer them to Aviva’s SASSC counsellor for specialist support.

Supporting people through something so traumatic can be challenging, Erin admits. One of the hardest aspects is when there is family violence present alongside the sexual assault. “Seeing that fear for themselves in another human being is difficult; they may be scared that it will happen again. But the really positive part of the role is being able to soothe someone, and build a relationship with them when they need support – people are so grateful that you are giving them just what they need in that moment. The work pays off, even with a 2am call.”

Erin estimates that she has volunteered almost 2,000 hours of time on the SASSC support line since mid-2014. Along with other volunteers, staff and Board members, Erin and her SASSC peers contributed 4,041 hours to Aviva in the 2015–16 year; that is equivalent to almost two years of 40-hour working weeks.

Despite being a busy woman, Erin finds SASSC easy to work into her schedule. “”The roster is good to work with – the weekend shifts are broken into four-hour shifts so you don’t have to give up a whole chunk of your weekend. It’s not constant, and together we make it work.”

Last year SASSC supported 355 people to overcome the effects of sexual assault. Aviva is currently looking to recruit more volunteers; could you be one of those special people, like Erin?

Full training is provided, following which volunteers are given a buddy (an experienced volunteer) to accompany them on their first few call outs, or more if needed. If you’re interested in finding out more about how you too can be a unique supporter of others, please email or call 0800 AVIVA NOW.


Standing Up for Safer Homes

24th of April, 2017

Mike Pero

We’re very excited to announce the appointment of a new ambassador - Mike Pero.

Mike is a well-known entrepreneur and businessman who has made his name in the mortgage and real estate industry in New Zealand. Mike Pero Real Estate currently has over 50 branches throughout New Zealand and his businesses have a strong synergy with Aviva – Mike Pero, like Aviva, want to see people in homes that are not only comfortable, but also safe.

The decision to join Aviva as an ambassador was also a personal one for Mike. “As a child I grew up with violence in my home. My dad was Pacific Island and he had been brought up to believe that discipline was a physical thing. I know he meant well but he just did not understand how to handle himself with my mother, my siblings and I. I experienced the fear that comes with that, of being a kid and calling the Police to our home, and seeing just how destructive he was to our family and our home.”

Mike grew up in various homes between Linwood and Aranui, close to where Aviva is currently based within The Loft (in Eastgate Shopping Centre). He is keen to help young people see that with determination you can overcome experiences of childhood violence, and that you can set goals of your own and leave the past behind you.

Mike initially trained and worked as a motorcycle mechanic, and then went on to become six times New Zealand Motorcycle Road Racing Champion, from 1977–82. Today he is the Patron for Motorcycling New Zealand. He also flew as an airline pilot in his late twenties and has operated a wide range of businesses from commuter airlines to flight simulators and, today, real estate.

Mike is married to Rachel and they have five children between them. Helping Aviva to raise awareness of its services, especially those for young people and for men overcoming violence, was a great fit. Having met some of the Aviva team at the City2Surf Mike was immediately interested in becoming involved in the work. “I didn’t have to think twice about it” he says. “Family is so important to me; as a father and husband I do not want to see or hear about other men using violence in the family home. I’m proud to stand up and say I’m against family violence and, if by lending my voice and support to this cause I can make a difference, then I am keen to do it. I wish that there had been someone to help my dad and our family when I was younger.”



Appealing for Help!

24th of April, 2017

Where did the last year go?! Amazingly it’s Aviva’s annual appeal time again, and this year it will take place on Friday May 12 and Saturday May 13. We still need collectors, and two hours is all it takes for you to show that family violence is not OK.

The Aviva appeal is one way we can raise money to provide life-changing support to children, women and men in Canterbury living with and overcoming family and sexual violence. It’s also an opportunity to raise awareness about family and sexual violence, and the support that Aviva can provide.

Aviva staff and many of our kind volunteers will be out on the streets in Christchurch, Kaiapoi, Rangiora, Amberley and Rolleston seeking the donations necessary to provide our free services and we’d love to have YOU join us! We particularly need volunteers for sites on Saturday 13 May. You can complete an individual collector form or, if there is a group of you, a group registration form is available at our appeal page. Or if you would like to have an in-house appeal or other fundraising activity at your work, school, community group or family, that is great too – we encourage creativity!

This year Kiwibank are getting behind us and hosting collection buckets inbranch, offering support in collecting at certain sites and counting donations. Maybe you’re part of a business or group which could also help by offering to staff one of our pre-booked sites for one of the collection days?

We need to generate $2 million each year to keep offering the free services that so many people rely on, and less than 40% of our funding comes from government contracts. That means we need your help more than ever. If you can’t volunteer, please consider making a donation. Every dollar raised through the appeal is invaluable in helping to provide our free services to Canterbury families.

How your donation can help:

• $20 helps fund our driving service to collect children for their weekly group programme and return them to school

• $25 buys an emergency cell phone for clients at high risk

• $50 will ensure a victim of sexual assault is supported at the Police or medical centre out of office hours

• $70 buys a personal alarm

• $150 buys morning tea for children’s group for a term

• $500 can provide five weeks of family violence education for a man overcoming his use of violence

• $1,800 enables a child or woman to undertake a life-changing 10-week education programme

Last year 1,500 children, women and men needed our support, and thanks to our supporters, volunteers and staff, they got it. Will you help others to make the journey away from violence this year?


ReachOut Awarded for Reducing Family Violence Reoffending

24th of November, 2016

A real highlight of 2016 has been seeing ReachOut, our early intervention, proactively offered service for men using or at risk of causing family violence, publicly acknowledged for its success in reducing family violence.

In May ReachOut received two awards at the national Problem-Oriented Policing (POP) Awards. These awards recognise long-term, sustainable crime prevention and reduction. ReachOut, developed in partnership with Canterbury Police, won the award for excellence in reducing repeat victimisations and also received the Supreme Award across all categories.

Based on analysis of Police data, the reoffending rate in the North Canterbury region in the three years prior to ReachOut’s introduction was 18%. This was sustainably reduced to 1.4% (a 92% drop) in the three years following the service’s introduction there in 2012.

In October, Aviva and New Zealand Police presented ReachOut at the 2016 international POP conference in Arizona, USA. ReachOut was also selected as one of only seven out of 27 finalists to be shortlisted for the major Herman Goldstein Award. Whilst ReachOut missed out on winning that award, results were very close and the presentation was highly commended. The judges were rightly impressed by ReachOut’s success in making families and communities safer.

Thank you to everyone who has supported ReachOut over the past four and half years. Most of all, congratulations to all the men who have used the service to enhance their own wellbeing, and the wellbeing of those closest to them. 


Ian's Story of Change

24th of November, 2016

Ian is one of the many men that have benefitted from ReachOut’s support, and so has his family.

Ian has been married for almost 30 years, and recently life brought some changes which caused him a lot of stress. His wife, already experiencing depression, was diagnosed with a degenerative brain disease; his daughter entered a ‘challenging’ teenage period; and his professional life became unstable as his company restructured. Life had become very insecure.

“How I responded to those changes was to become excessively controlling” Ian says.  “I couldn't control things at work, so instead, without realising, I focused my control and criticism on wife and daughter. I constantly pulled my daughter up on her teenage ‘manners’; I accused my wife of not caring about me, despite seeing she was struggling so much. What they both really needed was my love and support.”

Ian’s behaviour caused huge arguments with wife, and his daughter, who was having counselling for anxiety. “My wife suggested we have some time apart. I was very reluctant - it felt like this was the first step of separation - but I knew there was no other option. As I was the one whose behaviour most needed to change, I moved out and we both made a commitment to get appropriate help.

“It was very hard to leave home, but at the same time, I knew if I’d stayed, despite the best of intentions, nothing would change. I knew I needed help to change my behaviour and, as there had been family violence involved, I followed my wife’s suggestion and phoned Aviva. I’d taken the first step...”

Ian’s first session with his ReachOut worker Darragh a few days later proved insightful for him. “He listened to me intently, then respectfully suggested my behaviour wasn't because of stress - it was really because I didn't like or approve of myself. My wife had previously said the same to me many times, but it hadn’t made sense. Darragh explained it in a way I could understand – basically my opinion of myself had formed back in my childhood, which wasn’t great. If my picture of a loving relationship was based on what I saw as a young child, then no wonder it was really distorted.

By the end of his first session, Ian realised the real issue was not all the external factors he was experiencing. “Knowing what the real problem was meant that I could do something about it now. I had hope again” he says.

Ian had to follow his insights up with hard, emotional work that required re-examining his attitudes to his my wife and daughter, and how they might feel experiencing his behaviour. He realised that he had to rebuild his family’s sense of safety before trust, communication, and intimacy could be expected. His change in thinking and understanding affected his actions and when things didn’t go so well, they no longer escalated - a sign that he and his family were creating a new, better way of relating.

For Ian, one of the best moments was reconnecting with his daughter. “One night I described my ‘journey’ so far to her and apologised for my behaviour towards her. She said to me ‘Dad, it’s like you’ve grown up 20 years emotionally and gotten 10 years younger physically - all your worry lines are gone.’ I was blown away by that.”

Ian and his family are now safely back together and working towards a vision of family life for their future. “The difference that the support I received from Aviva has made has been incredible. I see my wife and daughter differently now, I’ve learned to approve of myself and we have started to love each other all over again. There is a totally different atmosphere in our house. We have occasional lapses, but situations do not develop any more. We have a family safety plan together in case one of us should get angry again and we’ve all signed it. Our family now feels like a positive spiral where every bit of progress, every positive difference we see, makes the foundation stronger. So much tension has just....GONE – and for the first time since I was a young child, I feel happy about ME!!”