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Manaakitia te paharakeke: an insight into the daily operational challenges facing Te Whakaruruhau

This report is based on participant observations of the daily operations at Te Whakaruruhau, Hamilton. The observations represent the fieldwork element of an undergraduate paper contributing to the co-author, Anna Kurei’s Bachelor’s degree at the University of Waikato. Anna’s participation and observations over several weeks included attending meetings, shadowing Advocates, contributing (as appropriate) to operations and observing interactions between Advocates and the women in living in the service’s residential housing. Founded by Ruahine Albert and Ariana Simpson in 1986, Te Whakaruruhau Incorporated (Waikato women's refuge) was the first Māori women's refuge in Aotearoa. Since its inception, Te Whakaruruhau has been a Kaupapa driven service, with Māori cultural practices consciously employed throughout all its operations. Māori tikanga is fluid and adaptable by nature and can therefore meet the needs of people from multiple cultures and backgrounds. The current service has grown from humble beginnings in a four-bedroom state owned house providing emergency housing, to now include a twenty-four-hour crisis service, residential housing and a broadened community outreach programme. Staff numbers have increased from 7 to 36 paid staff and the twenty-fourhour crisis service has allowed the refuge to provide services for high risk cases that would otherwise be turned away. Funding is critical to the successful operation of the service. The refuge provides wrap-around services to meet clients’ needs and help them navigate through a maze of government and community services. The needs of women and families who have lived with domestic violence are deep-seated and complex. Achieving a stable, healthy, independent life is frequently a long-term process. Funding however, is not only limited, but is tied to expectations of achieving successful outcomes in the short-term. It was quickly evident during the fieldwork that Te Whakaruruhau is desperately under-resourced. In the year to June 2015 the Refuge provided services for 6575 cases, but had contracted funds for less than 1600. The consequences of such starkly inadequate resources are dire – for both clients and staff. Advocates (case workers) are frequently exhausted as they try to assist women and children with high and complex needs with very little resources on a highly restricted budget. Many times, workers were observed relegating their own interests (including their own health and safety) in order to meet the demands and needs of their clients. Similarly, the successful rehabilitation of clients is jeopardised by restricted options, insufficient capacity in the system and at times even the simplest of requirements such as transport to essential services. We know that when women and children become free of violence they have better health, employment and education outcomes. These outcomes benefit not only themselves but their communities and the wider social and economic landscape. Higher levels of funding - with a longer term focus- would therefore ultimately reduce the costs of domestic violence overall. Further to this, Kaupapa-based services at Te Whakaruruhau offer a culturally meaningful response to the high representation of Maori women seeking assistance. Its success in the face of such high levels of under-resourcing suggests that expectations around funding also need to be altered.
Type of thesis
Kurei, A., & Campbell, M. M. (2016). Manaakitia te paharakeke: an insight into the daily operational challenges facing Te Whakaruruhau (Report). Hamilton, New Zealand: Societies and Cultures, School of Social Sciences, University of Waikato.
Societies and Cultures, School of Social Sciences, University of Waikato
© 2016 Copyright with the authors.