Aviva's History

Our story begins in 1973, when we were founded, not as Aviva, but as New Zealand’s first refuge – Christchurch Women’s Refuge (CWR). At the time, taking a stand against family violence was a radical act, and there is no doubt that the foundation of CWR changed the social landscape of New Zealand permanently.  By 2009, there were 50 refuges and safe houses across the country and as a result thousands of women and children in Aotearoa have been welcomed, supported and made safe.


To this day, refuges remain the most mainstream response to family violence. However, in 2013, CWR became ‘Aviva’, signalling a change in focus, but with the same ultimate vision – an Aotearoa free from family and sexual violence. We now offer a comprehensive range of services for people at every stage of their journey towards overcoming family and sexual violence and its enduring effects. 


So why does Aviva now take a different approach? Because, despite the valuable work of safe houses to make tamariki and wāhine safe, domestic violence remains a huge social problem in Aotearoa. Today we have the highest reported rate of intimate partner violence in the OECD. Annually, Police investigate over 100,000 reports of domestic violence; yet it’s estimated that only 25% of incidents are reported.  Refuges do vital work to support many women and children who are most critically affected by violence. But in order to break its cycles, more and different work is needed. 


We now offer a range of services. These include supporting people to overcome their use of violence and supporting children and youth to form healthy relationships. We support people of all ages and all genders, whatever their experience of violence. Where a person is in need of safe accommodation, we still ensure that person is provided with it. (If you need to access safe accommodation, call 0800 28482 669, or come and see us at The Loft.) 


In 2016, Aviva co-founded The Loft, a collaborative partnership of community, social and health services. It provides a ‘one stop shop’, to reduce the barriers which typically stop people from accessing the services they need. Family violence, poverty, housing, addiction, poor health and mental health are often not experienced in a vacuum – nor therefore should support services. In working collaboratively, we are able to better support our clients, as well as reach people who would never have asked for our help were it not for the accessibility of The Loft. 


Just as we were in 1973, Aviva is, and will always be, a social change agency.  


In 2023, we will turn 50! Find out more.