A note from Nicki and Gwenda

We come to the end of our 50th year with huge gratitude. We were founded in 1973 as Christchurch Women’s Refuge, when a group of women in Ōtautahi decided they could no longer look away from the raw deal wāhine were getting in society, so decided to bring change. And it is thanks to those pioneering women and to every single individual or organisation that has supported us over half a decade that we stand where we do today.

However, that the need for our services remains so great, is a damning indictment on our society. This year has, rightly, been one of celebration for Aviva as an organisation. But we must acknowledge that there are still so many people in Aotearoa experiencing violence every day.

The past few years, Christchurch has been plagued by an onslaught of media around the state of family and sexual violence in our communities. Most recently we were united by our collective horror with notorious case of the offending at Mama Hooch. It is right for us to condemn this kind of violence. But the uncomfortable truth is, that sexual violence is rife in Aotearoa. This stood out because of its scale and brazenness, but it did not happen in a vacuum. It is just the tip of the iceberg. Anger towards the offenders is justified. We should all be appalled. But it’s not enough for us to comment on news stories, calling for these men to be “strung up”, or to post words like “monsters” on social media. Because to cast human beings as “monsters” is to cast their actions as unavoidable and their victims as the inevitable collateral damage. This simply isn’t true. Their actions could and should have been prevented. It is unfortunate that after all these years of work, there is still so far to go in this space.

We’ve taken great strides as an organisation and as a nation toward recognising the impact and needs of those who have experienced sexual harm, whether it be alongside family violence or not. And if there is any hope to be found, we can find it in the societal outrage at the offending. Because if we can harness that outrage, we can take action. Systems and structures that make this kind of violence possible of course need to change. So too do our attitudes – the beliefs we uphold with the words we use; who we choose to believe; the responsibility we take for holding others – and ourselves – to account; the jokes we tell, judgements we make, the things we teach our children.

We were founded in 1973 as Christchurch Women’s Refuge, because society at large wanted to turn a blind eye to the violence that existed behind so many closed doors across the country. Half a century on, great work has been done and countless lives have been saved. Yet there remains a stigma.

And so, thank you – to each and every one of our supporters who will not allow the taboo around violence to stop them supporting us. In particular to Christchurch Casino, who were our gold level sponsors for our 50th year, and to home, whose spectacular fundraising event raised thousands for our emergency and crisis funds. And to so many other supporters, donors and volunteers, of which there are too many to list. Thank you to our staff, thank you to our advocates, and thank you to our clients. Their efforts and bravery to overcome violence is the toughest work of all – yet in doing so, each of them takes us all one step closer to an Aotearoa free from violence.

Meri Kirihimete. Thank you for your support.